"I've never seen a Lindy Hopper who wasn't smiling. It's a happy dance. It makes people smile."

- Frankie Manning (b. 1914 d. 2009).

We agree with Frankie. Not only does Swing-era music and dance have a legacy of fun, smiles, connection, and joy, it has a rich history of virtuosic jazz performances. From Louis Armstrong's trumpet to Django Reinhardt's guitar to Ella Fitzgerald's iconic voice, musicians have been laying down the rhythms and inspiring dancers to swing.

The emergence of Swing in the first part of the 20th Century was culturally significant. In the 1930s, Benny Goodman, the King of Swing, led one of the first integrated bands to come to prominence. The Savoy opened in 1926 with a no discrimination policy, Frankie noted patrons were only judged on their dancing skills and not on the color of their skin.  Swing continues to bring people together today.

Swinging! at the International Lindy Hop Championships.

Swing Music

Swing music is a style of jazz that was dominant in the 1930s, and performed by jazz big bands primarily for dancing audiences.  Jazz reached broad audiences over the radio, on records, and in dance halls around the nation.

Swing music is characterized by a syncopated rhythm where all the beats are not evenly spaced in time. Familiar songs with this swing rhythm are Benny Goodman’s “Sing Sing Sing” and Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing”.

The syncopated swing rhythm made the music sound more lively, and also had the psychological effect of causing listeners to want to move with the music. The Charleston was a dance that was quite popular during the 1920s, and as jazz music took on stronger syncopations, the music began influencing how the dancers danced their dance. This caused a feedback with the live bands who would begin playing their music influenced by how the dancers in front of them were dancing. By the end of the '20s, this feedback between live bands and dancers evolved both the music and the dance into new forms: swing jazz (also called "swing music" or "big band jazz"), Lindy Hop (also called "swing dancing" or "the Jitterbug").

 

Lindy Hop

Lindy Hop is a partner dance and is the original form of Swing dancing created by teenagers in the 20's and 30's in Harlem, NY. Like hip hop is today, lindy hop was a street dance made up by youth responding to the popular music of the day, which was swing-era jazz.

This unique American art form spread around the globe in the years leading up to WWII thanks to representation in popular movies such as Keep Punchin’, A Day At the Races, and then Hellzapoppin. As jazz musicians began to play bop, dancers began to partner less and less, and lindy hop fell out of favor, but revivalists in the 1980s learned from some of the original great dancers and brought it back!

Today, we continue to dance to the swinging jazz music that inspired lindy hop in the first place, from artists such as Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, and many more.

Lindy hop can be danced fast or slow, and it's for ages 3 to 103.  Check out that video above for a great example what what lindy hop looks like!

 

 

Background Photographer: Marcus Fulton

 

Descriptions adapted from 920special.com