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rhe Lindy

by

Margaret Batiuchok

Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements


for the degree of Master of Arts
to the faculty ofthe Gallatin Division of New York University

May 16,1988
1

Table of Contents

Preface................ iii

Proposal 1

Thesis Statement ~ , ;. ~.~ l •••••••••••• 1

Purpose 3

Research Methods ~.. 3

Justification......................................................................................... 4

Conclusion 7

Introduction 8

Chapter I: I...indy............... 12

Characteristics as a Dance ·..·· 12

a) General Forms...... 12

b) Technical Elements · 16

Origins and Evolution 22

a) Lindy, Jitterbug, and Swing: What the Lindy

Developed From and Into · 22

Social History: Black Culture · 39

a) The Lindy: African/American Cultural Phenomenon........... 39

Additional Notes and Conclusions 58

Chapter II: Artistic Aims........................................................................... 66

Conclusions and Declication............................................................... 79


..
11

Table of Contents

Chapter III: Technical Essay.................................................................... 84

References. 96

Bibliography ....................................................................•.•.... " 100·


Preface
That something appears in print does not make it true. I once had a
student argue with me vehemently about something I knew to be
false, but she felt that because she had read it in a dance book it
had to be true. Many of the statements in this thesis are results of
my research. They sounded plausible and thus I have included
them.
When I say "I believe X" to be true, I believed it at the time I wrote
it. I mayor may not believe it in the future.
I challenge you to read this thesis and come to your own
conclusions about your beliefs, using what you know to be true
along with the information and opinions I present to you. I hope
you enjoy it, learn something, feel something, that it inspires you
to dance better, and encourages you to think.
1

PROPOSAL

"Lindy Dancers, 1988"

Thesis Statement

Social dance is an art form that is passed on, pre-

served and developed, through individual dancers dancing

with one another in social situations. A single dance, such

as the Lindy, appears in many forms, dependent on the indi-

vidual bodies dancing it, the personal stylization added to

it, and the social environment in which it is danced.

Watching great dancers of different ages and backgrounds not

only reveals basic similarities which enable us to define

the elements which we deem essential components of the spe-

cific dance, 'but also reveals those other elements we

attribute to the personal styling and creativity of the

dancers. By sorting out those elements and finding out the

.backgrounds of the dancers, we can come up with a clearer

definition of the dance in its skeletal form and understand

more about its history; the dancers of different eras will

dance it differently. We can see how 1) certain environ-

ments (~ultural and time periods), 2) dance backgrounds


2

(whether the dancer does other dances such as Latin,


Country-Western, Ballet or Modern), 3) where they learned to

dance, 4) their reasons for dancing (social or performance),


and 5) individual body types and body limitations, have in-

fluenced the development of the dance.

Dancers of today and tomorrow need to view great

dancers for inspiration and to capture any steps or styling

they might choose to learn. Viewing certain dancers that I

know now is important to the authenticity and development of

the Lindy that is currently being passed on. There is not

much visually-recorded material of Lindy available for fu-

ture generations to view. Only a handful of New York Lindy

enthusiasts get the opportunity to view or dance with these

great dancers, and an occasional viewing or dance doesn't

afford one the necessary time for learning.

I want to present, on videotape, these dancers who have

achieved excellence in Lindy dancing, to document the dance

and the personal style and grace only they can offer. I

will discuss the dance's basic form and its differences as

exhibited by the various dancers' interpretations. I will

discuss their personal backgrounds and influ~nces and theit


attitudes towards dancing.
3

Purpose

My main purpose in doing this videotape is to capture

the dancing of certain people who I believe to be the best

in the world. Some are elderly and will not be around much

longer. The younger ones' styles will be changing, or they

may not continue to dance. There are no visual records of

many of these people at present. I wish I had done this

years ago, as people disappear or change from year to year.

Each has been very influential in the field in general and

has personally contributed a great deal to my own style and

dance development.

In terms of contribution to society in general and

those who are interested in dance, this project will provide

an historical documentation of the Lindy which can be a

resource for Lindy dancing done in 1988. It can be used as

an inspiration to other dancers, as well as a teaching tool.

Research Methods

My research methods will be fourfold: written mate-

rial, interviews, and live viewing and videotaping. First I

will locate books and articles in newspapers and periodicals

that discuss Lindy, its dancers and its social environments.

Marshall Stearns's Jazz Dan~~ and Norm~ Miller's The Home of

Happy Feet are the two books which I have found discuss the
Lindy in most detail. I will conduct personal interviews

with old Savoy Ballroom dancers, ballroom dance teachers,

and those dancers whom I will be taping. What will really

reveal the most about the dance will be the viewing of the

dancers. The Performing Arts Library at Lincoln center has

a few films on Lindy dancing in the 1950's (The Spirit Moves

and The Savoy Ballroom of Harlem, both by Mura Dehr!). I

will attend dances at the Cat Club presented by the New York

Swing Dance Society, of which I am a founding member. Al-

most all Lindy dancers from age eighteen to eighty in New

York now attend these dances. The bands include former

members of the Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Jimmie

Launceford bands. The dancers include ballroom teachers,

old Savoy dancers, and former members of Lindy Hop perform-

ance groups such as Whitey's Lindy Hoppers (who danced in

movies'such as A Day at the Races). I will attempt to

videotape as many of these dancers there as I can, to pro-

vide a general view of dancing today, in its many forms.

This will also provide a context for my focus on the few

selected great dancers. Lastly, I will videotape these

great dancers in a studio or at one of the dances.

Justification

Written material on dance cannot compare to viewing it.


5

There are very few films on Lindy dancing -- two that I know

of. There are many one- or two-minute excerpts from old

films that present a performance Lindy, done by profession-

als, not social dancers in a club atmosphere. The rela-

tively few things that have been written give conflicting

stories, biased by egos or personal involvements of the

dancers relating the stories. It may be interesting to read

about the personalities and experiences of certain key

dpncers, but the written material doesn't convey much about

what their dancing was like. Dance manuals ar~ confusing,

and it is laborious to translate them into dance movement

with a partner. Styling and feeling are extremely difficult

to convey through words without visual accompaniment.

By choosing dance partners who span the years from the

Lindy's origin to the present, and by having available to me

dancers who are considered the best by many observers, I can

provide a visual history and learning manual that far ex-

ceeds in scope and detail any material that is available at

present. There is a need to capture these dancers' styles

while they are still alive and interested in dancing. A

slight problem might be that since some of these dancers are

in their sixties, their styles today may be different from

the earlier years, when they competed and performed. Their


,
dancing is now so beautiful that is hard for me to be too
6

concerned about the changes they underwent; it seems that

any change must have been for the better! For historical

accuracy's sake, I will discuss with them how their dancing

has changed. The video can only reveal dancing in 1988, but

will present a sense of history which will be evident in

obvious differences in the dancing of those of different

ages. Each dancer dances a different dance, yet it is all

Lindy, and all of the highest quality. This is a point I

want to make by doing this project, that dancing, especially

Lindy, encourages personal expression and creativity. There

are few rules and lId like to explore what those rules are

and look at the variety of forms that have been built upon

them.

The videotape will also be a learning tool that will

influence all who see it now and in the future. The way

most ballroom studios teach Lindy produces sterile danc~rs

who concentrate on the steps and fail to see the limitless

possibilities for creativity in the dance. Most of the

teachers do not provide a suitable example of Lindy dancing.

Their teaching methods leave out the essential ingredient of

improvisation. Teaching videos that I have seen duplicate

this bland approach. I will attempt to provide an example

for spiritual inspiration a6 well as to give dancers an

opportunity to study the moves and stylizations that appeal


7

to them, which they can translate into their own bodies. I

will also discuss and demonstrate basic steps and elements

which they can experiment with and use as tools for creating
their own dance.

Conclusion

I want to make a visual record of those dancers who I

think are the best in 'the world, so their dancing and influ-

ence can live on and continue to give joy, excitement, and

inspiration to all who see them. I want to convey through

the project the spirit of social Lindy dancing and the many
possible forms of expression it can take. I want these

great dancers to have a greater influence in the directions

and development of the Lindy.


B

Introduction

The purpose of this thesis is to show, on tape, the

best swing dancers in New York in 1988, dancing and discuss-

ing the Lindy. This will reveal something about the nature

of the dance; the Lindy is a dance with as many possibili-

ties as there are dancers who dance it. The Lindy is a

social dance, a ballroom dance, but primarily a jazz dance.

Because rhythm is its most essential characteristic, Lindy

is called a rhythm dance. It has two basic rhythm patterns,

a few basic moves, and all else is improvisation structured

upon this. It has to be danced with a partner but offers a

lot of room for individual expression within the partner-

ship. Partnering, timing, lightness, flexibility, jazz

feeling, and musicality are all integral parts of good

Lindy dancing.

The thesis includes, aside from the videotape section,

a four-part written section: thesis proposal, research

chapter, artistic aims chapter, and technical essay chapter.

In the research section, I will first attempt to define

the Lindy through a discussion of its characteristics as a

dance. I will discuss the more gener&l forms the Lindy is


9

included in, "social dance," "ballroorn dance," and "jazz

dance." I will then discuss the technical elements which

distinguish the Lindy from other dances and the character is-

tics that distinguish good Lindy dancing from bad. I will


then describe the technical origins and evolution of the

Lindy through a discussion of the dances that led up to the

Lindy Hop and descended from it; and through a discussion of

the terms "Lindbergh Hop," "swing,tI and "Jitterbug.1I

I will reiterate throughout my belief that the best

dancing comes from the "street" or social dancers, not from

dancers trained in schools for ballroom competitions. I

don't feel most dance schools understand the feeling of the

Lindy (there are, of course, exceptions, such as John

Lucchese and Teddy Kern, who are independent teachers). The

Lindy originated in black dance halls and the more

authentic style uses African rooted movements, connection

with the earth, vertical bounce, side hip movements, and a

relaxed, not rigidly-held torso. A sense of abandon and joy

comes from immersing oneself in the music and its rhythm.

Students should be taught authentic movement and music and

then be encouraged to create their own patterns within the

feeling and rhythmic structure of the dance and the music.


I will then discuss in further detail the history and
I
social scene surrounding the Lindy and 'the dances immedi~
10

ately preceding it. I will show how the black influence on

American social dance has been great, but not readily

accepted by white society as a whole. Each dance follows a


pattern: it is introduced by black dancers, criticized and

banned as shocking and immodest, then forced into acceptance

by sheer popularity, public demand, possibly years later, in

a watered down or modified version, one which the general

public can easily learn and perform. It is then part of

American culture. Jazz music and dancing began being played

by segregated bands and danced in segregated dance halls,

but ended up being integrated. This latter idea is still

not accepted or commonly seen in some areas. The American

melting pot takes years to bring two cultures together to

create a third, and years more to participate together

within it.

In the videotape section, I will dance the Lindy with

four dance partners, the best in the world at t~is time

(1988). They are all of different ages (one in his seven-

ties, one in his sixties, one in his fifties, and one in his

thirties), three of them are black, one 1s white. I will

show that great dancers allow their own styles to develop;

even though they are dancing the same dance, keeping to the

same basics, they look different.


I
In the artistic aims section, I will analyze my four
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partners' stylistic differences in relation to their differ-

ent backgrounds, philosophies, and personalities.

Finally, I will discuss how I technically went about


arranging the specific detail~ of the video shoot.

The entire work is the first attempt I know of to pre-

sent these dancers, or any swing dancers, with an accompany-

ing discussion of the historical background of the dance and

the dancers, plus a discussion of the technical elements of

s~yle and elements basic to the dance. It is meant to be

Jnformative, educational, entertaining, and inspiring.


12

CHAPTER I

Lindy

Characteristics as a Dance

The Lindy is a specific dance which can be defined by

its step and rhythm patterns, its musical feeling, and its

context and function. I will discuss its roots and predec-

essors, how it became known by other names (Swing and Jit-

terbug), and how it changed over the years into different

forms. I will also discuss the confusion that these change~


have brought about.

General Forms

The Lindy is a social dance, an official ballroom


dance, and more importantly, a creative, expressive jazz

dance.

Social dances are done at social gatherings and perform

specific social functions; one such function may be a mating

ritual. Many people learn to dance to meet someone of the

opposite sex. Others who already have a mate may dance to


13

express their sexuality. Social dancing is a safe testing

ground as well as an activity in itself that need not lead

to sex. It may even substitute for sex ..

Social dancing is a harmless competitive sport. Ereak

dancing competitions among adolescent street kids are so-

cially preferable to gang wars. Dancing as a fun blend of

music and exercise can 'serve as a physio-psychological re-

lease of tension, an outlet or activity that keeps one fit

as well as keeps one occupied and out of trouble. It is

good exercise and brings balance and centeredness to the

whole being. If done well, it may rise to the level of

artistry and spiritually uplift the participants and audi-

ence. Social dancing can be done in a group, individually,

or in couples.

All this being true, the reason the Lindy took so long

to be accepted by white upper society is that it was new and

different and predominantly black in its origins and influ-

ences. Society was not yet ready to praise the black

aesthetic and welcome with open arms black people and their

talents.

The Lindy was often attacked by the older generations

as dangerously sexual. One writer defends enthusiastic

Lindy d~ncer$ (Jitterbugs) against such attacks, and pralses


14

active social dancing as a healthy activity.

I hear the frightened gasps of well-meaning, old ladies


who are shocked by the jitterbugs. But I see no cause
for worry there. The jitterbugs seem to me to be the
true folk dancers of today. The folk spirit will not
be repressed. And this folk spirit seems to me to be
exuberantly breaking out in all these jitterbug dances.
Athletic, spirited, joyous, they show a true and irre-
pressible folk spirit. And I wouldn't worry about
their being sexy. I don't think they are. A good jit-
terbug is so active, so busy, so near the edge of ex-
haustion, I don't~elieve he has time to think of sex.
It may shock grandmother to see the skirts fly out of
place, when his partner slides under his legs or is .
thrown over his head. But that's gymnastics. That
isn't sex. I don't guarantee what he's doing when he
is not dancing. But while he is dancing, I feel sure
he is perfectly safe. If you want to worry about sex,
you would better watch that quiet couple pressed close
together back in the corner of the dance hall, hardly
moving as they sway and bend together. Donlt worry
about the jitterbugger. He is burning up steam in a
very sate and entirely moral way. And once the gro-
tesque posturing and the wiggling hips soften out of it
a bit, he may make a real contribution to the history
of the dance.1

The Lindy is also a ballroom dance. Ballroom dancing

is touch partner dancing, originally done socially, requ1r-

ing leading and following. The earliest couple dances about

which much is known are the European folk and peasant dances

dating back to 1350.2 Unfortunately. today's ballroom dance

teachers and studios have g1ven, tor self-elevating or ccm-

mercial reasons, ballroom dancing a more rigid structure


15

requiring the learning of rules, positions, and levels of

step lists. This creates a social environment of snobbery

and competition, the antithesis of the joyful exuberance

and relaxed atmosphere that pervade a social setting. Thus

I am making a distinction between the social bal1rooln danc-

ing and the ballroom dancing that has evolved from the

teachings of ballroom studios and their professional com-

petitions. They have~eveloped a style of their own which

is void of authentic ethnic quality. The Lindy was danced

socially at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem and many other

ballrooms around the country long before it was accepted b~

the ballroom dance associations as a ballroom dance. Its

form and character were changed by teachers' associations in

order to be acceptable and easily taught,-

The Lindy is a jazz dance. This is probably one of its

most important characteristics. If it does not have that

• When the large dance halls closed down after the war,
ballroom studios kept teaching the Lindy, without the
exciting input from the street dancers at the clubs. Thus
the dance that was taught became a watered down remnant,
taught with ten or so other dances that students were to
learn in eight classes, The use of improvisation and cre-
ativity. so important to the dance, almost disappeared,
until new swing dance enthusiasts recently banded tcgether
and organized new dancing clubs.
16

jazz feeling, the dance is not the Lindy. Jazz is an

American phenomenon born of two cultures, black (African)

and white (European). Jazz is a blend of improvisation

and structure. The individual performer expresses his own

mood, cool or hot, and improvises. He allows his soul to

speak through his body's own individual language. This

honest, stylistic expression, involving the music and one's

partner, is of utmost importance. Jazz dance calls for

artistry which uses technique as a vehicle rather than as an

end. The technical judging of ballroom competitions puts

ballroom dancing on the level of an Olympic sport, rather

than on the level of a social or artistic expression.

Technical achievement outweighing creativity promotes

cloning and monotony.

Technical Elements

The Lindy is a dance with many moods, many expressions,

and endless possibilities. It may be cool and underplayed,

or joyful and exuberant. Yet there are certain elements

which are necessary to the dance which entitle one to justly

use the term "Lindy" when referring to it.

One definition of "Swing" reads, "Jazz dancing in mod-


I

erate tempo with a peculiar lilting syncopation.1I3 To de-


17

fine Lindy or Swing not only as a jazz dance, but as having

a certain rhythmic feeling, is very important. To dance

Lindy well, one must understand the music and the timing of

the basic steps, interpret these, and play with them. Ball-

room studio Lindy and old jazz (authentic) Lindy are totally

different. One is refined and confined, the other is re-

laxed, creative, and free. One is 'totally involved in the

music. Good swing music is essential to achieving the feel-

~ng of the Lindy. It doesn't have to be super fast to

swing. It doesn't have to be wild to be alive. Many con-

fuse wildness with a characteristic of the Lindy. (The two

ideas, wildness· and aliveness, both seem to be missing from

studio Swing.)

• Where does the idea of wildness come from?

1) Moves were exaggerated for performances and competi-


tions, such as the Harvest Moon Ball, which began in 1935 ..
Acrobatic air steps and fast dancing were included to thrill
audiences, to win prize money, or to get jobs. These pro-
fessionals or semi-professionals were skilled dancers and
wildness was expressed from a base of expertise.

2) One would see the film A Day at the Races, or


Hellzapoppin', and think Lindy has to include aerials. Peo-
ple got the erroneous idea that Lindy meant jump around and
tug away. They might see a back step, misinterpret it as a
tug, and in an unskIlled, uncoordinated way, imitate it by
running, jumping, pulling and pushing at their partner, with
no regard for others on the dance floor, thinking they ore
jitterbugging. This kind of imitation· of the Lindy, from
past visual recollections of untrained dancers, is common
18

and dangerous. It spread a false concept as well as en-


dangering the participants and onlookers (bodies and eyes!).

3) The third source ot the idea of wildness is inten-


tional misrepresentation for cultural and political reasons,
to ban it from "nice" society. It was termed "wild" and a
reversion back to primitivism. The Lindy was "condemned" by
church groups as leading to the decay of the young. Sociol-
ogist Theodore Adorno, a German emigre who had fled Nazi
persecution, warned about the "authoritarian impulses"
.laterit ~n the strong swing beat.,,4 In Sweden, preachers
preached'sermons against the dance, calling their dance
halls "dens of iniquity.,,5 In the United States, the Lindy
was a threat to society because it was mixing all races and
different classes at the popular dance halls. The Lindy in-
troduced freedom in the form of generous hip movements and
in the form of improvisation, a response to the unfamiliar
African polyrhythms and syncopated jazz feeling in the new
swing music. Musicians improvised solos within a jazz
structure and dancers created a dance in which they did th~
same. All this shocked the more traditional ballroom .
formalists and much of society, who didn1t want this foreign'
influence. They feared it would lead to anarchy and
perversion.

The Lindy threatened ballroom t@ach@rs, many of whom


had trouble perfecting the movements themselves, and who
thought the freedom of improvisation would cut their busi-
ness. They had trained their clientele to think a set of
structured steps and rules were necessary to proper dancing
and grace. .Try as they did to exclude the dance as vulgar
and unaccep~able, the vitality of swing music and dancing
~a§ impg§§1ble to control. The bali~oom studios eventually
incorporated the Lindy into their syllabi.
19

The essential characteristics of the Lindy include its


basic steps, an a-count and a 6-count one, plus a swinging

feeling which relates to the music's syncopated beat, which

accents off-beats instead of only the usual first beats of


the phrase. Swinging is not a body upswing as in an arc of

a circle, but refers to how the beat is felt and attacked,

or dropped and picked up. The beat is felt in an offset


1, a2, the way a swing drummer plays it, rather than in an
even 1 and 2, like a polka. The body or drum stick is loose

enough to drop into the beat with weight, and picked up

exactly afterwards so as to repeat the drop or attack. The

drop does not end in a splat or finish, but is picked up so

the rhythm is continuous, dependable, and smooth, as easy

as a bouncing ball. This can be done at any tempo, which

makes it more fun. The variety opens up the possibility for


more different moves and moods.

Partnering in the Lindy requires improvisation. The

man and woman can play within the phrase of the basic step

without having to mirror one another's footwork, as long as


they come back on the same part of the phrase together.
These improvisations are called syncopations. Thus knowing

the baSic steps and phrasing, and how to le~d and follow.
are essential, but still not enough to execute the dance.
20

Musicality and freedom of the body and feet, control and

agility, are also needed so one can solo within the led

amount of time. Constant attention to the music and the

partner makes it an alive and fun dance, an active, involved


conversation.

The basic a-count step for the man is:

s 1 o w quick quick 5 1 o w quick quick


1 - 2
left I right
3 4
left
5 -
right
6 7
left
8
right

diag ..fwd circling around slow to back front


around a clockwise a stop
circle

1 a2 3 4 5 a6 7 a
R L R-L-R L R

~_------------------triple timee----------------~\

where a slow gets two counts and a quick gets one. The

basic 6-count step is

a 1 o W B low quick quick


1 - 2 3 - <4 5 6
left right left right (single time)

1 a2 3 a4 5 6
L-R-L R-L-R back front (triple time)

The B-count (slow, quick-quick: slow, quiCk-quick) could

alGo be called "quick-quick, slow: quick-quick, slow," as.


I

the 6-count could be called IIquick-qui'ck, slow, slow." The


21

slow beats, step on count 1, hold on count 2, may be danced

by holding on count 1 and stepping on count 2 or may be

replaced by three steps in the two counts (triple time)

which would allow you the same foot free as if you stepped

the one step. Thus the a-count may be written in two-count

units, as odd, even, odd, even; the 6-count as odd, odd,

even for each two counts, telling you how many steps you can

take in the two beats of music. (See Skippy Blair's book,

?isco to Tango and Back, for further elucidation on this

two-count unit system, which she calls the Universal Unit

System.)

The man rocks back/forward on counts 7/8 of the eight,

or on counts 5/6 of the six. The woman steps on the right

foot when he's on the left. The hold is more relaxed than

other ballroom dances. with his right hand on her back. his

left hand near waist or hip level, holding her hand as if he

were going to kiss it. The position is semi-open, about 90

degrees, between facing one another and standing side-by-

side. All the moves stem from the basics, by playing with

the variables of: steps and moves per tWo-count unit,

facings relative to the partner, angle of the torso, direc-

tion of the movement (side, front, back, diagonal), level

(low, high, on the ground, off the ground), direction or the


I
movement along the floor. defining th~ floor pattern (circu-
22

lar. linear, front, back, diagonal, stationary), and repeti-

tion of segments. The way each dancer chooses to vary and

combine these variables gives him his own personal style.

This is the appealing distinction of the Lindy -- each good

dancer does it differently without departing from the basic

structure of the dance, without destroying the integrity of

the dance.

Origins and Evolution

Lindy, Jitterbug[ and Swing: What the Lindy Developed From

and Into

The terms "Lindy, "Jitterbug," and "Swing" provoke dif-

ferent images and mean different things to different dancers

and writers of dance history. I will discuss these various

definitions and present a history of when and where the

terms originated and to what they apply now, in an attempt

to clarify their explicit meanings and connotations.

"Lindy" is synonymous with "Jitterbug" and "Swing" when

referring to the Lindy, but Jitterbug and Swing may refer to

different dances as well. While Swing and Jitterbug are


,
generic terms, the Lindy is a specific' dance.
23

The Lindy includes both a-count and 6-count step and

rhythm patterns. It originated in the 1920's and was called

the Hop, and it was danced to the new swing music being

developed by the newly formed big bands. It became known as

the Lindbergh Hop, or Lindy Hop (now just Lindy), after

Charles Lindbergh made his trans-Atlantic solo airplane hop

in 1927.

Marshall Stearns gives credit to Shorty George Snowden

tor naming the Lindy. hOn June 17, 1928, the Manhattan

Casino, a huge ballroom in NYC was jammeu .... The

occasion was a new craze: dance marathons." One of the

dancers still on the floor July 4th, when it was closed by

the Board of Health, was George "Shorty" Snowden. During

one of the short contests among the surviving couples,

Snowden decided to do breakaway, that i~, fling his


partner out and improvise a few solo steps of his own.
In" the midst of the monotony of the marathon, the
effect was electric. and even the musicians came to
life. Shorty had started something.

At one point Fox Mov1etone News arrived to cover


the marathon and decided to take a close up of Shorty's
feet. The general impression that Shorty was out of
his mind and his dancing a kind of inspired confusion
was gain1ng currency. "What are you doing with your
feet," asked the interviewer, and Shorty. without
stopping, replied, liThe Lindy. liS

Dorothea Ohl. on the ballroom page of the 1956 Dance Maga-

zine, explains the birth of the Lindy thusly:

Legend has it that way back in 1927 when Lindbergh made


his historic solo flight to Paris, the people of New
24

York's Harlem were just as excited as the rest of the


world. Would he make it? When the news that he had
arrived was announced at the Savoy Ballroom, Harlem's
best known dance spot, pandemonium broke loose. People
jumped for joy; strangers pounded one another 1n glee.
One young man, overcome by the thrill, took off over
the floor, shouting, "Look! Look! I'm f lying just
like Lindy!" He seized a partner in passing and away
they went. The floor soon filled with dancers follow-
ing his lead, improvising turns and twists on their
own, all chanting, IILindy! Lindy! Lindy!" And so it
was born.7

Whether it was named in 1927 or 1928, Shorty George

Snowden claims the Hop was around long before Lindbergh's

flight.S It is difficult to find the exact year of the

origin of the Hop or to find a clear demarcation separating

the new dance (the Lindy) from the dances that went before

it.

Many sources (Marshall Stearns, Ernie Smith, Brian

Gillie, and Richard Powers) claim the Lindy is supposed to

be a direct descendant of the Texas Tommy, but no one seems

to know exactly what that dance looked like. "Tommy" is

slang for prostitute, and the dance appeared in the red

light district of San Francisco between 1905 and 1910.- It

was danced by black couples performing at Lew Purcell's

Cabaret, the only black club on the Barbary Coast (the

performers were black, the clientele white) ,9 Supposedly

some black dancer brought it up from the South. It app~a~~d

on Broadway in Darktown Follies in 1912 and was a great hit.

The basic step, "a kick and a hop about three times on each
25

foot followed by a slide,ulO was different from the Lindy

basic. But both have a breakaway after that, where the

partners separated and could do what they wanted to, before

returning to one another. Both were thought to be acrobatic

and both had couples creating their own steps and groups of

couples performing them. Both were originated by black

dancers and had black dance teams performing them.

Never having seen the Texas Tommy, I believe the Lindy

to be a direct blend of the Two-step and the Charleston.

Both have the same 8-count rhythm pattern that the Lindy

had, quick-quick, slow; quick-quick, slow. Charleston re-

places the quick-quick with a two-count kick. In the 1928

film After Seben,11 three couples do a closed position

Charleston. Shorty George Snowden, one of the creators of

the Lindy, is one of the dancers. The dance looks like a

blend of Charleston and Lindy, a halfway point between the

two in the development of the Lindy. The Lindy uses a rock

step (quick-quick or back/front which rocks away fro~ and


towards your partner), but sometimes uses a kick instead.

Charleston sometimes uses a rock-step replacement tor the

kick. Charleston moves are used in the Lindy breakaway

section. A common thing to do is to break into a side-by-

side or back Charleston where you're facing your partner's

back wh~ch is nested in front of you ,do that for a few ba~s
25

of music, and then swing back into a Lindy.

The Two-step, which now is really the same dS the Fox-

trot box step (quick-quick slow, quick-quick slow), was done

at the turn of the century. The Lindy also uses quick-quick

slow, quick-quick slow, only circling clockwise and moving

the partners back into a rock step on one quick-quick (or

releasing the partner out and in within the eight counts),


. .
as opposed to staying in the closed dance position of the

~wo-step for the entire eight counts.

The Charleston was introduced with the James P. Johnson

song "Charleston," in an all-black Broadway show, Rurining

Wild, in 192~. The dance supposedly went back years ear-

lier. There's a questionable story that says slaves were

punished for crossing their knees so as soon as their work

day was over, they'd cross and uncross them, and that's how

the Charleston was born. The Black Bottom (1924) and the

Collegiate were later introduced but never achieved the

lasting popularity of the Charleston. The Collegiate, also

thought to be like the Lindy, was something based on the

Charleston, only new and flashier for the college kids.12

Brian Gillie, dance historian, said the Varsity Drag of 1927

was a combination of the Charleston and the original Fox-

trot.13 It may be the Varsity Drag is the Collegiate.

In the video portion of my thesis, I asked Frank


27

Manning, chief choreographe~ of Whitey's Lindy Hoppers in

the 30's and 40's, what dances the Lindy came from. He said

the Collegiate, and proceeded to demonstrate what I would

call a closed position Charleston.

It is hard to trace the exact roots or birth of a

dance. George Lloyd, Savoy Lindy Hopper with whom I won the

1983 Harvest Moon Ball, said in the video tape that the

Lindy came from the Two-step. He then did a Two-step into

the Lindy. To me this seems to me the most sensible

lineage; just change the direction of the quiCk-quick from

side-together to back-f~ont, and you have the Lindy. (I did

not discuss this question with Frank or George prior to the

interview, and the two together supported my own independent

hypothesis that the Lindy came from the Two-step and the

Charleston.) The influence of the music on the Two-step

from being more syncopated, then more swinging, could

account for the changeover to the new and different feeling

of the Lindy.

Musical changes had a lot to do with the creation of

new dances. Before 1900, European-based dances were the

ones found in the ballrooms, the Waltz being the most popu-

lar. At the turn of the century, people were ready for a

change, something new and different for the new century.

Somet im'es, rather than looking for sirui lar i ties, it makes
28

more sense to look at differences.14 People get bored and

want a change, a rebellion from the past, or something to

call their own. (Kids don't want to do the same dance as

their parents.) Ragtime music, a new march-like music with

many rhythmic syncopations, became popular. People started

dancing the One-step, a new and easy dance that anyone could

do. Originally called the Four-step, it was simply walking

evenly, one step on ev~ry beat of the measure, and was much

easier than the Two-step or the Waltz. The songs "Every-

body's Doin' It" (1910), "Alexander's Ragtime Band" (1911),

as well as the official One-step dance, the Turkey Trot

(1911), came out and helped the acceptance and populariza-

tion of the new ragtime music and dancing. The dance craze

peaked around 1912-1914.

W. C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues" also came out in 1911

and helped popularize the blues. (The Blues feeling and

musical structure were major influences in the development

of the greatest swing music, such as that of Benny Moten and

Count Basie.) Blues dances were close held one-steps. Ani-

mal Dances, such as the clutching Grizzly Bear, were the

rage. They were jtist one-steps done in silly postures imi-

tating animals. The Foxtrot appeared in 1914, a combination

of slows and quicks, not like the smooth Foxtrot of today,


,
but a dance wi th hops, similar to the 'European •..based ISchot~
29

tische which was popular at the time. As syncopations, new

instrumentation, and improvisation increased the complexity

of the music, new dances were called for. The New Orleans-

style music changed the solo piano rags to ensemble material

which included collective improvisation, all improvising at

once. In 1917, the Original New Orleans ~azz Band opened in

New York.

There was not much dancing during World War I, but the

Roaring 20's made up for it. With the war over, a new sense

of freedom, a spirit of letting loose, set the stage for the

flamboyant Charleston, which paved the way for the more

technically challenging Lindy. Swing music is a development

of a form of jazz created by Louis Armstrong. He took the

New Orleans style of group improvisation, where all th~

play~rs improvised simultaneously, one step further. He

brought solo improvisation to an ensemble group. The swing

ensemble became tighter and more.organized, adding more in-

struments and calling for arrangements of whole sections

rather than single instruments. Soloists were allowed

greater individual freedom to stretch out, in turn. one at a

time. The dancers, following suit, stretched out in their

solos too. All these Changes in music created new feelings

and sources for expression which came through the bodies of


I
dancers. Walter Page, bassist of the Count Basie band,
30

played a four-beat walking bass, which added a new dimension

to swing music. It traveled more, and added to the

excitement of the dancers.

Music, previous dances, social climate and reactions,

and the desire to try something new, to create something

specific to one's own generation, all add up to the magical

birth of a new dance.

The Lindy Hop became known as the Jitterbug in the

1930's. George Wendler, an older man from Detroit, said

that as early as 1929, the Lindy reached Detroit known as

the Jitterbug.15 Upon researching it, I found the word

"Jitterbug" to be an ambiguous term. I found different

opinions among almost everyone I spoke to. According to

Frank .Werber, the late Al Minns, former member of Whitey's

Lindy Hoppers, a group which toured the world in the 40's,

dancing on stages and in films, said Jitterbug was a derog-

atory term used to describe white dancers who weren't very

good.16 Another black Lindy Hopper who used to dance at the

Savoy said all Lindy dancers were called jitterbugs. Cyn-

thia Millman conducted a survey for the 1987 July-September

issue of the NY Swing Dance Society Newsletter Footnotes,

aSKing, "What's the difference between Lindy, swing and

Jitterbug?" Frank Manning. also a former member of Whitey's


31

Lindy Hoppers, said,

Lindy and swing are the same. Jitterbug is from the


40's. It's bouncier and faste~. It was a white thing
as rock'n'roll was a white version of rhythm and blues.
It's also more what was done in the 50's than the lindy
which was smoother. The jitterbug doesn't necessarily
contain aerials.17

Rebecca Reitz, a young white dancer, said, "My mother who

was a dancer in her youth in the 40'S would say, 'Oh yea, I

was a Jitterbug. I used to lindy all the time. ,"18

Let's Talk Jitterbug, by Ray Walker, president of the

US Swing Dance Council (based on the West Coast), says

Jitterbug carried a stigma that using the term "Swing"

avoids.

The term Jitterbug was first used in the southern part


of the country to describe people who displayed the
symptoms of secondary syphilis, ·uncontrollable jerking
and trembling and lack of muscular control. Such ob-
servers were apparently unable to perceive the precise
and intricate coordination that is essential to our
kind of dancing, even when performed by those early
swingers. But the name took hold and we were stuck
with it~ We became Jitterbugs and for the most part,
we accepted the title with good grace and tolerant
humor. The general pUblic, however, did not view us in
turn with equal tolerance. Because our kind of dancing
was so completely new to the public view, and so dif-
ferent tram anything that had ever been seen on the
dance floor before, we were regarded as wild, undisci-
plined, vulgar, overly obsessed with sex (which is not
necessarily bad in my opinion), crude, and totally
lacking in manners and morals. That was the general
opinion of swing dancers in the late 1930's, but big
band music took the nation by storm just about that
time, and since jitterbugging was the only kind of
dance capable of doing justice to this new and exciting
mu~ic, we were less and less maligned with the passing
ot years. By the 1950's, we we~e referring to our-
selves as swing dancers, and the term Jitterbug was
32

heard only occasionally. 19

Cab Calloway had a song called "The Call of the Jitterbug"

that came out in 1933. In the S.O.S. Carefree Times, the

newsletter of Shag (South Carolina Lindy derivative)

dancers, there is an article called "Hey, Jitterbug" ex-

plainlng where the term "Jitterbug" came from.

In the 30's, Cab Calloway had a hep cat trombone player


in his band that nipped the sauce too much. Cab would
tell him, "Bette~-quit drinking that bug juice, man, or
you'll shake and jitter to death." Soon the guys in
Cab's band were calling the 'bone player a "Jitterbug."

The phrase stuck and spread around the black musical


community to mean one that was super hip (or "hep" in
those days.

Later the meaning changed to the name of the dance. It


also kept its connotation of hep and cool, however,
through the 50's.

To the police of D.D. [Ocean Drive, the nightclub/beach


strip in Myrtle Beach), "Jitterbug" once meant all guys
with long hair and draped pants . . prime candidates
for the pokey!20

Craig Hutchinson of Alexandria, Virginia, sections his

article "Swing America" into "Twenties Lindy Hop," "Thirties

Jitterbug," "Forties Swing," "Fifties Ro ck t n t Ro Ll i " "Sixties

Solo," and "Seventies Hustle." In "Thirties Jitterbug," he


writes,

A bouncy six-beat variant was named Jitterbug by the


band leader Cab Calloway. Music played by Calloway's
orchestra in such hot spots as Harlem's Savoy Ballroom
was popular among the blacks, and Calloway introduced a
tune in 1934 titled "Jitterbug." The Jitterbug also
cahtained a style at violent and .fren4ied athleticism
that was ha%ardouB for performers and other dancers,
and a Jitterbugger with fast feet was called a flash
dancer at the black dance clubs ...

. . . kids hooked on Jitterbug were called "jive


addicts.["l One faster version, called Shag, had a
characteristic kick backwards and forward stomp.
Movies which popularized Jitterbug were "A Day at the
Races," "Swing Sister, Swing," "The Prisoner of swing,"
and a cartoon called "I'm Just a Jitterbug." And
topping the 30's off was an electrifying exhibition of
Jitterbugging couples at the 1939 world's fair.21

Frank Manning, one of ~itey's Lindy Hoppers who was one of

those dancers at that World's Fair (Whitey's group were also

the dancers in A Day at the Races), disagrees with this. He

said that what he did then and does now Is Lindy Hop, not

Jitterbug. He said,

The word "Jitterbug" came from a radio announcer


covering the 1936 or 7 Harvest Moon ball. It was on
Movietone news and he said, referring to the Lindy
dancers, "They all look like Jitterbugs." And so it
caught on after that.22

In the Dance Encyclopedia of Chujoy and Manchester,

Jitterbug is defined as "a generic term now almost obsolete

for unconventional, often formless and violent social dances

to syncopated music, generally in 4/4 time. The best known

forms of jitterbug were the Charleston, Black Bottom, Shag,

and Llndyhop, dances of the 1920's and 1930'5."23

As you see, some have their own sp~cial meaning for the

term Jitterbug, distinguishing it from the Lindy in general.

(Some spy it's 30'S dancing, others 50's, others 40's

dancing, some say it's six-beat only, or only fast, some say
34

it's derogatory, others complimentary.} To me, Jitterbug,

refers to the Lindy, means the same thing, but I would not

use it unless someone did not know the word "Lindy." Be-

cause it means so many differing things to different people,

it lacks a clear definition, whereas Lindy means one thing.

The same problem arises when the word "Swing" is used.

The Lindy was originally danced to swing music; the dancers

·were called swing dancers, the dance Swing. But now, Swing

may refer to a myriad of descendants of the Lindy, such as

East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing, and Southern Shag.

East Coast Swing is more like a remnant of the Lindy,

or what some uninformed westerner thinks people are doing on

the East Coast. It contains mainly 6-count patt~rns. I

often call Lindy "East Coast Style" to distinguish it trom

West Coast Swing, and also to give the East Coast a better

name. Lindy, Shag, and West Coast Swing are all smooth

dances and include both 6- and 8-count patterns as basics.

Shag and West Coast Swing are danced in a linear floor

pattern, whereas the Lindy circles with changing

orientation. The three vary in when, at which point in the

rhythm pattern, the partners move away and towards one

another.

shag is the official dance of S~uth Carolina. (Con-


35

gressman John "Bubber" Snow is not only a Shag enthusiast,

but a Shag dancer himself.} In Shag the torso is upright

and relaxed, and most of the fancy improvisation is done

with the lower extremities (kn~es and ankles). Shag is done

to what is called beach music, a slow rhythm and blues.

West Coast Swing is danced to slow R&B, disco, rock,

and swing-like music, all with a heavy beat. (There is a

group in California, affiliated with the United States Swing

Dance Council, that is lobbying to get Swing passed as 'the

National dance!) In West .Coast Swing, the torso is held

more upright than in the Lindy. The styling is more like

modern television jazz as opposed to old black jazz. West

coasters claim their style is more ~ophisticated than its

ancestor dance, the Lindy. Many East coasters don't know

there is a West Coast style. or don't care. West Coast

Swing supposedly developed its slot floor pattern because

the dance floors were too crowded and dancing in a slotted

arrangement accommodated more couples. There are currently

many more small private swing clubs in the West, than in the

East. On the East Coast there are New York: Washington,

D.C.; and Boston Swing societies: plus many small Shag clubs

in the South.

Swing ~ay also refer to Country Western Swing, which


,
has a different basic rhythm pattern. 'Country Western Swing
36

has an even one-step pattern danced circling in a four-

handed open position. It developed in the Southwest in the

30's when bands such as Bob Wills's were developing concur-

rently with the eastern urban swing bands. The instrumenta-

tion differed, mandolins and fiddles were used, but a simi-

lar jazz swing feeling was achieved. Country Western Swing

dancing includes rnany~more arm moves, an influence of Latin

American dances that came up through Mexico and the South-

west. In Lindy, you see more of a focus on lower-body move-

ments, hip, knee, and fast foot movements in more complex

rhythm patterns. To confuse things even more, Western

Swing, which is short for Country Western Swing, is what

West Coast Swing used to be called. Also, there is a move

in square dancing, called Swing, as in "swing your partner,"

which is the buzz step, one of the ba~ic variations in

Country Western Swing. It is done in closed position, cir-

cling around, with the inside foot rooted like it is on a

scooter. The beat is even one-step with the downbeat

accented.

Thus, ironically, the major difference between the

various swing dances is the music it is danced to, when the

word "Swing" got its name referring to the swing music it

was danced to. Different music gives the varlous swing


I

dances very different stylings and feelings.


37

Aside from the regional differences in the various

dances which have evolved from the Lindy, there are also

regional differences in counts and feeling within the dances

currently considered to be the Lindy.

The "Lindy" danced in parts of the Northeast (Boston,

Washington, D.C.) and in the West (Washington, Colorado) is

mainly a 6-count, and thus lacks the flow and smoothness the

8-count gives the danc~. (I have recently been asked to

teach for the DC society, who have expressed an interest in

learning the a-count, so this may change in the near

future.) Without the 8-count, it is not the Lindy and does

not have the Lindy feel.

The English International Ballroom dance "Jive" is sup-

posed to be a derivation of the Lindy, the same way their

Tango is supposed to resemble a Tango. Unfortunately, thi3


is not the case. Jive is done only to fast music, always

looks stiff and overdone, with rocking shoulders and swing-

ing arms, and has absolutely no swing feeling. Jive is

danced in competitions with specific technical rules, and

danced in costumes that would be more appropriate for ice

skating or parade floats. The way Europeans do Swing

explains where the derogatory term "white dancing" comes

from.
J

French/English Le Roc (already by the rock'n'rol1 in


38

its name, it is different), and Swedish Lindy are also off-

shoots of the Lindy. Many Europeans learn their dancing

from watching tapes or films and lack tactile learning. I

spoke to one of the members of the Swedish swing Society who

said he never does any social dancing, he is too busy for

that. He is a serious competition dancer. His dancing

lacked the smooth finesse of a social dancer. His lead was

heavy and rough, and he had trouble leading those who did

.not already know his routines. The Swedes are known for

their gymnastic ability and their agility in doing aerials,

but their swing dancing lacks the easy, soulful approach.

Their energy comes from an excited, lifted, ungrounded

place; there seems to be no black influence -- not only in

their dance environment, but in their street environment.

The way people lounge and walk in Europe is different than

the way people lounge and walk in the United States. The

climate and thus the dancing is physically looser and freer

here. The Lindy is not always done fast with frantic

lunges, twists, and bounces. It can also be danced to slow

or moderate tempos.
39

Social History: Black Culture

African/American Cultural Phenomenon

The Lindy is an African/American cultural phenomenon.

It is a blend of African-based rhythm, hip movements, verti-

cal bouncing, and improvisation combined with European-based

ballroom dance position, footwork, and structure. The pat-

tern of introduction-of African culture into "white" Amer-

jean culture, through the stage and into the ballrooms, is

one that was followed not only by the Lindy, but by many of

the American social dances.

Throughout the history of American social dance, new

dances that have been introduced by the black community have

first shocked, and then been accepted by white society --

and then capitalized upon. Unfortunately, sometimes by the

time this happens the dance is so changed that only the name

reminds us that it is the same dance. From black pertorm-


ance of Cakewalk, to Charleston, to Lindy, to Breaking, this

is the case. The structure may be present, but the feeling

is gone. The Harvest Moon Ball sponsors have now replaced

the Lindy competition with young white kids from New Jersey
competing in Breakdance ensembles at Roseland!
I
Anne Barzel in the Danee ~neyclopedia writesl "M~d~rn
40

ballroom dance has its roots in the religiou~ritual, the

funeral, the wooing, initiation and war dances of primitive

times.n24 European white formalism was combined with

African rhythm. Lynne Emery in Black Dance in the United

States from 1916 to 1970 writes,

The heart and soul of Africa is, in effect, a gigantic


drum, and the rhythms of its dance are basic to social
cohesion, ritual observance, the maintenance of tradi-
tion, preparation for war, auto-hypnosis, the expres-
sion of grief and joy, and the satisfaction of play and
sexual selection instincts.25

The African influence in American social dance is a

strong one, but one which, for socio-cultural reasons, met

with much opposition on its way in. In speaking about the

Cakewalk, "the first jazz social dance,··26 dance historian

Russella Brandman writes,

The pattern or diffusion exhibited by this first jazz


dance -- black solo or group dance to black ballrooms
to commercial theatre to white ballroom dance -- was
followed by most of the popular dances of the early
twentieth century.27

I will briefly discuss the social dances of the twen-

tieth century from the Cakewalk to the Lindy, to show how

g~~at an influence the black population had on social danc-

ing. All were rhythm dances including improvisation. All

were danced for fun and spirited enjoyment rather than for

grace and proper etjquette. All shocked the public at first


r
and then became part of the American culture th&t Americans
41

like to brag ab~ut. I will discuss the social environment

surrounding the"birth of the Lindy in greater detail.

The Cakewalk first originated on the plantations with

blacks imitating and making fun of the formal manners and

formal dances of their white masters.28 They exaggerated

their upright body position into a leaning back prance and

then added what they wanted in terms of improvisation. "It


(Cakewalk] combined AfrO-American rhythms, posture, improv-

isation and some mildly acrobatic movements with white so-

cial dignity and some contact between partners.,,29 In 1903

films, Cakewalk, Cakewalk on the Beach, and comedy Cakewalk,

dancers used rubbery in-and-out knee movements, leaps and

jumps, and a great deal of individual improvisation, not the

type of movements one would see done in white European-based

ballroom dances.30 (These same African-derived movements

show up later in social dances and black theater.) Segre-

gated~ going back and forth, from imitation, to innovation,

to performance by blacks for Whites, to dancing by whit~G

imitating black performers,

by the 1900's, Blacks an~ whit."~ were dancing the same


social dances; this trend began with the Cakewalk, the
first social dance fad to cut across racial barriers.
The two races remained worlds apart, however. White
fad dances were toned-down, simplified variations of
"the real thing,n and they usually filtered down to the
~hite world after they had gained and lost ascendan~y
in Black circles.31
42

After the Civil War, there was a slow migration of

blacks to the North. Most stayed in the South initially as

tenant farmers. Their main social center was the church,

and even though at that time the church banned dancing,

dancing was their main activity for enjoyment and entertain-

ment. Not only did white society fear the influence of

black dancing, but Negro civic leaders spoke out against it

as well. In the early 1900's, one leader from Alabama said,

"In my area many are making the effort to eliminate the

dance by the skating rink and such other amusements that

will take up their time at times when they usually go to the

dance halls."32 Others at the time called dance halls the

"curse of the day," "our greatest struggle," and "harm-

ful."33

But these adverse attitudes didn't atop people from

dancing. "Jook houses" and segregated dance halls sprang up

allover the South. "Jook is the anglicized pronunciation

of 'dzugu,' a word from the Gullah dialect of the African

Bambara tribe meaning 'wicked. ,,,34 (The wOl'."d


"jukebox"

comes from this.) It was in these jook houses that blacks

danced and cl'."eated


steps that, when later brought up North,

spread among the whites and influenced later dances such as

the Lindy.

The Black Bottom originated in "Black Bottom," the jook


43

section of Nashville, Tennessee.35

The Big Apple began in a church converted into a black

dance hall in Columbia, South Carolina, and includes many

African-based moves which were used later by Lindy perform-

ing groups, and even by Arthur Murray in his watered-down

version of the dance (the Big Apple) .36 When blacks mov~d

North, they brought with them not only the Black Bottom and

the Big Apple, but afso the Charleston, Ballin' the Jack,

the Shimmy, and the Mooche.37 Movements from these dances

were influential in the development of the Lindy. They were

used in the improvised breakaway section of the Lindy where

dancers momentarily did separate moves, or as set routine

sections during Lindy performances and contests.

liThe combination of World War I, with its plentiful

jobs in the defense indus~ry, and years of poor crops, and a

rise in lynchings in the South,drew thousands of Negroes to

the North,.u3B During eighteen months, beginning in 1916,

350,000 blacks moved North; Harlem grew from 50,000 blacks

in 1914 to 80,000 by 1920, to 200,000 by 1930.39 Black

music and dances from the South came up with the people.

This mass of black people and culture had to be integrated

into Northern society.

,From 1910 to 1920, "animal dances" found their way into


white fashionable ballrooms, "Animal fad dances such as the

Turkey Trot, the Buzzard Lope, and the Possom Trot origi-

nated in plantation dances which themselves reflected reten-

tions from African animal dances',,,40

Tin Pan Alley capitalized on this new public interest,

or dance mania, and made up hundreds of dance songs with in-

structions on how to do the dance. The animal dances "were

simple to a point of awkwardness, and for the first time,

they permitted what was denounced as 'lingering close con-


tact. 1,,41

A Paterson, New Jersey, court imposed a fifty~day


sentence on a young woman for dancing the Turkey Trot.
Fifteen young women were dismissed from a well known
magazine after the editor caught them enjoying the
abandoned dance at lunchtime. Turkey trotters incurred
the condemnation of churches and respectable people,
and in 1914 an official disapproval was issued by the
Vatican.42

Thus, animal dances, 50 popular in the dance craze of the

new century, met with much opposition.

Despite such criticism, these dances remained in vogue

for a while. Anna Pavlova was reported in the newspapers as

seen Turkey Trotting in a dive in San Francisco, "to learn

some native American dances. "43 Whites "slumming" at black

clubs helped spread the popularity of certain dances within

white society, then and throughout history.

In 1913 Vernon and Irene Castle performed the Turkey

Trot in the Broadway show Sunshine Girl. Due to their huge


45

success in this and The Merry Widow in 1907, they decided to

open an elite dance studio, Castle House, in 1914. To capi-

talize on the anti-animal dance uproar, they sided with

"proper" society and denounced the animal dances as orgias-

tic, "ugly, ungraceful, and out of fashion."" The elite

upper-class society wouldn't want to be involved with such

lewd behavior or to ~ingle with the masses. The Castles


..
offered them a dancing alternative. They could still dance

and not be associated with the common, vulgar, fad dances.

The grace, specific steps and rules they taught required

lots of training and lessons, and the wealthy had th~ money

to pay for them. The Castles printed a book of proper dance

etiquette, excluding hopping, shaking of the hips, wriggling

of the shoulders, and twisting of the body.45

The Castles were highly instrumental in popularizing

social dancing. They were a bit ahead of their time in that

they worked with a black band leader, James Reese Europe,

and his black band. The Castles had spent time in Paris,

where black musicians and artists were more veneral~d and

fashionable than in America. Vernon Castle, an amateur jazz

drummer himself, appreciated African rhythms Gnd actually

enjoyed doing the animal dances, which he would pick up from

watching black dancers.46


46

In the teen5 and twenties, black performers in vdud~-

ville, nightclubs and Broadway shows (still segregated),

would combine steps long known at the jook houses and on th~

plantations, and with the help of new songs, create n~w

dances for the white public to learn.47 A song was written

and the lyrics would be dance instructions, or the name of a

new song would also be the name of a new dance presented in

a show, which had specific steps. Everyone would want to

see the new dance and learn to do it, thus helping to popu-

larize the song and the show.

In 1923, the Charleston was popularized in this manner,

though the black Broadway musical Running Wild, accompanied

by James P. Johnson's hit song, "Charleston," written for

the show.

The Charleston'~ popularity was soon superseded by that

of the Black Bottom48 (although the Charleston's simplicity

and unique character made it lastingly more populdr through-

out the years). The Black Bottom hit Broadway in George

White's Scandals of 1926, to a DeSilva, Brown and Henderson

song. The original "Black Bottom" song was published by

Perry Bradford as a dance instruction song in 1919. The

dance was "as old as the hills" but didn't gain popularity

until the 1926 show with the new Black Bottom song with its

Charleston rhythm.49 The songs since "Charleston" were


47

moving away from explicit directions in their lyrics, as

evidenced by the Varsity Drag, Truckin', and the Lindy,

which were the next big dances to appear after the Black

Bottom.

The Lindy first appeared around 1927. The growth in

popularity of the large public dance hall and swing music

were two developments that allowed for its creation. People

were going out, andooth space to dance and large orchestras

were affordable. It was inexpensive to go out and hear a

great b~nd. Touch dancing was done by most people then.

With the excitement of the new swing music, the larger or-

chestras, and the energy of all the musicians and dancers

came the development of a new dance. The Lindy used a

closed dance position as well as a breakaway position for

soloing, as the music used ensemble arrangements as a base

from which the musicians would break away and solo.

Of the ballrooms in New York, the Savoy, spanning an

entire city block on 141st Street and Lenox Avenue in

Harlem, was the biggest, and the most important to the

development of the Lindy. It was there that the Lindy was

supposedly created, and definitely where it was expanded

and popularized.

As stated previously, social dance is a vehicle for


48

social cohesion, expression of grief and joy, courtship,

initiation, and satisfaction through play. The social cli-

mate in Harlem was changing as blacks moved in, from the

20's to the '0'5. The neighborhood, being in transition,

needed a new center of equilibrium for blacks, a replacement

for the old world's church to provide structure. a positive

influence, and a vehicle for advancement, within and without

the communi ty. 50 SO,cial dancing and dance halls 1ike the
.
Savoy ended up providing this center. Street gangs were

prevalent, serving the need for fellowship, protection in

the streets, and providing structure in a crumbling and

alienating area. Banding together gave the individual more

power in the outside world as well as a position and task

wi thin the group. Herbert White, "Hhi tey.;' proved that one

could get ahead with such power by organizing and imposing a

tight control on his group. Whitey began a gang called the

Jolly Fellows in 1923. They had a clubhouse with their own

pool table. a rather rough initiation for new members,

"hanging an uppercut on the jaw" of an astonished proprietor

"and stand there without running,"Sl and a membership that

grew from 100 to over 600 in the 1930's.52 The Jolly Fel-

lows became lithe" club for the great dancers of the Savoy.

Whitey became the bouncer and his club ruled the Savoy. It

was a ,real status symbol to be a member of his gang. It


49

meant respect, and survival in an area where one could get


beat up frequently on the streets. hWhitey de~Qnded unques-

tioning obedience fro~ the 30lly Fellows, and in return,

gave them protection and a place in the sun."53

Times were tense in the 30's and a


premium (was] placed upon force and recklessness.
Harlem had become a fiercely competitive jungle, and
the Savoy Ballroom syphoned off much of the nervous
energy this constant pressure generated among the lucky
few who became deeply interested in dancing. In turn,
this emotional climate was reflected in the tireless
vigor and daring invention of the Lindy, or Jitter-
bug.54

Whitey's war became a dance war, which he won; his group,

Whitey's Lindy Hoppers, captured all the prizes for dancing

around New York, and was contracted for world-wide tours and

Hollywood films. His dancers, even if under his iron-clad

rule and underpaid, moved from a possible position of being

"nobodies" in a poor environment, to stardom in films and


world touring shows. It was the black dancers from this en-

vironment, from Whitey's group, who helped popularize the

Lindy around the world in the late 30's and 40's. It was at

the Savoy that this group all danced and practiced.


The Savoy, owned by Charles Buchanan, became a social

center for blacks as well as a showcase for ·their dancing.

It was open seven days a week, with regularly scheduled


events. Monday wa~ Ladies night: Thu~sday was Kitchen Me-

chanics night (when maids and cooks had the night off);
50

Tuesdays were reserved for the 400 Club (only the best

dancers were its members): on Saturdays, many white on-

lookers came and there were big dance contests;- Sundays,

everyone dressed in their Sunday best and many celebrities

were there. MondaY6 and Tuesdays attracted the regulars

only; admission was only thirty cents before six, sixty

cents from six to eight, and eighty-five cents after eight.

Dancing became a wa~ of life for many since it was cheap

entertainment, plus a way to make money for the good

dancers. Contests had cash prizes; couples would meet there

and practice for contests there and elsewhere (all the ball-

rooms had contests), or they would practice for performing

jobs at nightclubs and theaters. White patrons would see

dancers and employ them for lessons or tip them there.

Celebrities would attend, providing excitement, class, a~d

* According to Marshall Sterns, jazz Dance, dance contest~,

which awarded five and ten dollar prizes, took place on

Sundays; Sterns quotes "Shorty" Snowden as saying Sundays

were a very big night at the Savoy to pic~ up cash from tips

and contests (p. 322). According to Frank Manning, contests

at the Savoy were on Saturdays, the big nights being Tues-

days,1 Thursays, and Saturdays.


51

possible commercial contacts.

There was a special area reserved for the 400 Club

called the "Cat's Corner." As in African tribal dances, all

would form a circle around the couple who danced in the

center, one at a time. The winner of the last contest, "the

Xing," would start it out: no one was allowed to dance b~-

fore him. Among the best dancers, there was an unwritten

law that forbade the~ to copy each other's steps.55 The

aura around this area was exhilarating and competitive.

Individual creativity and innovation were valued ~ost. The

aspect of performing free for an audience at a dance hall,

yet dancing full out in almost religious ecstasy to the

rhythm of the music, is similar to African tribal rituals,

where musicians and dancers conversed and reached new

heights through this competitive conversation, aided by the

excited involvement of all the spectators (who coula partake

as well). :It was a new approach in America that blurred the

distinctions between amateur and professional and created a

group spirit.56 People could lose themselves in the exu-

berance of the music and the group. This enhanced their

freedom for creativity and improvisation.

The music at the Savoy was electrifying. It was played

by the very best big bands in all history. Two bands played

th~~elevery night. The Lindy developed as a re&p~nse to the


52

polyrhythms and innovations of the music. Great black jazz

musicians such as Louis Armstrong, who furthered the impo~t-

ance of solo improvisation, Joe Jones, who introduced the

many different sound~ and textures that could be produced by

the drums, and Walter Page, who accentuated the 4/4 feeling

of the walking bass as opposed to the 2/4 feeling of ragtime

and New Orleans jazz -- and arrangers such as Fletcher

Henderson and Duke Ellington, who expanded these musical

concepts to include~hole sections of an orchestra -- helped

develop swing music, and thus the dancing done to it. The

rhythms called for a more syncopated basic dance step, and

the allowance of time for musical improvisation within the

musical structure inspired the dancers to "go out" and

improvise within the dance structure.

Improvisation was not new to black dancers. Being de-

scendants of members of African tribes, of slaves who buck

danced on their porches, and of those who created new steps

to win a Cakewalk contest, it seems natural that black

dancers would improvise doing the Lindy. But it was new to

white ballroom dancers, who were used to dancing steps in an

upright, rigidly controlled fashion.

At the Savoy, one saw a loosening of barriers, a blend-

ing of black and white distinctions. Blacks were dancing a

bal1rpom pattern and whites were improvising within it,


53

copying one another and trading off ideas. One would see

black and white musicians playing in the same orchestra.

(Swing bands were the first to have this integration, Benny

Goodman's the very first.)

The One-step was danced to the even beat of ragtime,

marchl1ke in its quality, at the turn of the century. Then

song instruction dances and animal dances invaded white

ballrooms. Ragtime ~usic became more syncopated, there were

songs that were too slow to do a One-step to. The Foxtrot,

with a combination of slows and quicks, was invented. Some


say it was Harry Fox in his vaudeville show, others Bay it

was Vernon Castle, upon hearing the music of James Reese

Europe, who invented it. In any event, it was ~ore like" the

Two-step. It was a closed-position dance, with set steps.

Swing dancing was a big change because of the breakaway


position, the excitement of th~ faster music, and the more

flashy body movements, complex rhythmic improvisations, and

foot syncopations. It was difficult for the established

ballroom community to accept.

Underlying this was the racial problem of the mixed

dance halls. Bob Crease, a co-founder of the New York Swing

Dance Society and dance archivist, addresses the social and

racial issues surrounding the Lindy in his article, "Swing

Story/" published in the Atlantic.57 Blaeks danced in the


54

same clubs as whites. Whites admired black dancers, som~as

role models, and some blacks admired some whites. Black ana

white musicians played in the same bands. The criteria for

prestige and respect were based on dance ability and musical

talent, rather than on income, social status, or color. Es-

tablished institutions denounced the dance to the question-

ing public in hopes of stifling this new movement and dance

community with its threatening effects.

The lindy was a dangerous dance in the America of the


thirties, and was all the more disturbing because it
mixed races as well as classes. Whites and Blacks
mingled in dance halls and nightclubs called "black and
tan" clubs, where the lindy reigned. Guardians of pub-
lic morality, such as Dr. John J. Lallio of the Phila-
delphia College of Osteopathy, branded the lindy as a
throwback to "the war and religious dances of primitive
tribes." Anxious parents wrote to publications such as
Hygea, a magazine of the American Medical Association,
to ask whether Lindy Hopping led to poor posture, de-
linquency, or sexual perversion; Hygea replied that the
dance indicated that some members of the younger gen-
eration were disintegrating under the stress of "unem-
ployment, financial stringency, political confusion,
and personal bewilderment. ,,58

Ballroom dance teachers were threatened not only be-

cause of their position in society as previously having de-

fined elegance and poise in another manner, but because they

themselves as dancers weren't able to capture the essence of

the dance, nor teach the improvisation that was part of it.

They were serving a wealthier or more conservative clientele

a ~enu of poise, good manners, and etiquette, a necessity

for all prominent members of society. When churches and


55

magazines were still denouncing the dance as evil and de-

structive, they feared there would be no market for it in

the elite circle. To change clientele to people who went

out to clubs already and possibly already knew the dance,

was unrealistic. Also, the teachers who had been trained in

the Castles' image, by their book, which restricted certain

kinds of body movement (hip and torso), probably would not

be familiar enough with the dance, or agile enough to per-

form its movements in:the street style and spirit. Even if

.they were able to let loose and improvise themselves, if a

student came to learn steps, the teacher had to have steps

to teach him, or a way of teaching improvisation. This may

not be in demand by the student. Also, once a student could

improvise creatively as an end, a teacher might fear he

would have nothing left to teach.

In 1939, Irene Castle said, "'3itterbug dancing is

neither graceful nor beautiful. One should float to the

music.' (By "Jitterbug" does she mean bad Lindy or all

Lindy dancing?] The Dancing Teachers Association warned

that lindy dancing was 'a form of hysteria that will prove

harmful to the poise of the present generation. ,"59 This

was after Benny Goodman played at the Paramount Theater in

January 1937 to a sold-out house that was dancing in the

aisles! This was also during the time when stars such as
56

Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, and Lana Turner (who ddubbed

the Savoy Ballroom "The Home of Happy Feet") were frequent

patrons of the Savoy.60 This was after the first Harvest

Moon Ball of 1936, promoted by the Daily News, had to be

postponed and relocated from Central Park to Madison Square

Garden because the park was so crowded with would-be

spectators that the contestants couldn't get through tot~le

stage, or even near it!61 This was the year that Whitey's

Lindy Hoppers performed in the Marx Brothers' film A Day at

the Races. (Aerial Lindy had developed by then, beginning

around 1936, as an organic outgrowth of the music, the

rhythm, and the desire to do something more spectacular than

the next person in competitions and performances. Socially,

Floor Lindy was still being done.and was actually preferred

by many.)

Finally, in the fall of 1943, the New York Chapter of

Teachers of Dancing, Inc., became the first association of

instructors to face up to reality and recognize the "Lindy-

Jitterbug" as an official American dance.62 They began to

teach it, taming it down, simplifying it, and stripping it

of its energy, making it accessible and acceptable to their

students.

The Lindy remained popular through the 1940's, but due

to recording bans and a twenty percent entertainment tax


57

passed to support the war effo~t, many Harlem nightclubs

were forced to close.63 Ha~lem's leaders, including Adam

Clayton Powell, claimed that La Guardia, the Mayor of New

York, closed the Savoy to stop blacks from dancing with

white women.64 The Lindy, with its "resemblance to the old

African challenge dances in the solo improvisations of the

breakaway, ... the shuffling steps, hip movements, and the

shimmy,"SS with its use of Charleston and Black Bottom

steps, finally had been accepted by the white public but

.died out shortly after due to economic or political restric-

tions. Maybe it really hadn't been accepted. Maybe it was

swallowed up in an attempt to have it transformed and re-

segregated. Although it was assimilated into American

culture, at least in some areas, it is danced somewhat like

it was originally danced. To those early dancers, the Lindy

was not merely one of many dances, but a way of life. At

the weekly Sunday New York Swing Dance Society big band

dances at the Cat Club, at the Swing Now Trio's Wednesday

engagements at the North River Bar, and at Al Cobbs's Monday

night gigs at Northern Lights, you will find black and white
I
old-timers and newcomers, all dancing together, re-creating

the Savoy-style Lindy and spirit.


58

Additional Notes and Conclusions

In researching this thesis, through reading books,

teaching, seeing tapes and films, and in traveling around

the country, !have reached some conclusions.


The best dancers are those who were most comfortable

with their own bodies, their partners, and the music. To

achieve comfort, balance, control, and grace takes time and

lot of practice. Musicality is something one is born with

and which can be expressed only one masters control of on~'s

own body. In the 30's and. 40's dancers used to go out

dancing five and six nights a week, and listen to swing

music constantly. Knowing the music weIland dancing a lot

are two major differences between the dancers of then and

the dancers of today. One class in Lindy or one class in

the ten ballroom dances including Lindy, or dancing once a

week provides no basis for comparison with dincing nightly.

Knowing the steps so well that one gets bored with repeti-

tion sets the stage for improvisation and thl creation of

new steps, and dances. I


I heard various stories about who created the Lindy.

Twist Mouth George at the Savoy evidently was the first to

twist or swivel his partner at arm's length after he swung

her out. I heard some misinformed Californian say that Dean


59

Cbllins invented the Lindy (he was the man responsible for

bringing the Lindy to, or popularizing it in California).

Then I heard someone else say that it came from Southern

Cajun dancing. There are about as many stories about where

it came from as there are forms of the dance existing today.

People like to claim it came from their area or from som~an~

they knew. I believe it actually proQably did come from

their area or someone they knew! I believe the Lindy began

in clubs like the Savoy, around the country, concurrently

springing up as a response to swing music. The bands trav-

~led, people traveled, and Southerners influenced North-

erners, Easterners influenced Westerners.

There are regional differences in the Lindy and its

derivatives, and differences in the use of the same termi-

nology which confuse dancers and make teaching and writing

dance history difficult. Often the same word, such as

"Shag," has three di f feren t meanings . (South Carol i na 's

Lindy derivative, the old-time 1930's dance, and a new Cali-

fornia dance are all called the Shag. All three are totally
different dances.)

The Lindy. as a complete dance, contains two rhythm

patterns; the dancer alternates between 6-count and 8-count

rhythms. So do (S.C.) Shag and West Coast Swing, both

descendants of the early Lindy. Any Lindy with less than


60

these two is incomplete.

The Lindy is a smooth dance. So is the Shag (as evi-

denced by the best Shaggers I saw in Myrtle Beach, Harry

Driver and 3030 Putnam) and West Coast swing (as seen in the

great dancing of Jimmy Bonternple of Ontario, California, and

Phil Trau of San Francisco). When one is experienced and

fine-tuned enough, one can play with the step, the music,

and one's partner, and through improvisation and subtle

nuance, converse with one's partner and the musicians (and

the audience, if one is performing).

The Lindy can travel through space, across the room,

whereas the Shag and West Coast Swing usually are danced in

one spot. This may be due to the more crowded dance floors

in the areas in which those dances are danced.

Swing dancing, including Lindy, Shag, and West Coast

Swing, is becoming more popular, although there is a lot

more -danCing done in the South and in the West than in the

East. In g~neral, West Coast Swing dancers like their dance_

better than_ their ancestor dance, the Lindy, which they c~n-

sider old. Easterners tend to prefer the Lindy and don't

seem too interested in West Coast Swing. I find this situa-

tion unfortunate because r think people are missing out on

great things from each.

washington, D.C. and Boston a~e following in the fODt~


61

steps of the New York swing Dance Society and organizing

more activities to preserve the Lindy, to learn it and to

dance it. These three groups function as single city-wide

non-profit organizations, as opposed to the numerous smaller

clubs you find in the West and the South.

What is interesting is that although the Lindy is a

black-rooted dance, in New York at th~ New York Swing Dance

Society dances, there are many black dancers; but most of

them are older, many'original Savoy dancers. There are not

many young black dancers doing the Lindy. On my travels

·West and South, I saw almost no black dancers at all doing

the Shag or West Coast Swing. (I would say zero, but I


couldn't swear to it.)

There are some on the West Coast, like Erin Stevens of

Pasadena, and Jonathan Bixby and Sylvia Sykes of Santa Bar-

bara, who like the Lindy. There are others, like Shirley

Fietsam of Anaheim and Nick Lawrence of San Francisco, who

are interested in all styles, and some on the East Coast,

like myself, Margaret Batluchok, and some of my students

like Susan Hoffman, who like, them all too. Jonathan and

Sylvia do a style of Lindy that was developed on the west

Coast by Dean Collins. Dean Collins, an excellent white New

York Lindy Hopper brought the Lindy out West in the 30's,

wh~re he tau~ht and ehoreographed Liftdy fBUtifi@§ f~r ~how§


62

and movies. His style 1s not a black style, but it is very

smooth and c.ircular, using s·wing outs and swi tches (a

swiveling movement directly descending from Twist Mouth

George's partner's move).

You might say it is the white groups around the country

that are working to keep swing dancing alive.* The New York

Swing Dance Society was formed by a group of ten young white

swing dance enthusiasts, myself included, who wanted to have

a place to dance. We~ad danced at a club called City

Limits, where I met my partner George Lloyd in 1983. When

it closed we all would go up to Small's Paradise where Al

Cobbs's band used to play, in Harlem. During that time s or.e

members of the Swedish Swing Society visited New York and

got us thinking about the idea of starting a New York swing

society. Soon after we began having meetings and held our

first dance at the Cat Club on May 5, 1985. We have been in

existence ever since. We have a steady membership of about

three hundred. We are dedicated to the preservation of the

Lindy and emulate the older black dancers, the best of whom

I am privileged enough to have as my partners. We encourage

participation of all races, but especially black dancers,

• This is not to say that there aren't equal efforts by


black indiViduals around New York sueh as
Frank Manningl
Norma M~ller, Al Cobbs, and Mama La Parks.
63

out of respect for their contribution, and especially the

good black dancers, of which there are many. (This is not

say there are not excellent white dancers whose contribu-

tions and dancing deserve respect.)

When I was planning a trip to Greenville, South Caro-

lina, for George and myself, I was cautioned by a Southerner

currently living in New York that George might not be wel-

comed because he is black. r didn't understand this. She

said they had private clubs down there to exclude certain

races. The club members were older, as opposed to the

younger members of the ~ew York Swing Dance Society. We

ended up not going because of it. Also, when I was in

Phoenix, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Myrtle Beach, I didn't

see any black dancers. To me this was unusual, since I have

many black partners. I can't come to any definite statement

about this, except to say either black dancers are not

wanted in these places, or they do not want to go to these

places, or they do not know about these places. Although

racial prejudice may exist I think that if black dancers

went to these events, there would be sufficient welcome and

support from the other dahcers to change the situatioh. X

think the situation has just never come up that black

dancers have gone to these events. Maybe they feel too

uncomfortable as the only black person. I showed a tape of


64

George and myself to a dancer teacher in California and she

was very surprised that my partner was black. She didn't

say why, but she didn't seem impressed with the dancing.

Maybe it was that she didn't like the Lindy as well as West

Coast Swing, maybe she didn't like ou~ dancing.

I am not one to say black culture is totally responsi-

ble for the Lindy; that black dancers are better than white

dancers. In some of the research I did, I got the idea that

the writers were advocating black supremacy or crediting

blacks for everything. There were white dancers at the

Savoy, like John Lucchese, and dance~s like Dean Collins,

who were excellent as well, and who helped popularize the

dance. American popular culture, black and white, embraced

swing music. One might say it was not until Benny Goodman,

a white band leader (who happened to have been the first

band leader to cut across racial barriers and hire 1a black

musician, thus having the first interracial band), came

along that swing was accepted: It may be true that black

bands who were as good as his were not noticed until Benny

Goodman's success opened the door, but that doesn't say

Benny Goodman wasn't good. It just says that society was

still prejudiced at that time, and it probably still is.

Jazz music and swing dancing are fun, soulful expres-

sions that can be shared by black and white, Easterne~s and·


65

Westerners, together. I see nothing wrong with wanting to·

keep one's own style, or liking it best, as long as one re-

spects the different styles of another good dancer. Person-

ally, I want to learn as many styles and as much as I can

that appeals to me, and thus develop my own style in the

process. My dream 1s that I will take from each what it has

to offer me, fits me best, so ! can assimilate it into my

own style. I want to be able to dance well, communicating

in an inspiring mann~r, with any other good dancer from any

.area or style. Developing a larger vocabulary allows more

versatility and expression in interpreting different types

of music. It also allows for changes of mood within the

same piece.

Dancing is an artistic and physical means of communica-

tion. How it feels is most important to the dancers and the

partner, and also comes through in how it looks. Joy,

grief, anger, and playful wit, as well as visual moving

design, can all be expressed and shared through dancing.

Each dancer's soul is a valuable and irreplaceable unique

entity. It is a gift to one's life experience. It would be


a shame to miss out on one because of regional or racial

differences. These kinds of limitations create barriers.

Opening up and learning from others is not only enriching,

jt's fun.
66

CHAPTER II

Artistic Aims

The artistic aim of my thesis is to show different

versions of the Lindy and discuss their similarities and

differences in relation to where and why they are danced,

and to the background~ and personalities of the dancers who

dance them. I want to present the Lindy as a dance that

lends itself to individual styling and creativity. The

great dancers don't try to copy others exactly, but stand

out as those who have used the Lindy form as a vehicle for

their own personal expression. I want to distinguish these

dancers as artists, and thus encourage others to treat their

dancing not only as a soclal form, but as an art form as

well ..

If I had to give a few words to characterize each of

the four dancers I taped, I would say first, Frank Manning

is charismatic, intellectual, and full of wit. He is physi-

cally strong, solid, and definitive in his movements, almo~t

aggressive. His steps are large and clear. He takes over

the space and takes charge of his partner! with ~ laughing,


winning smile.
67

George Lloyd is graceful and smooth, like butter. He

dances on a slide. He moves across the floor as if he were

on ice. His steps are small and he is ~ore concerned with

dancing with his partner than the space around him. He has

a personal, underplayed quality. His feet and legs move

quickly and he has a lightness that surpasses gravity. He

has a lilt and a light driving bounce that are a product of

a perfected musical sense of rhythm and timing.

When. Charlie Meade dances, the center of his body

moves, and the earth moves. His hips move side to side, his

torso relates to the space around him, and his arms reach

out to his sides. His steps are large and placed evenly in

the music. He puts his whole body and energy into every

step.

Tom Lewis dances closed in and intimate, in a huddle

with his partner, or in a huddle with himself and the floor,

working out new syncopations with his feet. He concentrates

on his footwork and solo material while he comfortably leads

his partner through interesting huddling, cuddly moves and

then into long swing-outs, leading them energetically away

from him. He can be slippery smooth, or energetic, thriving

on throwing, squattin~ .artdkiekin~ ifi varying eompl!x


rhythms.
68

Frank Manning, now seventy-three, was one of Whitey's

Lindy Hoppers from 1936 to 1941. Frank began dancing as a

child, and by the time he was sixteen he was winning con-

tests and almost professional. He came in third place in

the first Harvest Moon Ball in 1936, and second place in the

one the following yea~. He became Whitey's right-hand man

and chief choreographer and with Whitey's group toured the

world and appeared in the films Hellzapoppin' and the Marx

Brothers' A Day at the Races in the 1940's. During the war

he put together shows to entertain the troops. After the

war he toured the U.S. with his own group, The Congaroos,

with the bands of Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, and Count

Basle.

Frank originated many of the aerial steps by taking

floor steps one step further. He originated "the stops,"

fr~ezing in the middle of a number and then continuing on,

to the" song "Posin'." He also did the first Lindy routine

which was danced by more than one couple doing the same

steps at the same time. He believes in seeing a step and

changing it and taking it one step further. He doesn't be-

lieve in a right and a wrong way to do a step. When choreo-

graphing, he choreographed for each individual dancer and

let each couple do thelr OWn speci~l st@ps inst~ad ef fere~


ing everyone to be the same.
69

Frank Manning has an incredible amount of energy and a

great love for dancing. He is threatened by no one. He is

open and generous and takes everyone in without criticism.

Frank is a natural performer. When he dances everybody

watches. His early performing experience, his active mind,

and his years of dancing give him a wealth of material to

draw upon. He constantly creates new routines and uses them

as little sections in his social dancing. Performing and

social dancing are one~and the same to him. Helll callout

~points" or "tango dip," and he and his partner will go into

a 16-count sequence they have memorized. His repertoire is

full of such sequences and they are interesting to watch.

Steady partners get to know more and more of these routines,

which he may callout at any point in the dance that he

wishes. It is like writing in phrases instead at woids. ~e

uses the basics as linking steps.

Frank moves across the room -- forward, backwards, side

by side, circling, Circling backwards, hopping, skipping --

with a powerful energy that conquers the whole room. His

posture is generally low to the floor, his head bowed and

his left leg kicking away so that his whole torso is paral-

lel to the !loor at times. His style is bouncy, in the ver-

tical plane. (None of the four 11m describing here uses a

sidewards rocking of the torso. Most hold their torsos


70

calm, isolating them from their hips and legs. Charlie does

a slight torso rock, but not like you see b~ginners or 50'~

rock'n'rollers do.) Frank uses a double bounce, a bounce on

every beat of the music. He dances with a strong lead: the

woman has no option but to follow, or be wrong. He dances


to the beat of the music and to the mood of the music. His

posture changes with his interpretation of the mood. He

dances saying something with his movements, something witty,

some dance talk -- a v~riation on the rhythm, doing a number

pf swing-outs with different syncopations at the end of each

one, or a new posture, or facing or way of coming in. He is

innovative and always thinking and playing around.

George Lloyd dances by feeling the music. He doesn't

intellectualize or think of steps. He doesn't do routines.

He doesn't plan ahead; he stays right with the music and his

feelings at the time. His mood doesn't change much except

from serious to happy, or from relaxed to energetic. George

does not do a large variety of new steps. With George it is


not his wit or the amount of moves, but it is the way he

moves.

George was not a professional dancer. Re was a social

dancer. He never rehearsed except to work out some aerials.

Dancing with George can be romantic. It is more intimate,


71

meant for just him and his partner, and if anyone else is

watching it might give him a little more inspiration to show

off. But he doesn't dance with an audience, the way per-

formers include their audience -- he dances with a partner.

George, sixty-six now, was born and grew up in Miami,

Florida. He was a natural athlete (track champion) and good

in math while in high school (George now competes in tourna-

ment golf and bowling). George started dancing when he was

seventeen. His mother was a good ballroom dancer. George

came up to New York in the 40's and danced at the Savoy

Ballroom. During the war, he won two Lindy contests in

France. He came back to the New York area and choreographed

USO shows. In 1957 and 1958 he entered the Harvest Moon

Ball with his partner, Barbara Bates (she weighed 105

pounds), and they did 13 air steps in 3 minutes .. When they

didn't win the second year, George said held never enter

again. But in 1983, he met me, Margaret Batiuchok, and six

months later we entered the Harvest Moon ball and won. We

didn't do any aerials. We did strictly floor work.

By this time George had developed his sliding style.


t
He had hurt his back in 1969 and had a disk operation, and

in the 1970'S he broke his arm. After that he gave up

aerials. His sliding style, he claims, lets the floor do

the ~o~k for him. The slide looks elegant, graceful, and
72

really cool, because it does look like he is not doing any

work, and is letting something else -- the floor? -- move

him around. George has impeccable balance 'and rhythm. This

allows him to keep his balance and not tug or pull on his

partner. His timing lets his leads occur at precisely the

right moment. These two things make him an incredibly

smooth and wonderful partner to dance with. It also ac-

counts for how he can get by without any practicing or warm-

ing up. We had jti~tmet and didn't practice at all and'won

the Lindy competition of the Harvest Moon Ball. (We were

the first interracial couple to win, and most likely the

first to enter; the next year the Lindy portion was dropped

from the Harvest Moon Ball.)

George works from a narrow base and takes small steps.

His posture is fairly upright with a slight 20-degree torso

tilt towards the floor. He stays pretty much in one place,

and can dance well in a very small area if need be.

Something else that adds to George's smoothness is the

way he uses his feet and knees. His weight is mostly on the

balls of his feet and he uses his feet, ankles and knees
I
rocking back and forth from heel to toe and lifting and

dropping the knees slightly. This controls his weight from

falling heavily into a flat foot, and helps him achieve a

wonderful rhythmic lightness. This may be a Southe~n 1nflu-


73

ence. When I was in South Carolina the Shag dancers there

did a lot of ankle and knee rolling and rocking forward and

back and sideways, isolating movements in those areas. They

too moved very smoothly, conserving their energy. George

conserves his energy, but when he feels like it he can take

off into flight. His feet can move like lightning under-

neath him as he does some fancy syncopation, without it

affecting his torso. George holds his partner close and

comfortably, and is serious when he dances for fun.

Charlie Meade, now fifty-six, was born in Kingston,

~amaica, in 1932, where he learned to dance as a boy. The

music at the clubs he went to was mainly calypso and swing.

In the early 501s, when he was eighteen, he moved to Eng-

land, where he became a professional jazz, tap, and primi-

tive dancer in the shows of Buddy Bradley. All of the


others in the show were trained dancers, but Buddy Bradley

preferred dancers who were naturally good to those who


werenlt and had training (or those who were good and were

ruined by training, as he accused some of beina). Charlie


I
toured Europe with Bradley's shows. Later he was hired to

dance in the movie Cleopatra, which was filmed in Rome. He

stayed in Italy and worked as a twist dancer performing with

a pa~tner in nightclubs allover Italy. When he moved to


74

New York in the 1960's, he met with his friend, the famous

tap dancer Baby Lawrence, in hopes of continuing his danc-

ing. But Baby Lawrence died. Charlie stopped dancing for

20 years ... until the early 1980's when he went to see

Norma Miller's Lindy Hop group perform at the Village Gate.

Norma Miller, still an active dancer, was a member of the

original Whitey's Linder Hoppers. Charlie had met Norma

when they were both performing in Europe. It was there

Norma introduced me to Charlie, saying he was a good dancer

and that I should dance with him. I w~s a bit skeptical,

but I did anyway. And was I glad. We won the Lindy contest

there on our first dance! Six months later we ran into one

another again at Small's Paradise in Harlem, and began

getting together for weekly rehearsals. For about a ye~r we

worked on some jazz, African, and tap routines together.

Charlie incorporates routines from his performance ex-

perience into his Lindy dancing. He tends to do things in

sets of fours and leads them not by calling out their names,

but by just going into them. They seem to be simple and

leadable and within the Lindy's basic counts. They lend a


J
nice unison look when done flat on faCing one another, or

side by side, which breaks up the circular Lindy. Charlie

also breaks away, letting go of my hands, and we do separate

move~ facing one another. We improvise and sometjmes use


75

moves from our routines, but never do the whole routine or

do them in order. This breakaway section was done in the

original Lindy and is what distinguished the Lindy as un-

usual in its early days. It is not used as much these days.

Charlie uses a lot of torso movement, flat-footed

slides, and picking up of the feet in a high-stepping, man-

nero He otten works his feet and ankles in a heel-toe-heel-

toe-sidewards movement. These are reminiscent of African

movements, many of which he got from his primitive dancing,

many of which he had from being Jamaican. Charlie does

drops and low lunges to the floor, and then jumps up and

away, reaching high above his head. He kicks out diagon-

ally, low and high. He extends his arms out to his side,

away from his body. His torso is upright, also at a slight

20-degree tilt towards the floor. He uses his arms for

balance. His hips are constantly moving side to side as he

steps -- simil~r to calypso dancing, I imagine. His Lindy

doesn't travel, but stays in one place. He uses the

lateral space and space above him with his arms, which are

held higher than Frank's or George's. He turns hi8 partner


I
a lot and does a lot of diagonal kicks in between the steps

ot the pattern or in place of the steps in the pattern. He

doesn't do much fast footwork, but does steady, even synco-

patiqns. Charlie's arms and legs reach at diagonals as his


76

body tilts. When Charlie gets excited by the music, he does

little sidewards jumps, landing one foot and then the other,

and pushes harder and lets out audible grunts of pleasure.

The people watching love to see his total involvement and

his use of low and high level. They often applaud.

Tom Lewis is thirty-four and began dancing a little

over a year ago.~e studied with me for nine months, four

hours a week privately, and with hard work became one of the

top dancers in the New York Swing Dance Society. He was

born in Newark, grew up in Manhattan and New Jersey,

attending PS 41, Stuyvesant High School and New York

University. It's hard to believe that he hadn't done much

dancing of any kind before. He has already performed three

times with George and me, as George's "relief pitcher."

Tom has a good sense of timing and a comfortable lead.

He dances a smooth style; his partner is not pulled at as he

steps into or off of a foot. Tom has a style that looks

cool and smooth. He hunches his shoulders and looks at his

feet, which are doing constant fancy variations and move-


I

menta. He can only afford to pay his feet so much attention

if he leads his partner properly, and he does.

Tom uses a lot of intimate moves of circling his part-


I
ner in and moving her around his back, from one arm to the
77
other, or bring1ng her straight into his arms. He does

movements closely side by side, using hip bumps as send-

outs. His hips move slightly side to side whenever he

steps. His weight is 8 little back towards his heels. He

may do close, tiny, subtle I moves and suddenly throw his

partner out and continue to move at a more energetic pace.

He lets the music change his mood. His movements have many

moods. He has little performing experience so he tends

almost to shut out onlookers so he can concentrate on hi~


moves.

Tom works in constant, fancy, lovely syncopations which

he makes up or copies, and practices. He sends his partner

out so both can improvise for a few bars, loosely. When he

~ants to, he knows just how to signal her so they can come

in on time together again. He uses stretches and slides,

legs moving apart and together, extending himself and trying

new things all the time. He pushes out on his feet to the

side and into the ground for a side slide. He leans on his

partner if she is balanced enough and lets her support him

tor an off-balance move. Then he may support her. This


I
weight give-and-take, transfer of body weight, is a lot of

fun.
Tom also follows his partner. This may have to do with

his younger age and men not used to leading in everything


18

any more, or from his inexperience. Or it may come from my

teaching him and my own desire to move out on my own more

and have a responsive man who can follow me sometimes.

(George does that a little when I accidentally go into

something. But I don't feel as free to go into something

intentionally of my own choice with George.) It could be

I'm looser with Tom. Whatever it is, this give-and-take

makes the conversation a more mutual one and the union in

the dance tighter.~he expression is more of a mutual ef-

fort and one which gives the woman more opportunity to

express herself. In old films it is the man who is the

showboat, the peacock. In South Carolina that is especially

true today. West Coast dancers give the woman more to do

than we Lindy dancers did (until now). I like danclng wilh

Torn becauie he lets me go into some of the moves I think

would be nice, or just feel like doing. He responds by

letting the dance go that way, and then taking it from

there.
79

Conclusion and Dedication

The doing of this thesis project has made me realize

how rich a dance the Lindy is and how much goes into and is

present in dance. It encompasses all of life. This work

has made me apprec~ate how much life has to offer, how much

dancing has to offer life, and how much individual people

have to offer one another. Each person has within him a

depth of inner knowledge, unique characteristics, and per-

sonal experiences that make him a special, irreplaceable,

and valuable human being.

The artistic aim of my pi~ce changeu a bit while I ~:aS

editing the videotape. I had planned to call the tape

"Lindy, 198811 and objectively show the different styles of

each of the dancers, analyzing steps and body parts moving

in relationship to one another and the space, and to the

backgrounds of the dancers. What I was filled with upon

viewing the final edited tape was not the degree of body

angle with the floor, but the magnificence of spirit within

each of the dancers. The interviews, the explanation of

steps, and the dancing together revealed a more emotionally

movin~ piece than th~ technical one I expected.


80

Frank Manning is seventy-three years old. This man has

more energy and enjoyment .


of life than most twenty-year-

olds. His personality and sense or humor exude from him a~

he dances, but also as he talks and laughs and goes through

his animated antics. He is a public, visible, and generous

man, and this comes out in his dancing, through a generous

use of space and a generous use of his smile, which beams

for miles and miles.

Then there is George Lloyd, a more private man. He

goes about his business unnoticed until he is given the

spotlight, He may feel unappreciated at times because his

manner does not invite attention. His delicate personality

has not allowed him to totally forget his experiences of not

being welcome because of his color, or not being judged

fairly because of his lack of affiliation with a certain

group. Flamboyant expression of joy is not his thing. His

joy is more subtle and private. To see George smile is a

rare and wonderful occurrence. A more serious nature, in-

tent on perfection and subtle detail, George's best perform-

ance is given when it is not asked for. To see George's

dancing with me, a white girl thirty years younger, achiev-

ing a beautiful, delicate communication, brings to me rich

and complex feelings. !t§ b~auty @xi§tc in spite of worldly


pain. I
81

Then there is Charlie Meade, who loves to danc~. It

doesn't have to be sophisticated or cool ~ovement. He loves

to move his body. He grunts out of joy when he dances. His

is not the intellectual approach, but mor~ a feeling one,

with the energy of the beat moving through his whole body

and pushing into the floor. Frank dances as a thinking per-

sonality, smiling, joking with his moves, moving his body

totally into a posture or a movement or a routine. George

doesn't create routines, but,expresses subtle musical de-

tails, allowing the music to lead and inspire him, as he

skillfully leads his partner to feel what he feels from the

music. There is a togetherness of the two with his elegant

and gracefully rhythmic feeling. Charlie's movements are

more animalistic and on a more basic inner level. He lets

his whole body dance in the space, more free of the struc-

ture. He moves like a big African bird, hovering, dipping

through the air, or landing sideways onto the ground and up

again. A rather reserved person, Charlie's inner self comes

alive in his dancing. His wide stance and wide arm reach

express his joy and his peace with it. It's like dancing

gives his inner self a place to be -- to live and move

around in. It's like the real Charlie, free and happy,

comes alive and inhabits his body.

Tom Lewis said on the tape that he entered the Cat Club
I
82

Swing Society dance and it was like stepping into a fantasy

land. Tom was so struck that he immersed himself in lessons

and constant listening to swing music. He practiced on his

own and with others whenever he could. To dance with some-

one who was so instantly in love with dancing, whom I

taught, and who dances 50 well, made me proud,' respectful,

and warm inside. A delicate musicality, such as Benny Good-

man achieved on his ,clarinet, is what Tom's smooth dancing

sometimes achieves. A driving force of chaotic syncopations

and fast swing-outs and pull-ins is another expression his

dancing may take on. Charming and eloquent, saying or danc-

ing just the right thing at times, make Tom a bright joy.

He is not heavy-handed in his lead. He follows his part-

ner's movements and accommodates them. He enjoys freedom in

his step and allows his partners the same.

At times immobile, Tom is always fluid and smooth. He

gets through his moves, intent on them, without an overall

plan. He always feels good to dance with. There exists a

comfort zone and then a freestyle section, where we chat

with our feet, hips, and syncopated punctuations. Tom is a

little shy, a little humorously flirtatious, and mostly into

his steps.

With all four of these guys, I feel a comfort, a love,

and a ,personal shared expression. As! wat~hed th~ t~p~ and


83

put the last song on, "You Brought a New Kind of Love to

Me," shivers ran down my spine, thinking of how great each

one of them is, and how great dancing is to enable me to

know them in this way and experience these feelings, and

enable us to create and express within its embracing medium.

Dancing, because of all it provides expression, union,

challenge, love, conflict, passion, resolution, analogy, and

more than that, its self, "the dance" -- dance is my love

and my life. And each of these four partners and all that

they are, brought a new kind of love to me, by sharing their

dance with me. I am truly thankful to and appreciative of

each of them. I want to dedicate my thesis to them, and

change the title from "Lindy, 1988" to "You Brought a New

Kind of Love to Me." Thank you, in order of my meeting you,

George, Charlie, Frank, and Tom. You certainly did.


84

CHAPTER III

Technical Essay

In setting up the performance of great Lindy Hopp~rs, I

first had to decide whom to ask, and then see if they would

be willing to perform. I wanted the best dancers in New

York and wanted dancers of different styles, ages, and back-

grounds. I thought of many of my partn~rs and limited th~

number to four. I chose the four dancers I dance with the

most: Frank Manning, George Lloyd, Charlie Meade, and Tom

Lewis. Frank, seventy-three years old, is black, was born

in Florida, and grew up in New York; George, sixty-six, is

black, from Miami; Charlie is black, fifty-six, from Ja-

maica, moved to England when he was eighteen; Torn, thirty-

four, is white and from the New York area. Frank, and

Charlie were professional dancers, George and Tom were not.

The most difficult thing about the whole project was

dealing with each of their personalities. I wanted them

each to feel comfortable, honored, and inspired to dance

well. They all felt somewhat honored, relatively comforta-

ble, at least much more comfortable than I felt, worrying

aboutrthe camera working, people showing up on time, and


85

getting what I wanted on tape trom each of them. My own

anxiety plus the time we had to schedule the shooting wcrked

against inspiration, but all in all, I got what I wanted. I

didn't get the most exciting dance performance each of us

ever gave, but I captured four different master's styles

plus a description of their view of the Lindy and its

component parts.

I wanted to have each dancer taped individually so they

wouldn't be influenced by each other's answers to my ques-

tions, or by the movements the other ones did. I also

thought it would make each dancer feel more special if he

were the only one there, as the center of attention, rather

than having to share time with others. It was a better u~e

of their time. I also thought it would be easier for me to

focus on each one individually. I feel more comfortable

one-an-one and felt better able to set up a rapport with

each partner separately. I ended up having George and Tom

together because I thought George might dance better with an

audience. Tom admires George and they get along well. In

hindsight I should have included a large audience for each

shot, to increase the performance level and level of fun.


I asked each one individually if they would dance with
me for the thesis project, and they all agreed to. I asked

TOM September
I
17, 19S', Frank September 22i Charlie Septem-
86

ber 30, and George months before that when I originally had

the idea. None was overjoyed. When I reminded George about

it he grumbled a little bit, but they all consented. I

wanted to get it done as soon as possible after they con-

sented, before anything got in the way or they changed their

minds, as George almost did at the last minute, just 'cause

he didn't feel like it. It was difficult working on

something that was v~ry important to me, and getting others

to be involved with the same amount of dedication. None of

them would take any money for it, as I wasn't getting any.

I offered it, but they said they wanted to do it for me.

They are all friends and steady partners of mine. I appre-

ciated not having to pay them, but it put the strain of its

being a favor to me upon the whole situation.

I didn't set up a rehearsal but danced with each of

them at the Cat Club dances and at other Swing Dance Society

functions~ I had been rehearsing with Charlie almost every

week for about a year, was currently dancing with Frank at

weekly practice sessions, had danced with Tom four hours a

week for the nine months he studied with me~ and I dance

with him socially. George would never practice. We won the

1983 Harvest Moon Ball together without one practice. We

dance socially though.

?ettihg up the times to shoot was not too difficult but


87

ended up having certain problews. I decided to rent the

studio in which I teach one of my classes because it was in-

expensive and everyone knew where it was, all having been

there before. I wanted to use the same studio with the same

background for each of them l so the only variation that

would stand out would be each man's individual dancing. I

wanted to shoot them all as close together as possible so my

dancing would be as similar to itself as possible. I wanted

to be in the same frame of mind, and not have any new chdnge

or influence appear in my dancing in one shoot that didn't

appear in the other. I was to be a control factor, they

were to be the variables.

The lighting in the studio was a factor to consider for

videotaping. I wanted to us~ natural lighting for monetary

reasons, so we needed to shoot in the daytime, and around

the same time of day for each one. Also, the only time that

they all could make it was weekend mornings around noon.

Unfortunately, this is not the most inspired time to social

dance, but it was a time the studio was available for rent-

ing and it was a time that none of the guys was working or

out socializing.

Donald Young, who had taped my dancing many times be-

fore, agreed to do the taping. He was an ex-professional

dance~ himself (he had danced ballet, musical theater, and


88

jazz with the American Dance Machine), and had done pro-

fessional video work in Minnesota some years ago. I own

industrial camera, portable GE VCR, and a tripod, which he

used to do the taping. The camera was set up in the same

position each ti~~. We found the best angle which provided

the most amount of lighting with the least amount of glare

from the sun or the mirrors. We draped a curtain over the

doorway to avoid seeing people who were not involved pass in

and out of the picture. Donald taped Frank Manning December

12, and George Lloyd and Tom Lewis on December 20, 1987.

Unfortunately, the studio, studio E.G.G. (287 Broadway,

one block north of Chambers Street), was closed for painting

the week I wanted to shoot Charlie Meade. Luckily they

painted the studio the same color! I had to shoot Charlie

later, and at a time that Donald was not available. My

sister, Susan Rummel, was visiting New York from Montana for

Christmas· vacation. She is an excellent still photographer

and was a lighting technician in high school years ago, but

had never worked with a videocamera before. She agreed to

shoot Charlie and me for me. She taped us on January 3rd,

1988.

In the time between asking the dancers and setting up

the studio time, I planned the questions I wanted to ask and

the dFnces ! wanted to do. I wrote this down and gave e&ch
89

of the dancers a copy of this, along with a brief verbal de-

scription of what I wanted to accomplish by the performance,

i.e., to show how the Lindy lends itself to individual in-

terpretation and styling by great dancers. I gave them this

a day or two (or three) before. I wanted them to be pre-

pared but not too prepared, so their answers could be some-

what spontaneous.

I decided to wear the same costume each time, to pro-

vide the same basis of comparison against which one could

see the men's styles. I decided to wear a white jumpsuit so

it was visible for the camera, and all one color, for an

unbroken line. It allowed a view of leg and hip movements

that would be hidden by a skirt. I thought ·street clothLs

rather than leotards were more appropriate for social danc-

ing. I purposely didn't tell the men what to wear, to see

what each would individually come up with. I thought it

might express something more about their personalities and

personal approaches.

To be better able to compare the style of each dancer,

I decided to have each one dance to the exact same songs. I

chose "Shiny Stockings," a medium-slow swing number by Count

Basie, Frank Manning's favorite song; a version of "One

O'Clock .1ump," a faster swing song that Geo:r-geLloyd alwaY$

requests when we do demonstrations: liThe Peeper," by Hank


90

Crawford, one of Charlie M~ade's favorite artists, who does

more of a rhythm and blues jazz; and "You Brought a New Kind

of Love to Me," a smooth Benny Goodman number, my favorite,

one that Tom Lewis taped for me to use in his lessons as my

student. I wanted to see how each dancer interpreted the

same music.

To further analyze the differences and similarities

among the dancers, I thought it would be helpful to see how

each looked at the" dance itself, technically. I asked each

one what they thought the basic step was. None of the three

older men had ever taken lessons. Frank Manning had done

some teaching. Tom Lewis began dancing as my student about

a year ago. Each one danced what he considered the basic

step. Then I asked each one to show me a "swing-out,1! a

reverse and a tuck-in turn, a kick step, and a jig walk.

Sometimes I had to explain the terminology I was using, by

showing them which move I meant. I asked each, "How do you

count the rhythm -- or do you count the rhythm?" Then I

asked them if they knew or created any routine6 which they

added into their Lindy, and would they show them to me.

Then I asked them to demonstrate any Charleston, Big Apple,

and Shim Sham moves they knew.

Lastly, but possibly not presented to each lastly, I

interviewed them verbally only, without demonstration. Thus


91

I had a pure dance section, an interview/dance-demonstration

sectlon of showing and breaking down steps without music,

and an interview section. These were the questions I asked

in the interview:

• Where did you begin dancing -- how old were you, who

taught you?

• Tell me a bit about your personal history.

• How often did you~go out -- do you go out now?

• Did you practice with a partner?

• What qualities do you like in a partner?

• What do you like about the Lindy?

• What is necessary to dance a good Lindy? What is

important?

• Do you do other dances?

• Do you know who created the Lindy -- what dances it came

from -- how it developed?

• Who were·your favorite dancers? and now?

• Did people dance differently in the 20's? 30's; 40's? now?

• Do any dancers we know now resemble old styles?

• Did your style change over the years? How?

• Can you compare your style to others? How is it the same?

How is it different?

• ~o you have any visual or other images while dancing?

• How po you create steps?


92

• Do you think about dancing, or new or old moves, at other

times during the day?

Since each dancer is different, I had to feel out and

be aware of the needs of each individually. Being relaxed

and pleasant and putting them at ease, trying to keep them

satisfied and doing their best, was the most difficult task

while I was tense about the camera and getting things to run

the way I wanted. I was sensitive to each one's mood whe~

he walked in and throughout the time, and chose the order of

events accordingly. I saw how tired each one was. In some

cases, such as with George, who gets winded easily, I

started with the fast song, to get it over with before he

tired out and would not want to do it. Or if one was

slightly tired after a dance, I would go into the question

and movement section for a break, and then return to the

next dance. Or I might do the interview section, to build

up self-esteem and enthusiasm if I felt a lack of energy and

enthusiasm: The telling of their past experiences, warm

memories, and accomplishment was impressive, and made every-

one inspired to dance. At that point I would return to do

the next dance. I wanted to move right along, without

breaks, to keep the energy going and to get each dancer

finished in one sessIon. The o~der of events W~§ different


for eqch according to what I felt would work best for the
93

energy of the piece. I spent between two and four hours

with each dancer.

To edit the tape, I had to decide upon an interesting

and effective order. I put an eight-minute section of each

dancer dancing two minutes of Basie's "Shiny Stockings" as

an introduction or overview, to serve as an appetizer for

the rest of the tape. Then I verbally introduced, on tape,

each dancer, with a brief description of his background, in

the same order they· appeared in the introduction and would

be seen in the first section, eldest to youngest.

Section I was the dance demonstration. I began with

the eldest, Frank Manning, who demonstrated the dance he

believed the Lindy evolved from, and also the steps he con-

sidered the basic steps in the Lindy. Then I danced the

entire "Two O'Clock Jump" by Harry James with Frank. I did

this with George. Charlie, and Tom, n~xt.

Section II was the interview section. I spoke with

each dancer about his background, where and how he learned

to dance, what qualities he liked in a partner. and what he

thought was important to good Lindy dancing. I danced to

Hank Crawford's "The Peeper" with each one after his inter-

view. I reversed the order. speaking to Tom, the youngest,

first, ending with Frank Manning, who had the most histori-

cally, influential background of all four.


94

Section III was the style and favorite dancers section.

I began again with Tom, and asked about how he created

steps, who his favorite dancers were (which turned out to

include Frank, George, and Charlie), and to describe his

style. Tom and I then danced the last number to be danced

by all four, "You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me." I then

asked Charlie the same questions (his favorites included

George and Tom), and I then danced to the same last song

with him.

Then, as a break from the structure, to emphasize its

importance, I chatted with George about his feelings of per-

secution, as an outsider from the group of dancers repre-

senting the Savoy at the Harvest Moon Ball, to his being

black and not welcomed at certain restaurants and clubs.

These all are part of his dance history, and dance history

in general, and not a part that is usually included. (I.

included his favorite dancers and his view of his style in

his interview in Section II.) George presented some pretty

powerful information·and I put this near the end as an

emotional climax, followed by us, suddenly a noticeably

white-and-black couple, dancing to the sweet, pretty song,

"You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me." To end it on a

happier "up" note, I ended with joyful Frank Manning. I

asked Frank about his favorite dancers and how he ereated


I
95

steps (in his answers he mentioned George and Tom) and how

he would describe his style. The dancers' mutual admiration

society added a nice feeling to the film. I ended with a

dance to "You Brought Me a New Kind of Love to Me" with

Frank, after which we playfully reintroduced one anolher and


laughed.
96

REFERENCES

1 The Round Dance Book, 1950, cited by Ray Walker,


Let's Talk Jitterbug, Information and Education Release from
the U.S. Swing Dance Council, 6839 North 14th Street,
Phoenix, Ariz., 1987, p. 1.

2 Richard M. Stephenson and Joseph Iaccarino, The


Complete Book of Ballroom Dancing (New York: Doubleday &
Co., 1980), p. 4.

3 Ray Walker, Let's Talk Jitterbug, Information and


Education Relea~e from the u.s. Swing Dance Council, 6839
North 14th Street, Phoenix, Ariz., 1987, p. 2.

4 Robert P. Crease, liThe Lindy Lives!", 50 Plus, Vol.


28, No.3 (March 1988), p. 38.
5 Robert P. Crease, "Swing Story,lI The Atlantic, Vol. .
257, No.2 (February 1986), p. 80.

6 Marshall and Jean Stearns, Jazz Dance: The Story of


the American Vernacular Dance (New York: Macmillan
Publishing Co., Inc., 1964, pp. 315-316.

7 Dorothea Duryea Ohl, bance Magazine, Vol. 30, No. 11


(November 1956), pp. 90-92.
8 Stearns, op. cit., p. 323.
9 Ibid., p. 128.
10 Ibid., p. 108.
11 After Seben, Paramount, May 17, 1929.

12 Richard Powers, personal interview, New Haven,


September 30, 1987.
13 Brian Gillie, personal interview, Guilford, COhn.,
Octobe~ 26, 1987.
97

14 Powers, op. eit.


15 Stearns, op. cit., p. 329.

16 Cynthia Millman,
"The Roving Reporter Asks: Jitter-
but, Lindy Hop, Swingl What's the Difference?", Footnotes,
ed. Gabby Winkel, Vol. 2, No.3 (July-September 1987), p. 3.
17 Ibid.
18 Ibid.

19 Walker, op. cit.


20 "Hey Jitterbug!", S.O.s. Carefree Times, Box 8343,
Richmond, Va. 23226, Mid-Winter 1988, p. 4.

21 Craig R. Hutchinson, Swing America, 1520 Anderson


Ct., Alexandria, Va., 22312, 13 August 1986.

22 Frank Manning, personal interview, New York,


January 27, 1988.

23 Anatole Chujoy and P. W. Manchester, The Dance Ency-


clopedia (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1967), p. 503.

24 Anne Barzel, "History of Social Dancing," in The


Dance Encyclopedia, compo Anatole Chujoy and P. W. Manches-
ter (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1967), p. 842.
25 Lynne Emery, Black Dance 1n the Unitea States from
1916 to 1970 (New York: Dance Horizons, 1980), p. vii.
26 Russella Branaman, "The Evolution of of Jazz Dance
from Folk Origins to Concert Stage" (Ph.D. dissertation,
Florida State University College of Education, June 1977),
p. 10.
27 Ibid. , p. 112 .
28 Stearns, op. c It. , p. 110.
29 Brandman, op. cit. , p. 110.
30 Ibid. , p. 112.

,31 Brenda Dixon-Stowell, "Black Dance America: Hlstor-


ieal Roots," paper presented at Dance Black Amerioa confer-
98

ence, Brooklyn Academy of Music and the State University of


New York, April 21-24, 1983, p. 13.
32 Emery, op. ei t. , p. 220.

33 Ibid.

34 Ibid.

35 Ibid. , p. 221.

36 Ibid.

37 Ibid.

38 Ibid.

39 Ibid.
40 Dixon-Stowell, op. ei t. , p. 13.
41 stearns, op. eit. , p. 96.

42 Sylvia Dannett .and Frank Rachel, Down Memory Lane


(New York: Greenberg Publishers, 1954), p. 75.

43 Brandman, op. eit., p. 115.

44 Vernon ahd Irene Castle, Modern Dancing (New York:


Harper and Bros., 1914, p. 177.

45 Ibid.

46 Stearns, op. eit., p. 97.

47 Dixon-Stowell, p. 13.

48 Stearns, op. eit., p. 110.

49 Ibid.
50 Ibid. , p. 318.

51 Ibid.

52 Ibid.

53 Ibid.
99

54 Ibid., p. 320.

55 Brandman, op. eit., p. 124.


56 Stearns, op. eit., p. 329.

57 Crease, "Swing Story," p. 78.


58 Ibid.
59 Ibid.

60 Norma Miller, "The Home of Happy Feet: A Salute to


the Savoy Ballroom,·11unpublished paper, New York, 1996,
p. 2.
61 Ibid.

62 Crease, "Swing Story," p. 78.


63 Ibid.

64 Ibid.

65 Emery, op. ei t. , p. 235.


100

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Barzel, Anne. "History of Social Dancing." In The Dance


Encyclopedia, compo Anatole Chujoy and P. W. Manches-
ter. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1967.

Brandman, Russella. "The Evolution of of Jaiz Dance from


Folk Origins to Concert Stage." Ph.D. dissertation,
Florida State University College of Education, June ,
1977.

Castle, Vernon and: Irene. Modern Dancing. New York:


Harper and Bros., 1914.

Chujoy, Anatole, and P. W. Manchester. The Dance Encyclo-


pedia. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1967.

Crease, Robert P. "The Lindy Lives!" 50 Plus, Vol. 28,


No. 3 (March 1988).

-------- "Swing Story. II The Atlantic, Vol. 257, No.2


(February 1986).

Dannett, Sylvia, and Frank Rachel. Down Memory Lane. New


York: Greenberg Publishers, 1954.

Dixon-Stowell, Brenda. "Black Dance America: Historical


Roots." Paper presented at Dance Black America confer-
ence, Brooklyn Academy of Music and the State Univer-
sity of New York, April 21-24, 1983.

Emery, Lynne. Black Dance in the United States from 1916 to


1970. New York: Dance Horizons, 1980.

Engelbrecht, Barbara. "Swinging at the Savoy." Dance


Research Journal, 15/2, Congress on Research in Dance,
Spring 1983.

Gillie, Brian. Personal interview. Guilford, Conn.,


October 26, 1987.

"Hey Jitterbug!" s.O.S. Carefree Times, Box 8343, Richmond,


'Va. 23226, Mid-Winter 1988, p. 4.
101

Hutchinson, Craig R. Swing America. 1520 Anderson Ct.,


Alexandria, Va., 22312, 13 August 1986.

Lieberson, Richard. Personal interview. New York, August


1986~

Manning, Frank. Personal interview. New York, January 27,


1988.

Hiller, Not'ma. "The Home of Happy Feet: A Salute to the


Savoy Ballroom." Unpublished paper, New York, 1986.

Millman, Cynthia. "The Roving Reporter Asks: Jltterbut,


Lindy Hop, Swing: What's the Difference?1t Footnotes,
ed. Gabby Winkel, Vol. 2, No.3 (July-September 1987),
p. 3.

Ohl, Dorothea Duryea. Dance Magazine, Vol. 30, No. 11


(November 1956), pp. 90-92.

Schoenberg, Loren (formerly with Benny Goodman).· Personal


interview. New York, July 1986.

Stearns, Marshall and Jean. Jazz Dance: The Story of the


American Vernacular Dance. New York: Macmillan
Publishing Co., Inc., 1954.

Stephenson, Richard M., and Joseph Iaccarino. The Complete


Book of Ballroom Dancing. New York: Doubleday« Co.,
1980.

Walker, Ray. Let's Talk Jitterbug, Information and


Education Release from the U.S. Swing Dance Council,
6839 North 14th Street, Phoenix, Ariz., 1987.

Additional Sources

Bennett, Richard. A Picture of the Twenties. London:


Viata Books, 1961.

Blair, Sk~ppy. Disco to Tango and Back. Downey, Calif.:


Golden St8te Teachers' AssOCiation, 1978.

Butler, Albert and Josephine. EncyclopeQia of Social Dance.


102

New York: Albert Butler Ballroom Dance, 1980.

Clarke, John Henrik. Harlem: A Community in Transition.


New York: Citadel Press, 1964.

Dance, Stanley. The World of Swing. New York: Charles


Scribner's Sons, 1974.

De Mille, Agnes. America Dances. New York: Macmillan


Publishing Co., Inc., 1980.

Finkelstein, Sidney. Jazz: A People's Mu~ic. New York!


Citadel Press, 1948.

Fonteyn, Margot. The Magic of Dance. New York: Alfred A.


Knopf, 1979. ~

Frank, A. H. Social nance. London: Routledge« Kegan


Paul, 1963.

Harris, Jane. Handbook ·of Folk, Square and Social Dance.


Minnesota, Burgess Publishing Co., 1950.

Heaton, Alma. Techniques of Teachinq Ballroom Dance.


Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University PRess, 1974.

Holliday, William. "Shagging." Myrtle Beach, Spring, 1986.

Hostetler, Lawrence A. The Art of Social Dancing. New


York: A. S. Barnes & Co., 1934.

Humphrey, Doris. The Art of Making Dances. New York:


Grove Press, Inc., 1959.

Levy, Steven. "Shag Dancing & Top Popping." Rolling Stone,


September 39, 1982.

McDonough, Don. Dance Fever. New York: Random House,


Inc., 1979.

Nettl, Paul. The Storv of Dance Music. New York: Green-


wood Press, 1947.

Rust, Francis. Dance in Society. London: Routledge &


Kegan Paul, 1969.

Will~ams, Martin. The Jazz Tradition. New York: Oxford


University Press, 1983.
103

Visual Horks

A Day at the Races, with the Marx Brothers. MGM, 1937.

Eye on Dance. ARC Videodance, NYCTV. New York 1985.

Hellzapoppin'. Universal, 1941.

The Savoy Ballroom of Harlem. Dir. Mura Dehn .. New York,


1950.

Shag. Dir. Rick Sebak. South Carolina Educational Televi-


sion Network, 1985.

The Spirit Moves.'· Dir. Mura Dehn. New York, 1950.

Various films from the collection of Ernie Smith.

Various films from the collection of the Schomberg L~brarYI


and the Performance Library at Lincoln Center.

Interviews

Dancers

Tom Lewis

George Lloyd

Joseph Maslin, teacher, Colorado

Harold Charles Meade

Musicians and Musicologists

Bryant Dupree, of the Swing Now Trio

Richard Lieberson

Andre Lubart
,
Sevin Manson, faculty, Berkeley Sehool ot Music, Boston
104

Tiny Moore, formerly with Bob Wills

• • •

Special thanks to Margaret and William BatiuchoK, Margaret


Cornehlsen, Donald Young, Susan Batiuchok, Ernie Smith,
Shirley Fietsam, Carol Teten, Harry Driver, Marie Ged, Paul
Berk, Carol Shookhoff, Bob Crease, Gabby Winkel, Ralph
Gabriner, Deena Schutzer, Bruce Sager, and Meredith Stead.

And to my other dance partners: John Clifford Wise, Gary


Kirmayer, Michael Chambers, Roger Weiss, Larry Michol, Dean
Moss, Mark Hollis, "and Carl McGowan, all from City Limits;
Gil Taro, Jerry Ooralnick, Frank Werber, Al Leagins, Calvin
Johnson, Judy Pritchett, Susan Hoffman, Steve Oppenheim, and
Bill Haasters, from the New York Swing Dance S6ciety.

And all my students, and all the members of the N~w York
Swing Dance Society.