Lindy Hop

"Triple Lindy" redirects here. For the dive, see Back to School.
Dancing the Lindy hop at the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, Sacramento, California, US (2006)
Lindy Hop Dance, 2013

The Lindy hop is an American dance that evolved in Harlem, New York City, in the 1920s and 1930s and originally evolved with the jazz music of that time. It was very popular during the Swing era of the late 1930s and early 1940s. 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 development, the Lindy hop combined elements of both partnered and solo dancing by using the movements and improvisation of Black dances along with the formal eight-count structure of European partner dances – most clearly illustrated in the Lindy's basic step, the swingout. In this step's open position, each dancer is generally connected hand-to-hand; in its closed position, leads and follows are connected as though in an embrace.

There was renewed interest in the dance in the 1980s from American, Swedish, and British dancers and the Lindy hop is now represented by dancers and loosely affiliated grass-roots organizations in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Oceania.

Lindy hop is sometimes referred to as a street dance, referring to its improvisational and social nature.


Main article: History of Lindy Hop

Swing era (1920s–1940s)

The Lindy hop was born in African-American communities in Harlem, New York, in the United States, from about 1927 into the early 1930s. It originated from four possible sources, or some combination thereof: the breakaway, the Charleston, the Texas Tommy, and the hop.[1]

A recorded source of the dance's name is famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, nicknamed "Lucky Lindy", who "hopped the Atlantic" in 1927.[2][3][4] After Lindbergh's solo non-stop flight from New York to Paris in 1927 he became incredibly popular [5] and many people named businesses and other things after him. Te Roy Williams and His Orchestra recorded the song "Lindbergh Hop," written by Ted Nixon and Elmer Snowden, on May 25, 1927.[6][7] The Memphis Jug Band on 9/13/1928 recorded "Lindberg Hop- Overseas stomp," written by Jab Jones and Will Shade.[8]

Just 10 days after Lindbergh landed at Le Bourget, a'Lindy Hop' dance was described by columnist Gilbert Swan (Reno Gazette, May 31st, 1927). He wrote; "Obviously the first dance named for the Lindbergh flight was the 'Lindy Hop'...Like all trick dances, they will be done in a few theatres and dance halls, where experts appear, and that will be that". Later that year, on Sept 14th, the Woodland Daily Democrat reported Catherine B Sullivan describing the 'Lindy Hop' as having been placed 3rd in the Dancing Masters of America, New Dances competition, behind the Kikajou, and the Dixie Step. ( 'Lindy Hop' also described in reports as the 'Lindbergh Glide'). The journalist reports that Miss Johnson showed a very fast little step, with hops and a kick, whilst holding the arms out , like the Spirit of St Louis. The foot work is described as "dum-de-dum, dum-de-dum, dum-de-dum".

According to Ethel Williams, the Lindy hop was similar to the dance known as the Texas Tommy in New York in 1913. The basic steps in the Texas Tommy were followed by a breakaway identical to that found in the Lindy. Savoy dancer "Shorty" George Snowden stated that "We used to call the basic step the Hop long before Lindbergh did his hop across the Atlantic. It had been around a long time and some people began to call it the Lindbergh Hop after 1927, although it didn't last. Then, during the marathon at Manhattan Casino (New York City), I got tired of the same old steps and cut loose with a breakaway..."[1] According to Snowden, Fox Movietone News covered the marathon and took a close-up of Shorty's feet. As told to Marshall and Jean Stearns, he was asked "What are you doing with your feet," and replied, "The Lindy". The date was June 17, 1928.[1]

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.[9][10]

As white people began going to Harlem to watch black dancers, according to Langston Hughes: "The lindy-hoppers at the Savoy even began to practice acrobatic routines, and to do absurd things for the entertainment of the whites, that probably never would have entered their heads to attempt for their own effortless amusement. Some of the lindy-hoppers had cards printed with their names on them and became dance professors teaching the tourists. Then Harlem nights became show nights for the Nordics."[11]

Charles Buchanan, manager of the Savoy, paid dancers such as Shorty Snowden to "perform" for his clientele.[12] According to Snowden, "When he finally offered to pay us, we went up and had a ball. All we wanted to do was dance anyway."[1] When "Air steps" or "aerials" such as the Hip to Hip, Side Flip, and Over the Back (the names describe the motion of the follow in the air) began to appear in 1936, the old guard of dancers such as Leon James, Leroy Jones, and Shorty Snowden disapproved of the new moves.[1]

Younger dancers fresh out of high school (Al Minns, Joe Daniels, Russell Williams, and Pepsi Bethel) worked out the Back Flip, "Over the head", and "the Snatch".[1][10]

Frankie Manning was part of a new generation of Lindy hoppers, and is the most celebrated Lindy hopper in history. Al Minns and Pepsi Bethel, Leon James, and Norma Miller are also featured prominently in contemporary histories of Lindy hop. Some sources credit Manning, working with his partner Freida Washington, for inventing the ground-breaking "Air Step" or "aerial" in 1935. One source credits Al Minns and Pepsi Bethel as among those who refined the air step.[10] An Air Step is a dance move in which at least one of the partners' two feet leave the ground in a dramatic, acrobatic style. Most importantly, it is done in time with the music. Air steps are now widely associated with the characterization of lindy hop, despite being generally reserved for competition or performance dancing, and not generally being executed on any social dance floor.

Lindy hop entered mainstream American culture in the 1930s, gaining popularity through multiple sources. Dance troupes, including the Whitey's Lindy Hoppers (also known as the Harlem Congaroos), Hot Chocolates and Big Apple Dancers exhibited the Lindy hop. Hollywood films, such as Hellzapoppin' and A Day at the Races began featuring the Lindy hop in dance sequences. Dance studios such as those of Arthur Murray and Irene and Vernon Castle began teaching Lindy hop. By the early 1940s the dance was known as "New Yorker" on the West Coast.[13]

Lindy hop moved off-shore in the 1930s and 40s, again in films and news reels, but also with American troops stationed overseas, particularly in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other Allied nations. Although Lindy hop and jazz were banned in Nazi Germany, both were popular in other European countries during this period.

In 1944, due to continued involvement in World War II, the United States levied a 30 percent federal excise tax against "dancing" nightclubs. Although the tax was later reduced to 20 percent, "No Dancing Allowed" signs went up all over the country.[14]

Post-swing era (1950s–1960s)

Arthur Murray's 1954 edition of How to Become a Good Dancer included four pages of instruction for swing, covering the basic Lindy step, the double Lindy hop, the triple Lindy hop, the sugar foot walk, and the tuck-in turn.[15] A chapter is devoted to Lindy hop in the 1953 and 1958 editions of Dancing Made Easy.[16]

The 1962 Ballroom Dancebook for Teachers included an entire chapter on "Lindy".[17]

According to the book Social Dance (copyrighted in 1969), by 1960 the Lindy hop was known as "swing".[18]

Revival (1980s and 1990s)

Sandra Cameron and Larry Schulz of the Cameron Dance Center Inc in New York were instrumental in bringing Al Minns and Frankie Manning back into teaching Lindy hop at their dance center.[19] Minns joined the dance center and began a swing program there in 1981. Frankie Manning joined the Center in 1985.[20]

Al Minns' early students formed the basis for the New York Swing Dance Society, established in 1985.[19]

In the 1980s, American and European dancers from California, New York, London and Sweden (such as Sylvia Sykes, Erin Stevens, Steven Mitchell, Terry Monaghan and Warren Heyes who formed London's Jiving Lindy Hoppers performance troupe, and Stockholm's Rhythm Hot Shots / Harlem Hot Shots) went about "reviving" Lindy hop using archival films such as Hellzapoppin' and A Day at the Races and by contacting dancers such as Frankie Manning, Al Minns, Norma Miller, Jewel McGowan and Dean Collins. In the mid-to-late 1990s the popularity of neo swing music of the swing revival stimulated mainstream interest in the dance. The dance was propelled to wide visibility after it was featured in movies such as Swing Kids in 1993 and in the "Kakhis Swing" television commercials for GAP in 1998.[21] The popularity led to the founding of local Lindy hop dance communities in many cities.

In 1999, Swing! opened up on Broadway, featuring world-class Lindy hoppers Jenny Thomas and Ryan Francois, Latin swing dancer Maria Torres and her partner Carlos Sierra-Lopez, country swing stars Robert Royston and Laureen Baldovi, and west coast swing couple Beverly Durand and Aldrin Gonzales. Carol Bentley, Scott Fowler, Caitlin Carter, Edger Godineaux, Geralyn Del Corso, and Keith Lamelle Thomas were also featured in various swing-related dance pieces in the Tony-nominated show during its run at the St. James Theatre. The show closed in January 2001, yet continues to be set in regional and international cities around the world.

Current status

Main article: Lindy Hop today
Lindy hop dancers at DuPont Circle, Washington DC on a Saturday afternoon

There are thriving communities throughout the world, and Lindy hop can today be found in almost every large westernized city.

The small village of Herräng in Sweden (north of Stockholm) has unofficially become the international mecca of Lindy hop thanks to the annual Herräng Dance Camp formerly run by the Rhythm Hot Shots then passed on to new owners and operational team, with an attendance from around 40 countries. Lindy hop tends to be concentrated in small local scenes in cities in each of these countries, although regional, national, and international dance events bring dancers from many of these scenes together. Local swing dance communities in each city and country feature different local cultures. The concept of a Lindy exchange, a gathering of Lindy hop dancers in one city for several days to dance with visitors and locals, enables different communities to share their ideas with others.

Lindy hop today is danced as a social dance, as a competitive dance, as a performance dance, and in classes, workshops, and camps. In each, partners may dance alone or together, with improvisation a central part of social dancing and many performance and competition pieces.

Lindy hop has been featured in popular media since its inception. Variants include the Double Lindy[22] and Triple Lindy.[23]

It featured in several music videos, including Marilyn Manson's "Mobscene", the 2002 music video to Elvis Presley vs. JXL remix of "A Little Less Conversation", the 2007 music video to Christina Aguilera's song "Candyman", the 2008 video release from Millencolin; Detox and the music videos to Movits!'s songs "Fel Del Av Gården" and "Sammy Davis Jr.". It also featured in the 2013 music video for Capital Cities' song "Safe and Sound".

The Harlem Lindy hop dance club and zoot suit culture forms a colourful backdrop in the early part of Spike Lee's film Malcolm X, starring Denzel Washington as Malcolm X. Lee appears as musician who is Malcolm's friend "Shorty".[24]

In the Simpsons episode "Homer vs. Dignity", which originally aired in 2000, Mr. Burns pranks the Springfield Zoo by having Homer disguise himself as a panda and dance the Lindy Hop for the zoo attendees.

Lindy Hop is featured in the 2007 Gmail: Behind The Scenes collaborative video by Google, viewed by more than 5 million people.[25] In it, Montrealers Ann Mony and Alain Wong perform the basic swing out pattern while holding the Gmail envelope.

In the 2009 Strictly Come Dancing final the Lindy hop was performed by the two remaining contestants. In the eighth season of the US version of Dancing with the Stars, it was added to the list of dances along with the Argentine Tango.

Lindy hop features in the 2010 Taiwanese film Au Revoir Taipei, in which Amber Kuo's character goes to dance classes at night. One of these classes is seen at the end of the film.

Stephen King makes the Lindy hop an important element in his novel 11/22/63.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Stearns, Marshall and Jean (1968). Jazz Dance: The Story of American Vernacular Dance. New York: Macmillan. pp. 128–129, 315–316, 322–326, 330.
  2. LINDBERGH ARRIVES AFTER RECORD HOPS, The New York Times, Front Page,May 13,1927
  4. LINDBERGH REACHES GOAL AT HAVANA; SPOKESMEN OF PAN AMERICAN NATIONS AND 100,000 CUBANS WELCOME FLIER; WILD ACCLAIM AT LANDING Troops Barely Hold Back Great Crowd as Flier Taxis In. MET BY HUGHES AT FIELD Procession to City an Ovation-- President Machado Formally Greets Aviator at Palace. CONFERENCE HONORS HIM Pan-American Session Adjourns for Day as Lindbergh Comes by 800-Mile Hop From Haiti. Hughes Welcomes Him at Field. HOPS OFF IN HAITIAN DAWN, The New York Times, February 9, 1928
  5. "Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr.". The website. Retrieved August 12, 2014.
  6. Bastin, Bruce, The Melody Man: Joe Davis and the New York Music Scene, 1916-1978, University Press of Mississippi, 2012
  7. Jazz Odyssey 'The Sound Of Harlem' Volume III Original 1964 3XLp Vinyl Box Set Columbia Records C3L 33 Mono Jazz Archive Series Various Artist in High Fidelity Sound with 40-Page Booklet, produced by Frank Driggs
  8. retrieved 6/20/16
  9. "Lindy Hop Biographies: Shorty George Snowden". Judy Pritchett with Frankie Manning. 2006. Retrieved August 8, 2007.
  10. 1 2 3 Richard A. Long (1989). The Black Tradition in American Dance. Rizzoli International Publication, Inc. p. 33. ISBN 0-8478-1092-5.
  11. Langston Hughes (1940). The Big Sea. New York: Hill and Wang. – cited in Lynne Fauley Emery (1972). Black Dance in the United States from 1916 to 1970. National Press Books. ISBN 0-87484-203-4.
  12. Jacqui Malone (1996). Steppin' on the Blues. University of Illinois Press. pp. 101–103. ISBN 0-252-02211-4.
  13. "Murray in a Hurry Monday", Time, October 5, 1942.
  14. Albert Murray (2000). Stomping the Blues. Da Capo Press. pp. 109–110. ISBN 0-252-02211-4.
  15. How to Become a Good Dancer; by Arthur Murray. 1954. Simon and Schuster. Table of contents and pages 48–52; no ISBN
  16. Betty White, Dancing Made Easy. David McKay Company, Inc., p. 177. LCCN 53-11379
  17. Betty White. Ballroom DanceBook for Teachers, David McKay Company, 1962, pp. 131–144. LCCN 62-18465
  18. Social Dance. John G. Youmans. Goodyear Publishing Company, 1969, p. 25. LCCN 69-17984.
  19. 1 2 Craig R Hutchinson. Swing Dancer: Version 1.10, a swing dancer's manual. December 1998. Potomac Swing Dance Club, Inc., pp. 5.1–5
  20. Frankie Manning, Staff, Sandra Cameron Swing.
  21. "Back in Swing". The Washington Post. Richard Harrington. October 26, 1998. Retrieved October 31, 2013.
  22. Bennett, John Price and Pamela Coughenour Riemer (2006). Rhythmic Activities and Dance. Human Kinetics, ISBN 978-0-7360-5148-4
  23. Wright, Judy Patterson 2003). Social Dance: steps to success. Human Kinetics, ISBN 978-0-7360-4505-6
  24. Malcolm X (1992) - IMDb
  25. Gmail: Behind The Scenes Final Cut- Youtube

Further reading

The Wikibook Swing Dancing has a page on the topic of: Lindy Hop
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lindy Hop.
Lindy hop history
Lindy hop dancing today
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