The Lindy Hop is a dance based on the popular Charleston and named for Charles Lindbergh‘s Atlantic crossing in 1927. It evolved in Harlem,New York City in the 1920s and ’30s and originally evolved with the jazz music of that time. Lindy was a fusion of many dances that preceded it or were popular during its development but is mainly based on jazz, tap, breakaway and Charleston. It is frequently described as a jazz dance and is a member of the swing dance family.
In its Revived in the 1980s by American, Swedish, and British dancers, the Lindy Hop is now represented by dancers and loosely affiliated grass roots organizations founded in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Oceania.
Lindy Hop combined a number of dances popular in the United States in the 1920s and earlier, many of which developed in African American communities. Just as jazz music emerged as a dominant art form that could absorb and integrate other forms of music, Lindy Hop could absorb and integrate other forms of dance. This hybridity is characteristic of vernacular dances, in which forms and steps are adapted and developed to suit the social and cultural needs of its participants in everyday spaces. Therefore, Lindy Hop was not originally the creative or economic project of formal dance academies or institutions.
Lindy Hop’s genealogy can be seen in the ideological themes, social uses, and specific steps that it has absorbed during its development. For many Lindy Hop historians, the Charlestonis Lindy Hop’s most influential predecessor, and Lindy Hop’s basic footwork and timing reflects that of the Charleston. The transition from Charleston to Lindy Hop was facilitated by theBreakaway, a partner dance which introduced the ‘throw out’ and ‘open position’ of dances such as the Texas Tommy to the ‘closed position’ and footwork of partnered Charleston. The development of Breakaway is largely associated with the dancer “Shorty” George Snowden in the late 1920s.
As jazz music in the late 1920s changed, so did jazz dances. The swung note of swinging jazz encouraged dancers to introduce a ‘delay’ in their timing which influenced the execution of footwork and approaches to tempo within Charleston and Breakaway.
Origin of the name ‘Lindy Hop’
The origins of the name ‘Lindy Hop’ are much debated in Lindy Hop communities today, but Norma Miller is alive today to give much appreciated insights.
In one account it is argued that, in the slang of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a ‘Lindy’ was a young woman The word “hop” was documented as early as 1913 as a term for swing dancing and was also, apparently, a term used by early Texas Tommy dancers to describe the basic move for their dance.
In a more influential account, however, popular legend has it that dancer “Shorty” George Snowden renamed the breakaway dance as the Lindy Hop in a dance contest. In this version, Snowden was one of the 24 couples that competed in a negro dance marathon that began on June 17, 1928 at the Manhattan Casino, a ballroom that was located at 8th Avenue and 155th Street in Harlem. During the contest “as he remembers it – 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. …Fox Movietone News arrived to cover the marathon and decided to take a close-up of Shorty’s feet” and an interviewer then asked him “What are you doing with your feet?” Snowden, “without stopping, replied ‘The Lindy’”
Whether Snowden intended it or not, Lindy Hop was associated with Charles Lindbergh‘s transatlantic airplane flight, completed in 1927. “Lindy” was the aviator’s nickname. The reporter interviewing Snowden apparently tied the name to Charles Lindbergh to gain publicity and further his story. While Lindbergh’s trans-Atlantic flight may or may not have inspired the name “Lindy Hop”, the association between the aviator, George Snowden and the dance continues in Lindy Hop folklore.
Revival era (1980s)
Lindy Hop was revived in the 1980s by dancers in New York City, California, Stockholm, and the United Kingdom. Each group independently searched for original Lindy Hop dancers and, for those who lived outside of New York City, traveled to New York City to work with them. Al Minns, Pepsi Bethel, Frankie Manning and Norma Miller came out of retirement and toured the world teaching Lindy Hop, later to be joined by dancers such as George and Sugar Sullivan.