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Lindy Hop…Get in the Swing!

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Lindy, or the Lindy Hop dance, is a Swing dance which reflects the music of the 1920’s through to the 1950’s. Being used to bop along to anything from big bands to jazz musicians, the Lindy Hop combines the hold and turns of European dancing with the solid body posture of traditional African dance. Lindy dances always require two people, who rotate and step around each other while embracing or linking hands. The Lindy Hop paved the way for the likes of West Coast Swing, Rock’n’Roll and Boogie Woogie dancing, encouraging dancers to move in time with the rhythm without the strict rules and formalities of many other forms of dancing.

The name Lindy Hop is a reference to a newspaper headline which read “Lindy Hops the Atlantic”, celebrating Charles Lindbergh’s success at completing the first solo, non-stop flight from New York to Paris in 1927.

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Just the year before, New York’s bustling Harlem district saw the opening of the Savoy Ballroom. This dance club resided on Lennox Avenue in the heart of Harlem, a place which accommodated black and white people alike and was known as the “mother church of swing dance”. As soon as the club opened, a new fast-paced style of dancing began to emerge. This dancing, which became known the following year as Lindy Hop, mixed the swing music of the time with the jazz dancing and African rhythms which were a major part of African-American heritage.

Despite growing massively in popularity between the 1930’s and 1950’s, the Lindy Hop saw a decline over the next few decades. However, the year 1986 saw Frankie Manning – arguably the greatest Lindy Hop swing dancer in history – came out of retirement and begin teaching couples to swing again. A strong scene emerged throughout the 1990’s in the West Coast of America, and to this day lively Lindy Hop and jazz dancing clubs regularly meet to enjoy the music and dance the night away.

Lindy Hop dancing came about as a result of the swing and jazz music which was so popular in America during the early 20th Century, especially in inner-city areas like Harlem. Almost all of the most popular songs to get your feet moving originated at the time, almost 100 years ago now. However, with the internet, compilation albums and the large record collections of most Manchester DJ’s, you can still Lindy Hop to the greatest swing and jazz tunes to this day.

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Some of the best Lindy Hop tracks are played by live bands and mobile DJ’s alike, come from names which need no introduction. Elvis Presley’s All Shook Up is a firm favourite, as is Frank Sinatra’s Five Minutes More. Ella Fitzgerald’s Sing Me a Swing Song has kept people swinging since 1936, alongside Sam Cooke’s Another Saturday Night which was released in the early 1960’s. Popular Lindy Hop songs have even been released as late as 1997, when Eva Cassidy covered the old African-American spiritual song Wade in the Water.

Other notable swing and jazz artists who created music to move your feet and do the Lindy Hop to include Sammy Davis Jr, Billie Holiday, Lionel Hampton, Louis Jordan, and Cab Calloway – whose music originated from Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom just as Lindy Hop itself did.

Even though the origins of Lindy Hop are rooted over 80 years in the past, there are still classes to visit in the North West where you can let your hair down and enjoy yourself for a few hours. You’ll need to wear flat, comfortable shoes which preferably tie on, or a Charleston kick could easily send one flying across the hall! Some people choose to wear retro clothing, others just a t-shirt and jeans, but it’s most important that you are comfortable without being too restricted.

The Manchester Lindy Swing Social is one of the most popular Lindy Hop events in the North West, taking place at 7:30 every Friday night in The Derby Suite, Freemason’s Hall, Bridge Street. Your £5 entry cost contributes towards the maintenance and running of an authentic wooden dance floor and fully licensed bar, but also a dance class – whether you’re an absolute beginner or have been doing the Lindy Hop for years. Social dancing follows the classes and runs until late, so you can finish the night by moving your feet to your favourite swing and jazz tunes.

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A little further afield, you’ll find the Swingaroo Vintage Dancehall located inside the Preston Masonic Hall, Preston, Lancashire.This Lindy Hop night costs £8 to attend, and runs from 7:30 on the last Friday of each month. The monthly event features both live swing musicians and resident DJ’s, playing swing, jazz, Charleston, Rock’n’roll and Rockabilly. If you’re a beginner you can also take part in a tuition class before hitting the dance floor.

For those willing to travel a little further away from central Manchester, Swing Jive Leeds is a weekly Lindy Hop night located at Moortown Social Club, Cranmer Gardens. The event begins at 7:45 every Monday evening, with beginner’s classes at 8 and advanced classes at 9:15. Afterwards you can dance the night away to music from the 1920’s through to 1950’s on a wooden dance floor.

Will you be trying your hand (or feet) at Lindy Hop dancing any time soon? Why not let FloorFillas know in the comments below?

By Anton Joe

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