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Swing into Lindy


A 6 week Beginner Class

Swing into Lindy will take you through the basics of Swing Dancing in 6 weeks. It's the best place to start if you're new or need a refresher. 

Class notes

 week one pre-1925 

Pre-1925 Cultural context

This week we considered the origins of Jazz; how enslaved African people developed dances such as the Ring Shout, Juba, and Hambone (amongst others) as a means of cultural and individual expression. 

Around the early 1900's the beginnings of what we've come to recognize as 'Jazz' begin to be played by musicians in key cities such as New Orleans, closely followed by dances such as the Charleston. 

1920 sees 'The Great Migration' reach critical mass as African Americans from Southern USA move to the northern states in search of better economic opportunities and (marginally) less racism. By 1923, Chicago and New York begin to blossom as hubs of African American culture. 

Discover more:

#1: The Steps

We did some classic Charleston steps this week, check out the video below for a quick recap of the moves we did which were: Face to Face basic, hesitations, connection changes, follow turn, leader turn, both turn.

#2: Style

Part of building your confidence with Swing dancing is developing your own style. This takes practice, both on your own and with other people. Below are some clips to inspire you, as you watch, think about what you think is cool about the way they move and see if you can incorporate some of their style into your own dancing. The first clip, After Seben is the earliest example of swing dancing on film and features Shorty George Snowdon (who has a dance move named after him) and his partner Mattie Purnell- please note it also features an example of blackface.

Week 1

 week two 1926-1930 

1926-1930 Cultural context

Electrical recording vastly improves the quality of records so surviving music from this time is much more accessible. In 1925, Louis Armstrong records with his Hot 5 band. 1926 sees the opening of The Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, New York- generally agreed to be the birth place of Lindy Hop and a key part of the Harlem Renaissance. Duke Ellington records Est St Louis Toodle-O and Cab Calloway starts performing. After Seben, the earliest example of swing dancing on film is released. The stock market crash in 1929 affects the economy worldwide, and gives way to The Great Depression in the USA.

Discover more:

#1: The Steps

We built on the 'Charleston' footwork from week 1, adding in a 'quick quick slow' pattern to footwork. We explored moving away and toward our partner whilst in hold and using that to add turns and movement around the dancefloor.

#2: Style

These are two clips of modern-day legends showing examples of breakaways. Skye Humphries and Frida Sergadahl combine solo and partnered dancing in this clip of a social at a dance event, and Sharon Davis, who is a London-based dancer showing a recap of a class on 'Break away'. It's worth looking for more YouTube clips of all of these dancers as they're some of the best around today.

Week 2

 week three 1930-1935 

1930-1935 Cultural context

Whilst The Great Depression is still negatively affecting the economy and, of course, real people, Jazz continues to boom in popularity, finding its way into musical theatre and dance halls across the US. It's during this time that many of 'Jazz Standards' are recorded, and re-recorded and become the notable songs they are today. Songs including 'Exactly like you' first recorded by Louis Armstrong, and 'It don't mean a thing (if It Ain't Got That Swing' recorded by the Duke Ellington Band. It's with the latter song that the term 'Swing' enters into common usage. A riot breaks out in Harlem in 1935 after a series of unfortunate coincidences and misjudgments, compounded by a long time of racial and economic injustice. Later that year- perhaps in response to the Harlem riots, the Harvest Moon Ball competition is held over seven nights with the final at The Savoy Ballroom.  

Discover more:

#1: The Steps

THis week we added in 'triple steps' and 'rock steps' to give us new ways to turn and change direction. We Also started from a side by side 'jockey position' and explored moves such as the 'flip flop, lead goes, follow goes and promenade'

#2: Style

Our two inspiration clips this week are- stonkers! The first is the only surviving footage from the first Harvest Moon Ball, it features some of the original Lindy Hoppers, which have been helpfully labeled! The second clip is what's known as a 'steal jam' where dancers will swap in and out throughout the song, it's a great example of social dancing.

Week 3

 week four 1935-1940 

1935-1940 Cultural context

Whilst tensions in Europe are building, Jesse Owens becomes the first American to win four track and feild medals in one Olympics, in the 1936 Berlin Olympics no less. The 1937 Marx Brother's film 'Day at the Races' features Lindy Hop dancing in a scene that was stand alone to the rest of the plot, so it could be cut out when the film was shown in theatres in the American south. 

Chick Webb's band feature in most of the 'Battle of the Bands' at The Savoy, including Jan 16th 1938, where Chick Webb with Ella Fitzgerald battled against Count Basie with Billie Holiday- what a night that must have been! It ended in a tie!

Discover more:

#1: The Steps

We focused on two classic moves, the Circle and the Swing Out which build on the footwork rhythms (Quick-quick, Slow, Quick-quick, Slow/ Rock-step, Triple step, Rock-Step, Triple Step) and moves we've looked at in previous weeks (lead/follow goes). Our Circles continually move around our partner whilst in hold, whereas in a Swing Out we let go of our partner so we end facing each other, but holding one hand (lead- left, follow-right).

#2: Style

This week's inspiration videos are, the clip from 'Day at the Races' film- please note, there are depictions of racial stereotyping and allusions to blackface. The other clips are from international dancers dancing Charleston and Lindy Hop. The final clip, is from a 1939 film called 'Keep Punching' and depicts a routine called The Big Apple- again featuring Whitey's Lindy Hoppers.

Week 4

 week Five 194o-1945 

1940-1945 Cultural context

1941 sees a bizarre movie, Hellzapoppin released (it's on YouTube and is worth a watch in it's entirity). There's a scene that features Whtey's Lindy Hoppers, and it's probably one of the most iconic displays of Lindy Hop on film. Despite this, the clip features dancers in service costumes and, like in Day at the Races, the scene stands alone from the rest of the plot so it could be cut for Southern audiences. The Japanese draw the US into the war at the end of 1941 when they bomb Pearl Harbour. Shortly after, from 1942 men are drafted in the military, and so Whitey's Lindy Hoppers disbands. 

The UK sees an influx of US personnel, particularly in port cities (such as Liverpool) and around military bases, importing music, dancing, silk stockings and GI's. 

In the US, 1942 also sees the start of the musician's strike which lasted for two years, during which no new music was recorded for major labels. This made for a decline in 'Big Bands' and saw a rise in smaller bands, and smaller record labels- artists such as Dizzy Gillespie innovate 'Bebop' style jazz, which you could only hear live!

Discover more:

#1: The Steps

We learned a new rhythm variation: Quick quick, slow, slow or Rock Step, Triple step, Triple step. We experimented with some of the movement learned from previous weeks, going from side by side, to facing each other and back again and looked at some ways we can change this to give us "new" moves, e.g. by changing hands, adding turns (tuck turn), and changing places with our partner.

#2: Style

These clips show how lindy hop was danced differently from the East Coast- where African American dancers developed it, to the West Coast, where white dancers added a smoother style. Both the first two clips feature men and women in military uniforms, reflecting the context of the time. The other clip is from some of the best-loved swing dancers on the scene today and features many of the moves we've looked at in class.

Week 5

 week six 1945-1950 

1945-1950 Cultural context

Although the war ended in 1945, its impacts on the economy continued in the UK for some years. However, dance halls and UK-based jazz bands are bigger than ever. Many US bands resume touring the UK.

The musician strike in the US ended in 1944, and its impact continued to be felt. Vocalists weren't part of the strike and many continued to record during that time. The role of the lead singer becomes more pronounced, with singers such as Ella Fitzgerald going from having small parts in songs and being 'one of the band' to singing for almost the entirety of the song. Crooners such as Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole become popular with the singer affecting a smoother sounding 'Big Band Jazz'.

Discover more:

#1: The Steps

This week we did a quick recap of all the patterns of rhythm we've covered, and practised what we'd done,  and remembering that these different rhythms and movements are used all together in endless combinations as we respond to the music playing and our partner.

#2: Style

Here are some clips of a whole load of dancers, original and modern to inspire you. There's a whole spectrum of choreographed routines through to pure, unscripted social dancing. Notice how the dancers are listening to the music and dancing to it, incorporating musical features into their moves. Who do you like the most? What parts made you smile? See anything you'd like to try? Why not come to our next practice session or workshop?

Week 6
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