A Description of Lindy Hop
Lindy Hop was so named after Charles Lindbergh's flight to Paris in 1927, when the newspaper headline read: "LINDY HOPS THE ATLANTIC". The dance has no "hop" in it. On the contrary, it is smooth and solid, and while there is a constant rhythmic 8-count "pulse" that you feel in your bones, there is no hopping, bopping, or prancing in the dance.
Lindy Hop Music
Lindy Hop can be done to any music with a swing rhythm: music played in 4/4 time with a rhythm that has an even-keeled "pulse" on every beat along with syncopated triplets that shift the beat slightly (bat... ba-bat, bat... ba-bat, instead of bat-bat-bat, bat-bat-bat) for rhythmic emphasis. This American-originated rhythm is present in all forms of American music: not just Jazz and Blues, but also all types of Rock, Country, and "R&B" music. Lindy Hop dance patterns can be done to any music that is in 4/4 time (thus making sense of the 8-count patterns), even without the syncopation, such as lots of other kinds of Funk, Rap, Hip Hop, Rock, Blues, Soul, and even Country music.
History of Lindy Hop
Lindy Hop, also known as Jitterbug, is the authentic Afro-Euro-American Swing dance. It is an unabashedly joyful dance, with a solid, flowing style that closely reflects its music -- from the late 20's hot Jazz to the early 40's Big Bands. Just as Jazz combines European and African musical origins, Lindy Hop draws on African and European dance traditions. The embracing hold, and the turns from Europe, the breakaway and solid, earthy body posture from Africa. The dance evolved along with the new swing music, based on earlier dances such as the Charleston and the Black Bottom, by black people in Harlem.
Lindy Hop is a social dance. Partners are connected smoothly and gently to each other, while relating closely to the music, in feeling, improvisation and phrasing. The core tempo range is 120-180 beats per minute.
Films such as Hellzapoppin and Day at the Races, as well as Malcolm X and Swingkids show seemingly reckless airsteps (aerials), often done at very fast musical tempos. Far from being just acrobatic antics, airsteps are in fact smooth, extremely precise, and perfectly in synch with the music. They require a superb degree of expertise and are not danced socially, but only for performance, if only inside a protective ring of spectators, as in the Cats' Corner jams at the Savoy Ballroom. Airsteps are impressive and spectacular, so that's what you see in the movies!
Savoy style Lindy Hop, as taught by Frankie Manning and Steven Mitchell, has the lightest, gentlest, and smoothest connection of all the common Swing dances! It is solid, low, relaxed and energetic.
Just as Swinging Jazz music feels very different from, say, Rockabilly music, Lindy Hop feels very different from other dances, such as WCS, ECS, Jive, and Rock'N'Roll-Jitterbug, especially in posture, partner connection, and musical connection.
Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites to learn at a beginner level.
These classes should be open to all levels. It is extremely important to take and retake beginner classes as it allows you to really understand how your body moves and truly focus on your dance style. It is common, even for the most advanced dancers to be seen taking beginner classes. The fact is you can never do enough basics. In Lindy Hop you should learn the basic 8 Count steps, a Swing Out, and possibly some other turns. Basic classes will not cover a whole lot more than that and will spend a most of the time on the basic step and swing out.
Common Beginner's Mistakes
Boys, I know you saw "Swing Kids" or "Swingers" or that YouTube video of someone doing this amazing "Flip-her-in-the-air-grab-her-waist-swing-her-around-big-finish-with-her-legs-spreadeagled." Perhaps you practiced it with your little sister or your very understanding girlfriend at home. This does not mean that you can then try this on some unsuspecting follower who had the misfortune of dancing with you. It's dumb, and more importantly, it's dangerous to your partner and to those around you. If I see you do it at a dance that I run, I'll give you one warning, and then I'll ask you to leave. Let's be honest folks we are not all great dancers and some of us that think we are aren't either. Don't try to get ahead of yourself. Aerial moves are not for the social dance floor. These moves are for professional dancers who do Gap commercials, movies and competitions. Please Please be careful with your partners.
Prerequisites: Intermediate prerequisites would be a full understanding of basic movements such as the basic 8 count swing out, inside turn, outside turn, circle as various as various other moves. The dancer should be able to execute these moves and especially the basic swing out flawlessly.
Intermediate classes are typically reserved for people who have spent a reasonable amount of time learning the basic moves of the dance. These classes usually focus on advanced basic steps, connection and moves.
Common Intermediate Mistakes:
This is mostly for the leaders out there, but followers can be just as guilty. Don't feel like in every dance you have to squeeze in every single trick and move you ever learned into every second of the dance. That's a good way to confuse your partner, which is not cool. And it doesn't make you look better, it actually makes you look worse. A perfectly acceptable social dance phrase might be :
Jockey or rock back and forth for a few counts / regular swing out / regular swing out / swingout with Texas Tommy variation / closed circle
What I tend to see is leaders attempting something along the lines of:
swingout with an inside follower spin at the end / closed circle with a leader drop / sendout into a follower and leader spin / swingout finishing with leader heel slide... etc.
Don't do this! Remember: less is more. Watch two of my favorite dancers Dawn Hampton and Matt Bedell dance. Their movements are all small, simple, and musical.
Prerequisites: Typically advanced classes are by invitation or tryout only. The reason is because the advanced moves such as aerials can be very dangerous to learn if you don't know what you are doing.
Advanced classes are reserved for the cream of the crop. These classes are geared toward very high level dancers. These people have been dancing for years and have regularly attend dance workshops of all kinds. Advanced dancers have mastered many styles of dancing and have an expert knowledge of connection, musicality as well as various other aspects of dancing.
Common Advanced Mistakes:
There is a dance term you might hear a lot. It is called "A Dance Snob". I don't know anyone who likes be labled a dance snob but they are out there. This is not exclusive to the advanced dancers either. There are really a couple of types of dance snobs. Those folks that think they will learn faster and get better results by only dancing wth expert dancers and those dancers that just think they are too good to dance with beginners. No matter what your situation I can tell you that neither of these things is true. You will not get better by only dancing with expert dancers. You might actually get hurt if that expert does something you don't know and are not ready for. Experts make mistakes too. Also, you will only learn by making mistakes and understanding when your partner is making mistakes. So dance with beginners always. Additionally, if you think you are too good to dance with beginners. Get over it. You are needed out there. A lot of people want to learn how to dance and they want to dance with you becuase lets face it. You look awesome out there. Lend a hand. Let someone else have a turn for once.
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