***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.***
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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.
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.
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.”
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)
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
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
- Norma Miller’s book – Swingin’ at the Savoy – The Memoir of a Jazz Dancer
- Frankie Manning’s book – Frankie Manning Ambassador of Lindy Hop
- 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
FOLLOW ON INSTAGRAM
Culture & Activism
Culture & Activism
- Scene on radio – Season2: Seeing white
- The Stoop – Stories from across the black diaspora
- Brene with Ibram X Kendi on how to be an antiracist
- npr.org – Code Switch
- iheart Radio
- Lynching In America Podcast
- About race podcast
- Noire histoir – Stories of Black history
- The Nod – The beautiful, complicated dimensions of Black life
- Everyday Black History: Afro Appreciation
Culture & Activism
- Uncomfortable Conversations With A Black Man
- 13th is currently available to stream on Netflix.
- Malcom X is currently available to stream on Netflix.
- Blindspotting is currently available to stream on HBO and HBO Max.
- Real Women Have Curves is currently available to stream on HBO Max.
- I Am Not Your Negro is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime.
- When They See Us is currently available to stream on Netflix.
- The Hate You Give
- Dear White People
- Ken Burns: The Central Park Five
- White Men: Time to Discover Your Cultural Blind Spots
- 50 years of racism – Why silence isn’t the answer