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Styles of Lindy Hop
by: Peter Loggins (of the Hollywood Jitterbugs)


Where to start? First off let me say that I base all my statements by regularly dancing with yesteryear legends. I've studied with Swing Dance Hall of Famers, Harvest Moon Ball winners, and many State Champions during the 30's, 40's and 50's. Second, I've had discussions with Jazz Dance Historians and we have all came to the same conclusion. Last, but not least, I own one of the biggest collections of Jazz dancing on film in the world, and so with all that I base my facts.

I'm going to start with by explaining the style of "Shorty George Snowden." The first film available on him is "After Seben" [1929] where his "Troupe," as well as himself, perform the earliest form of the Lindy Hop. Basically it's pretty sloppy by toady's terms, but historically amazing none the less. The bodies of both the man and women are very erect as they shuffle through the Charleston steps. And their arms are very taunt bent at the elbow, basically more on the stiff side.

Now lets jump to the big debate that seems to be growing everyday due to the fact of who's teaching what. From the tapes I own, Lindy Hop in the 30's and 40's at the "Savoy Ballroom" was very erect with the mans knees bent as though he was sitting, and the woman basically the same except she swiveled very hard on 7-8 and coming in 1-2.

Now there were shoot-offs of style that were  rare. The two extreme examples would be Dean Collins and Frankie Manning. The difference being that Dean Collins style is when you and your partners feet are closer together than your head and then Frankie Manning's style would be when you and your partners heads are closer together than your feet. Both were rare in the 30's. Norma Miller (a Savoy dancer) was quoted as saying that "you could easily pick out Frankie on a dance floor of hundreds by his long linear style where his body would almost be horizontal to the floor. "In all the hundreds of dancers I've seen in old film clips, only one or two come to mind where there is a dancer with that style.

Then we have Dean Collins style. Now although the earliest film of Dean was filmed in 1939 we can clearly see he is actually bent over a lot but he is leaning back so far against his partners weight, that their feet are much closer than their heads. Unlike Frankie, Dean taught dancing as far back as people remember which would be around 1937-38. Being that he taught "His" style of Lindy, many people followed that same criteria of leaning back against your partners weight. And because of location, (Los Angeles) it became a very popular style into the 40's.

Dean and Frankie's style were not on a slot, and never were on a slot except during a performance where either they or the other dancers were next to you, or if the camera angle demanded it. Whitey's Lindy Hoppers danced on a slot, first in 'A Day At The Races' [1937] and then 'Hellzapoppin' [1941]. At the end of both of these scenes you can see the couples dancing next to each other, and to make it possible they where dancing in a slot. In the Soundie, Chool Song [1942] we can clearly see Dean Collins also dancing in a slot other than the "rhythm circle and slip out" so that the camera can catch his dancing from the side. Again let me state the basic was never on the slot, as a matter of fact there was no Lindy more circular than Dean's "Flyin' Lindy" steps, and to this day never will be.

This brings us to foot styling. We all know the Lindy Hop is 8 counts and 6 counts or just 2's, however you want to look at it. The basic Lindy step or what is sometimes called the Lindy rhythm, is walk-walk, triple step, walk-walk, triple step, right? Well Frankie Manning and or all Whitey's Lindy Hoppers would cut out the triple steps at fast tempos (Hellzapoppin, 1941) and during "air steps" basically stand there while lifting the girl through airials. Now Dean Collins footwork was different. He would always do his triples even at fast tempos and on what we know as 1-2, and instead of a rock step Dean would do a kick-ball-change. At that point he would do variations of the basic stalls on the triples and extra steps on the 1-2 or whatever, get the point? Deans dancing concentrated a lot on variations of the basic. There is one move in a film from 1941 where Dean does kick-ball-change, triple step, triple step, kick-ball-change, triple step, triple step!!! Count it if you want, it's the Lindy rhythm and it goes with the music he was dancing to perfectly. Today it seems people learn Lindy without the triple steps which gives them a "Hip Hop" or "Lazy" look at slow tempos. This is a "modern" style of Lindy that is most popular today amongst the new generation of Lindy Dancers.

The reason I wrote this is to educate those who completely fabricate misleading information on there web pages, and to those that we see out dancing who commonly ask what the differences are between "Authentic"' and "Modern" Lindy Hop. Some people have gone so far as to call one style "Savoy" which is a far cry from the truth. Others call one style "G.I" style which is almost as though the Army-Aircorps were teaching Lindy Hop!

In closing I would like to say we dance to have fun. Some of us like to add modern stylings into Lindy to make it evolve into the future. Others, like myself, enjoy preserving the dance as it was. All in all, both styles are fun, there is no right or wrong, and together we can show the world our American History. In 1977 Dean was quoted as saying, "There is no such thing as East Coast or West Coast, it's all Lindy Hop and will always be Lindy Hop."

Be Sure To Visit "The Hollywood Jitterbugs Homepage" For More From Peter Loggins.


Article Copyright 1998 Peter Loggins
HTML Copyright 1999 The Lindy Hoppers Homepage!
This Page Last Revised: February 25, 1999.