Have you wondered “what is Lindy Hop?” or about swing dancing in general? Maybe you’ve heard the name “Lindy Hop” before but unsure what it’s all about? Well, pull up a chair and grab a hot beverage! We’re here to tell you all about Lindy Hop: the dance, the history, and its cultural legacy!
What is Lindy Hop?
Lindy Hop is a Black American dance that originated in Harlem, New York City in the late 1920s and hit the height of its popularity in the 1930s and ‘40s as part of mainstream American culture. The social dance developed from a combination of earlier dances like Tap, Charleston, and Breakaway, and evolved alongside the popular music of the time, jazz.
Perhaps Ken Burns said it most elegantly,
“Jazz. It is America’s music born out of a million American negotiations between having and not having; between happy and sad; country and city; between black and white; men and women; between the old Africa and the old Europe. That could only have happened in an entirely new world.
It is an improvisational art, making itself up as it goes along, just like the country that gave it birth. It awards individual expression, but demands selfless collaboration. It is forever changing but nearly always rooted in the blues. It has a rich tradition and its own rules, but it is brand new every night.”
This not only describes the music, but the dance and its intricacies as well. Lindy Hop was never just one thing. It embodied the joy on the other side of struggle, freedom on the other side of repression, and representation when there was erasure. For some people it was a means to have fun to music, connect to others, and be a member of a community; for others it was an outlet, a way to express their emotions, and share their contribution to the world.
Lindy Hop is not only a social dance, but also a spectacular and memorable artform for performances and competitions. If the idea of “swing dancing” makes you think of crazy fast jitterbug that includes impressive air steps (throw your partner!), then you already know a little bit about the exciting performance aspect of the dance. Here’s the most famous example of performance Lindy Hop ever to be recorded. From the film Hellzapoppin’ –
Air steps are not the core part of the dance, so if flying through the air isn’t for you, no problem! Social Lindy Hop can be danced to slow and moderate tempo jazz songs and is a comfortable, fun, and accessible dance for people of all ages, shapes, sizes, abilities, and backgrounds. Here’s a wonderful clip of Frankie Manning and Norma Miller, two legends of Lindy Hop, social dancing the Lindy Hop while they were in their 70s –
Lindy Hop combines rhythm, partner connection, improvisation, and amazing music into a unique social dance that’s silly, sassy, playful, dynamic, deeply meaningful, challenging yet accessible, and ever so creative. It’s a dance that thousands of people around the world have fallen in love with and we think you will too!
Understanding the Black History & Culture of Lindy Hop
At iLindy.com, we want to celebrate Lindy Hop while giving respect to the dance’s Black roots and culture. We firmly believe that learning about the history of the dance is just as important as learning the rhythm and the steps, because without the history and the connection to the culture, the dance is severed from its greatness. Though we ourselves are not Black, we deeply value connecting its roots to its future, the struggles to the triumphs, the performative to the social, and are focusing to make this ever-growing understanding and history as clear as possible for our students, for the global Lindy Hop Community, and for the world.
Please make sure to check out our History & Resources page. This page is a work-in-progress where we’re including both the history of Lindy Hop and also the evolving Lindy Hop narrative so that we as non-Black dancers can appreciate this wonderful Black-American dance and give it the utmost respect and acknowledgment.
Why Should You Learn Lindy Hop
Lindy Hop is a true American art form. When you learn Lindy Hop online or in-person via Lindy Hop classes in your city, you are connecting to a piece of American History—and more importantly, a part of Black American history. This, along with many other artforms, deserves recognition and appreciation! To go beyond being a consumer of the dance, it’s critical to connect the culture to the artform; this is what it means to be a Lindy Hopper. We recommend diving into the history of the dance while also continuing your journey to learn and listen to the important Black narratives of today.
Lindy Hop is joyful! Dancers everywhere agree that Lindy Hop is one of the most joyous parts of their lives. It’s no coincidence that Lindy Hop had its heyday during the Great Depression; during tough times, people—especially Black Americans—needed an opportunity to escape their regular, daily tribulations and let loose. It was a dance that helped people find joy and get through life’s hardships. Lindy Hop became a much-needed outlet then and it still gives people unparalleled joy today. We can’t wait for you to experience it for yourself!
Lindy Hop is creative. This is not a stringent dance with rules, specific sequences, and exact forms that you’re required to replicate with exact precision. The spirit of Lindy Hop is creative, musical, and improvisational. When you learn Lindy Hop online with us at iLindy.com, we give you the steps, framework, philosophy, and the world’s biggest library of moves—but at the end of the day, it is imperative that you use that foundation to bring your vision of the dance into the world. So if great music, creative constraints, deep historical connection, and artistic expression are what you’re looking for, Lindy Hop is the dance for you!
Lindy Hop is great exercise. Hitting the gym or going for a run is all well and good, but once you’ve experienced a night of social dancing or an afternoon of training that incorporates movement, fun, and creativity, you’ll be amazed by how great it is to learn your first steps! Between cardiovascular activity and working and developing new muscles, Lindy Hop can be an excellent way to get in shape and stay healthy.
Lindy Hop is social and community-oriented. When you learn this dance, you’re entering into a unique global community that presents you with opportunities to meet some of the nicest and most interesting people around the world. In non-pandemic times, you attend dance events in your local area or travel to Lindy Hop events in 60+ countries around the world. Once you know how to swing out, you’ll be able to dance with people everywhere, connect, and form some of the best friendships of your life.
We truly believe in the power and beauty of Lindy Hop; it’s a joyful dance that brings people together and for that we have the Black Community to thank. As long as you’re open and willing to embrace Black History and Culture with respect, learning Lindy Hop is an opportunity for cultural appreciation of this great Black American art form. Will you join us?
Are You Ready to Learn Lindy Hop Online?
Jo and Kevin have been pouring their knowledge, hearts, and souls into teaching Lindy Hop for more than 20 years and with iLindy.com, they aren’t holding anything back! They’ve put everything they know into the 1000+ videos you’ll find here at iLindy. Give it a try and we’re sure you won’t be disappointed!
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