So you’ve seen that cool youtube video of some swing dancing and want to try it out yourself. But do you actually know what it is, and where it came from? Well, you’ve come to the right place.
What we call…
Swing Dancing is also known as Lindy Hop. And we often describe it as an African American dance done to Jazz music.
It originated in Harlem, New York City around the 1920s and was danced throughout the 30s and 40s. The dance itself evolved from many different dances at the time. Including tap, breakaway, and Charleston.
You can also notice a lot of African dance roots in Lindy Hop. Both in the movement, and in the rhythm of the music.
The Savoy Ballroom was the epicentre of this new dance craze as it quickly spread across America.
Music and Dancing
Jazz Swing music and Lindy Hop go hand in hand. With all the bands playing music that would get people dancing. Famous musicians include Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, and Jimmie Lunceford. To only name a few of the greats.
Earliest example of recorded Lindy Hop in ‘After Seben’
Who to look out for.
The early names to look out for include ‘Shorty’ George Snowden, Big Bea, Mattie Pernell, and Leroy Stretch. They pioneered the dance and came up with the first movements.
The next wave of dancers are perhaps more recognizable. Including Frankie Manning, Norma Miller, Al Minns, Pepsi Bethel, and Leon James. Who took the dance to the next level and still provide inspiration to modern Swing Dancers.
A famous group of dancers to check out is Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers. Who performed around the country and even got spotlights in a lot of films. If there is one swing video, you should check out, it’s ‘Hellzappopin’. As the dancers show off their killer ‘Air Steps’ and shapes to a sweltering 300BPM song.
Hellzapoppin’ (Colorized by Black Pepper Swing)
Lindy Hop is a partner dance that can be improvised or choreographed. On a social floor you’ll see two dancers in partnership communicating with each other and listening to the music to express themselves to Jazz music.
It’s a dance that allows a great deal of individuality compared to other partnered dances and you’ll be amazed at how great you can look while making up moves on the fly.
There are two roles in partner dancing. Leading and Following. Leaders will provide a frame for the dance, while Followers are free to fill in the gaps with their individual ideas.
Followers can even suggest some of their own unique ideas to the dance, allowing two-way communication between the dancers.
You might be used to leaders being guys and followers being girls. But even historically, both genders have danced both roles. Lindy Hoppers today like to learn both sides of the dance. And we encourage students to learn both roles when they have the chance.
Solo, or Authentic Jazz is also an important part of swing dancing. It can also be improvised or choreographed, though there is only communication between the solo dancer and the music.
There are classic shapes that all Jazz dancers know, but the dancers imagination can go a long way in finding new movement.
Modern Lindy Hop
In the 1980s-90s, there was a renewed interest in Lindy Hop all over the world. Including California, New York, London, and Sweden. Dancers like Norma Miller, Frankie Manning, and Al Minns came out of retirement to teach a whole new generation of Lindy Hoppers. Which is still growing today! Now, there are dance scenes in almost every major city in the world reliving history and showing the world that Swing is far from dead.