History & Resources

***This page is a work in progress. iLindy is in the process of uncovering better ways to share and appreciate the African American history of the dance and celebrate the voices of Black dancers, both past and present.***

Please check back for more research and updates.

HISTORY

Lindy Hop is a Black American dance that originated in Harlem, New York City, in the late 1920s.

The dance developed from a combination of earlier dances like the breakaway, the Charleston, the Texas Tommy, and the hop. The dance evolved alongside the popular jazz music of the time, played by Black big bands.

 

Shorty George Snowden is often given credit for giving Lindy Hop its name. As the story goes, there was a charity dance-marathon in New York City in 1928, shortly after Charles Lindbergh’s (known as “Lucky Lindy”) triumphant “hop” across the Atlantic. A reporter saw Snowden break away from his partner and improvise a few steps in a style that was popular in Harlem. “What was that!?” he asked. Snowden thought for a few seconds and replied, “I’m doin’ the Hop…the Lindy Hop”. The name stuck.

SOURCE: SAVOY STYLE

Here is an early clip that shows the evolution of Lindy Hop featuring “Shorty” George Snowden and Mattie Purnell, the third couple.

The first generation of Lindy Hop is popularly associated with dancers such as “Shorty” George Snowden, his partner Big Bea, and Leroy Stretch Jones and Little Bea. “Shorty” George and Big Bea regularly won contests at the Savoy Ballroom. Their dancing accentuated the difference in size with Big Bea towering over Shorty. These dancers specialized in so-called floor steps, but they also experimented with early versions of air steps in the Lindy Hop.

SOURCE: WIKIPEDIA

The Savoy Ballroom opened in 1926 and became the home of the Lindy Hop.

“Savoy the Lindy Hop got hotter and hotter, as people danced to the top Big Bands in the land. And it got better and better, as the popular Saturday night competitions pushed good dancers to greatness. New steps were born every day. The styling got refined and was executed so well that the dance was a joy to watch as well as do. When it looked like it couldn’t get any better, a young dancer named Frankie “Musclehead” Manning created the first airsteps in 1935, and the Lindy Hop soared.”

SOURCE: FRANKIE MANNING FOUNDATION

Lindy Hop entered mainstream American culture in the 1930s, gaining popularity through multiple sources. Dance troupes, including the Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers with name variations like the Harlem Congaroos, Hot Chocolates, and Big Apple Dancers performed in films like A Day at the Races and Hellzapoppin’:

A Day at the Races (1937)

Hellzapoppin’ (1941)

The Spirit Moves (1950) captures Lindy Hop as part of a film cataloging African American dances

Dancing at the Savoy Ballroom in the 1950s

Vintage Jazz Dance Clips

History of Lindy Hop (education)

Ken Burns’ JAZZ

Here is a clip from Ken Burns’ JAZZ about the Savoy Ballroom. This clip features the great Norma Miller who later became known as the Queen of Swing

Here is another clip from Ken Burns’ JAZZ featuring Frankie Manning

Understanding issues surrounding the LH community

HISTORY

Lost Heritage From Jazz to Hip-Hop with Prof. Moncell “ill Kozby” Durden of Intangible Roots

Respecognize: Negotiating Ethnic Notions, Cultural Identity, and Unconscious Bias | Medea Talks

Dance educator Moncell Durden talks about cultural appropriation, identity and heritage. (about the lecture)

The Journey from Negro Spirituals to Blues music and dance

RECENT CONVERSATIONS

MOVE Together ~ Dancing Towards An Inclusive Community & Global Social Justice

 Link to slide show – from Andaiye Qaasim

Books

More Sources

  • The history of Lindy Hop can be seen through the many biographies of the dancers and information on old film clips as seen here in the Frankie Manning Foundation’s Archive of Early Lindy Hop.
  • Yehoodi has produced a printable brochure on the history of Lindy Hop that anyone can use for their dances, studios, and venues.

BLACK CULTURE & ACTIVISM RESOURCES

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Dance & Music

Culture  & Activism

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WATCH

Dance & Music

Culture  & Activism

  1. Uncomfortable Conversations With A Black Man
  2. 13th is currently available to stream on Netflix.
  3. Malcom X is currently available to stream on Netflix.
  4. Blindspotting is currently available to stream on HBO and HBO Max.
  5. Real Women Have Curves is currently available to stream on HBO Max.
  6. I Am Not Your Negro is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime.
  7. When They See Us is currently available to stream on Netflix.
  8. Selma
  9. The Hate You Give
  10. Dear White People
  11. Ken Burns: The Central Park Five
  12. White Men: Time to Discover Your Cultural Blind Spots
  13. 50 years of racism – Why silence isn’t the answer

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