History Of The Lindy Hop

Did you know that before swing, jive and jitterbug, big band dancing swept the nation? Read here to learn about the history of the lindy hop.

Did you know that before swing, before rock and roll, and even before the jitterbug, there was a dance that swept America? Read this article to find the origins of the lindy hop.

The lindy hop got its start in the 1920's in Harlem. It's name was derived from Charles Lindburgh's first plane "hop" across the Atlantic. It was first recorded at the "Savoy," or the Savoy Ballroom, the most popular ballroom in Harlem. The dance was a mixture of swing, waltz and just plain jive. The lindy hop bears the distinction of being one of the fastest dances to evolve in a short period. Its evolution was fueled by competitions held at the Savoy between dancers. New moves were added as an impulse, and lindy hop became a hugely popular dance. Lindy hop was most notable for being a strange, wonderful combination of elements. It was fueled by jazz, African rhythms, swing music and the stately aura of social dancing that predominated from Europe.

George Snowden and "Big Bea," his female partner, were credited with the first air move. In other words, Shorty was so small that Big Bea would often carry him from the floor, legs kicking in the air. This move has been taken to great heights, and the lindy hop is famous for the swirls that dancers take in the air. Other famous lindy hoppers were Leroy Jones and George Ganaway, a man with such phenomenal talent that he often simply grabbed a partner and started dancing to win competitions. It is said that professional dancers from other areas attempted to learn this dance, but were not able. Put simply, to learn lindy hop completely, and have it as part of the blood, one was required to grow up dancing in Harlem, presumably at the Savoy.

Two famous lindy hop groups that arose were the Congaroo dancers, a group that entertained after the Second World War, and Whitey's Lindy Hoppers. The latter were famous for their crazy moves, some even throwing partners up to eight feet in the air. Formed by Herbert White, this group consisted solely of youngsters and was a training ground for those who wanted to adopt dancing as a professional gig. The nature of the lindy hop can again be seen in the way these youngsters danced. Most of their moved were literally improvised, and there are countless turns and swings that have been lost due to time. While set routines were laid out, lindy hopper were judged by how much they could add to these routines, not by how well they did the routine itself.

The lindy hop eventually split into sections. It indirectly started swing, jive, jitterbug, rock and roll, and the boogie. It's main trait was the "American" nature of its dancing. While European dances were very closed off, indicating close, defined space, the lindy hop was a wild, whooping dance that often consisted of kicks and throwing the partner around. The lindy hop is still alive today, though it is rarely seen. For competition and performance information, check with a local college or dance academy.

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