The History of Lindy Hop
Lindy Hop is an American jazz dance from the early 20th century, the result of a blending of African rhythms and body movement with European partnered dance forms and techniques. Lindy Hop grew out of pre-swing Two Step dances with various regional names such as the Texas Tommy, the Charleston, and the Collegiate. In early forms of those dances, dancers danced in closed position for much of each song. Lindy Hop began to take its modern form around 1928, when dancers in the Savoy Ballroom in New York began breaking away from their partner, with the girls going out and “doing the twist.”
Legend has it that the name “Lindy Hop” came from dancer “Shorty” George Snowden. He was one of the 24 couples that competed in a dance marathon that began on 17 June 1928 at the Manhattan Casino, a ballroom that was located at 8th Avenue and 155th Street in Harlem, New York. During the contest Snowden decided to do a breakaway, that is, fling his partner out and improvise a few solo steps of his own. In the midst of the monotony of the marathon, the effect was electric, and even the musicians came to life.
Whitey's Lindy Hoppers perform in Hellzapoppin' (1941)
HOLLYWOOD AND MAINSTREAM CULTURE
One of the key figures in Lindy Hop’s move to Hollywood was Dean Collins. Collins learned Lindy Hop from his sisters in New Jersey and became a high-profile dancer of this style on the west coast of the United States, appearing in over 30 Hollywood films that capitalized on the popularity of swing music and dancing.
As music changed in post-WWII America, partnered jazz dancing began to break down, since partnering techniques were unable to cope with the faster tempos and irregular meters. While Lindy Hop struggled to survive, its influence continued, and can be seen in solo street dances such as Locking, Popping, Breaking, and Hip Hop. As a partnered dance, Lindy Hop survived through Rock and Roll and Rhythm and Blues, where it evolved into other dances such as Boogie Woogie, West Coast Swing and Carolina Shag.
Dean Collins and Jewel McGowan (1941)
Lindy Hop in its original form began to re-emerge in the early 1980s. Many professional lindy hoppers had moved on to other jobs by this time, but were eagerly sought out by those interested in learning the dance. In America, the UK and the small town of Herräng in Sweden, veterans of the 1930s such as Frankie Manning began teaching a new generation of dancers. Lindy Hop once again appeared in blockbuster movies like The Mask, Malcolm X, Swingers, and Blast from the Past; lindy hoppers danced for former U.S. President Bill Clinton; Broadway shows featured Lindy Hop choreography. Trendy social dance venues sprung up in every major city – Lindy Hop was back on top!
The dance today has a devoted following and is the most popular form of swing dance in the world. On any given weekend at least two international workshops will be happening somewhere in Europe, the biggest of which might attract dancers from as far afield as Australia, Israel, Korea and Russia. In Scandinavia, Lindy Hop is alive and well and the annual, five-week long Herräng dance camp in Sweden attracts 500-1,000 dancers from all over the world. Even the small town of Stavanger, Norway has a devoted Lindy Hop following!