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History of the Lindy Hop Dance
Lindy Dance Origin
- Segregation was prevalent in the United States in the 1920s, but racial barriers crumbled inside Harlem's Savoy Ballroom in New York, the nation's first integrated dance club and the birthplace of the lindy hop swing dance. According to Michigan State University, the lindy hop originated from an African-American dance known as the breakaway that was performed without the closeness of a partner. The freedom of arm and leg mobility, when combined with jumping and stomping to a ragtime beat, allowed for unlimited improvisation that was a key component in lindy dance competitions.
Lindy Dance Steps
- Early lindy hoppers danced to an eight-count beat consisting of one back step and three forward steps done twice before a swing out. Swing-outs allowed each partner to improvise alone. Male and female partners spun around each other, sometimes dancing with extended derrieres while in a forward bent position. "Shine steps"---complex, innovative dance moves---added to the originality of each couple's Lindy dance routine, according to the How to Jive and KC Dance websites.
Famous Lindy Hoofers
- Countless lindy hoppers performed routines on the Savoy's 10,000-square-foot wooden dance floor, such as hoofers George Snowden and George Gannaway, who were among the first to set the tone for the lindy hop's development, according to Michigan State University and "The Washington Post." In the 1930s, choreographer Frankie Manning created the famous "air step" maneuver that consisted of lifting and tossing a female partner over the head of the male. Whitey's Lindy Hoppers, a successful dance ensemble named after entrepreneur Herbert White, performed across the nation and overseas and starred on Broadway and in Hollywood films.
Lindy Name Change
- At the onset of World War II, the lindy hop name was changed to jitterbug, although the reason for the name change is unclear, Just the Swing maintains that Charles A. Lindbergh's pro-Nazi viewpoint led to a dilemma over the use of his name and image. The dance remained popular, and for a time the lindy hop was referred to as jitterbug-jive, then jive and later to swing.
Lindy Hop Redux
- The Savoy Ballroom closed in 1958, but a group of loyal Harlem lindy hoppers refused to abandon the dance throughout the 1960s and '70s. American, British and Swedish dancers revived the lindy hop in the 1980s. Today, the dance remains popular in North and South America, Europe, Asia and the Pacific Islands.