Swing Snack no. 26 – Ups and downs
… Or how Swing music changed Lindy Hop.
As we all know, the Lindy Hop was not created in a vacuum. At the beginning of the 20th century there were many partnered dances that Lindy was based on such as the Charleston and the One Step.
Most early practitioners of the dance that was to become Lindy were accomplished dancers in other fields as well. These people, such as Shorty George Snowden, were dancing to jazz in a way similar to the European dances they knew as well as the rhythm of the popular music of the time (ragtime, early jazz). That meant dancing very upright, reflecting the upward rhythm.
Check out the couples dancing in this video (Shorty is the 3rd)
In the late 20's Swing music came along, with its "down" rhythm and the syncopated "swing note".
The new music called for a new way of dancing. One of the early Lindy Hoppers, Frankie Manning, wanted to develop his own style, based of smooth feeling of the swing music. Instead of staying upright, he started to bend at the waist, replaced the rock step with a kick-back and stretched his arms to create a more dynamic, horizontal feel to his dance. The new development was a hit among the younger dancers at the Savoy ballroom, although the older dancers never picked up on it.
See the couples in the Hellzapoppin clip :
Out with the old, in with the new – replacing he older upright stance, Frankie developed the Lindy Hop look that was the inspiration to everyone from the Leon James at the 20s, The Rhythm Hot Shots at the 80s, and star dancers today.
From "Frankie Manning, Ambassador of Lindy Hop" : "Folks started to say [to Frankie], " Man, you look like your flying!"… And that's just how I felt. It was wonderful!