You are on page 1of 112

rhe Lindy


Margaret Bat i uchok

Submitted in pa rt ia l fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts

to the fa cult y of t he Gallatin Di v ision of New York Uni v ersi t y

M ay 16,1988


Table of Contents





Thesis Statement




; .

~ .~ l ••••• • •• • •• •




Research Methods










Chapter I: I



Characteristics as a Dance



·· 12


General Forms



Technical Elements


· 16


and E v olution


a) Lind y, Jitterbug , and S w ing : What the Lind y


Developed From and I nto


· 22

Social History: Black Culture


· 39

a) The Lindy: African/American Cu l tural Phenomenon


Additional N otes and Conclusions


Chapter II: A r tistic Aims



Table of Contents

Chapter III: Technical Essay

References .


.• .•




100 ·


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.



"Lindy Dancers, 1988"

Thesis Statement


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


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


By sorting out those

elements and finding out the


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


(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.


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


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.


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.



My main purpose in doing this videotape

the dancing of certain people who I believe

is to capture

to be the best

in the world.

Some are elderly and will not be around much


The younger ones' styles will be changing,

or they

may not continue to dance.

There are no visual records


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.

an inspiration

to other dancers, as well

It can be used as

as a teaching


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


the most about the dance will be the viewing of the


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!).


will attend

dances at the Cat Club presented

by the New York

Swing Dance


of which I am a founding



most all

Lindy dancer s 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


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.


Written material on dance cannot compare to viewing it.


There are very

few films on Lindy dancing

-- two that I know


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

w ith 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


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



is a need

to capture these dancers' styles

while they are still alive and interested in dancing.


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 .




is now so beautiful that is hard

for me to be too


concerned about the changes they underwent; it seems that

any change must have been for the better!

For historical



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


obvious differences in the dancing of those of different


Each dancer dances a different dance,

yet it is all

Lindy, and all of the highest


This is a point I

w ant to make by doing this project, that dancing, especially

Lindy , encourages personal expression and creativity.


are few rules and lId like to explore what

those rules are

and look at the variety of forms that have


been built upon

The videotape will also be a learning

tool that will


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


Teaching videos that I have seen duplicate

this bland approach.

I will attempt

to provide an example

for spiritual


a6 well as to give dancers an

opportunity to study the moves and stylizations that appeal


to them, which they can translate

into their own bodies.


will also discuss and demonstrate basic steps and elements

which they can experiment with and use as tools for creating

their own dance.


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,


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.


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


The Lindy is a


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

Because rhythm is its most essential characteristic,


is called a rhythm


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-


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


I will discuss the more gener&l

forms the Lindy is


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


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

the terms

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


I will reiterate throughout my belief that the best


comes from the "street" or social

dancers, not from

dancers trained in schools for ballroom competitions.


don't feel most dance schools understand

the feeling of the


(there are, of course,

exceptions, such as John

Lucchese and Teddy Kern, who are independent teachers).


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


social scene surrounding the Lindy and 'the dances immedi~


ately preceding it.

I will show how the black influence


American social dance has been great, but not readily


by white society as a whole.

Each dance follows



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.


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

not accepted or commonly seen in some areas.

melting pot takes years to bring two cultures

idea is still

The American

together to

create a third, and years more to participate together

within it.

In the videotape section, I will dance

four dance partners,

the best in the world

the Lindy with

at t~is time


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

same basics, they look different.

to the


In the artistic aims section,

I will analyze my four


partners' stylistic differences in relation to their differ-

ent backgrounds, philosophies, and personalities.


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.




Characteristics as a Dance

The Lindy

is a specific dance which

its step and rhythm patterns, its musical

can be defined by

feeling, and its




I will discuss

its roots and predec-


how it became known

by other names

(Swing and Jit-

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


I will also

have brought about.

discuss the confusion that these change~

General Forms

The Lindy is a social dance, an official


dance, and more importantly, a creative, expressive jazz


Social dances are done at social gatherings and perform

specific social functions; one such function may be a mating


Many people learn to dance

to meet someone of the



Others who already have a mate may dance to


express their sexuality.

Social dancing

is a safe testing


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.


dancing competitions among adolescent street kids are so-

cially preferable to gang wars.


as a fun blend of

music and exercise can ' serve as a physio-psychological


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


artistry and spiritually uplift the participants and audi-


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-


Society was not yet ready to praise

the black

aesthetic and welcome with open arms black people and their


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


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 to me to be the spirit will not seems to me to be

for worry there. The jitterbugs seem

true folk dancers of today.

The folk

be repressed.

exuberantly breaking out in all these jitterbug dances.

And this folk spirit


spirited, joyous,

they show a true and irre-


folk spirit. And

I wouldn't worry about

their being sexy.

terbug is so active, so busy, so near the edge of ex-

I don't think

they are.

A good jit-

haustion, I don't~elieve

It may shock grandmother

he has time to think of sex.

to see the skirts fly out of



his partner slides under

his legs or is .


over his head. But that's gymnastics.


isn't sex.

is not dancing.

I don't guarantee what

But while he

he's doing when he

I feel sure

is dancing,

he is perfectly safe.

you would better watch that quiet couple pressed close

If you want

to worry about sex,

together back in the corner

of the dance hall, hardly

moving as they sway and bend together.

about the jitterbugger. He is burning up steam in a

very sate and entirely moral way. tesque posturing and the wiggling

a bit, he may make a real contribution of the dance. 1

Donlt worry

And once the gro-

hips soften out of it

to the history

The Lindy is also a ballroom


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

dating back to 1350. 2 Unfortunately.

folk and peasant dances

today's ballroom dance

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

mercial reasons, ballroom dancing a more rigid structure


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.


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.


form and character were changed by teachers' associations in

order to be acceptable and easily taught,-

The Lindy is a jazz dance.

most important characteristics.

This is probably

one of its

If it does

not have that

• When the large dance halls closed down after

the war,

ballroom studios kept teaching the Lindy, without the


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,

ativity. so important to the dance, almost disappeared,

until new swing dance enthusiasts recently banded tcgether


input from the street dancers

at the clubs.

The use of improvisation and cre-

and organized new dancing clubs.

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.


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

partner, is of utmost importance.

Jazz dance calls for


which uses technique as a vehicle

rather than as an


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-



fine Lindy or Swing not only as a jazz dance,

a certain rhythmic feeling, is very important.

but as having

To dance

Lindy well, one must understand the music

and the timing of

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


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


Good s w ing music is essential

to achieving the feel-

~ng of the Lindy.

It doesn't have

to be super fast to


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

fessionals or semi-professionals were skilled dancers and wildness was expressed from a base of expertise.

money, or to get jobs.

These pro-

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

Hellzapoppin', and think Lindy has to include aerials.



got the erroneous

idea that Lindy meant jump around and

it as a

tug away.

They might see a back step, misinterpret

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


This kind of imitation · of the Lindy, from

past visual recollections of untrained dancers, is common


and dangerous.

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

It spread a false concept

as well as en-

3) The third source ot the idea of wildness

is inten-

tional misrepresentation for cultural and political reasons,

to ban it from

reversion back to primitivism .

church groups as leading to the decay of the young. Sociol-

"nice" society .

It was termed "wild" and a The Lindy was "condemned" by

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

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.

because it was mixing all races and

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.

and unaccep~abl e , the vitality of swing music and dancing

~a§ impg§§1ble to control. The bali~oom studios eventually incorporated the Lindy into their syllabi.

.Try as they did to exclude the dance as vulgar


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

as in an arc of

the phrase.

Swinging is not a body upswing

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.

enough to drop into the beat with weight,

The body or drum stick is loose

and picked up

exactly afterwards so as to repeat the drop or attack.


end in a splat or finish, but is picked up so

drop does not

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

This can be done

as a bouncing ball.

at any tempo, which

makes it more fun.

more different moves and moods.

The variety opens

up the possibility for

Partnering in the Lindy requires improvisation. The

man and woman can play within the phrase

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.

the baSic steps and phrasing, and how to le~d and follow.

of the basic step

Thus knowing

are essential, but still not enough to execute the dance.



and freedom of the body and feet, control and


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,


The basic a-count step for the man is:


1 o w

1 -










o w







I right







circling around

slow to



around a


a stop


1 a2



5 a6








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

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

basic 6-count step is



1 o W





B low











(single time)

1 a2

3 a 4







(triple time)

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

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


the 6-count could be called II quick-qui'ck, slow, slow."



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


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


?isco to Tango and Back, for further elucidation

on this

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


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-


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


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


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


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


to the Lindy, but Jitterbug

and Swing may refer to


dances as well.

While Swing and Jitterbug are


generic terms, the Lindy is a specific' dance.


The Lindy

rhythm patterns.

includes both a-count and 6-count step and

It originated

in the 1920's and was


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


hO n June 17, 1928, the Manhattan

Casino, a huge

ballroom in

NYC was jammeu


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.


one of the short contests among the surviving couples,


decided to do breakaway, that i~, fling his


out and improvise

a few solo steps of his own.

In" the midst of the monotony

effect was electric. and even the musicians



the marathon, the

came to

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


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


Ohl. on the ballroom

page of the 1956 Dance Maga-

zine, explains

the birth of the Lindy


Legend has it that way back

his historic

in 1927 when Lindbergh


solo flight to Paris,

the people of New


York's Harlem were just as excited


arrived was announced at the Savoy Ballroom, Harlem's

best known dance spot, pandemonium broke loose.

as the rest of the

Would he make it?


the news that he had


jumped for joy; strangers pounded one another 1n glee.

One young man, overcome

by the thrill,

took off over


floor, shouting, "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


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


the new dance


(the Lindy) from the dances

that went before

Many sources (Marshall Stearns, Ernie Smith, Brian


and Richard Powers) claim the Lindy is supposed


be a direct descendant

of the Texas


but no one seems

to know exactly what that dance looked


slang for prostitute,

and the dance appeared

"Tommy" is

in the red

light district of San Francisco between

1905 and 1910.-


was danced by black couples performing at Lew Purcell's


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


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


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


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.


have the same 8-count rhythm pattern

had, quick-quick, slow; quick-quick, slow.

that the Lindy

Charleston re-

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

In the 1928

film After Seben,11 three couples do a closed position


Shorty George Snowden,

one of the creators


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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.

not discuss

this question with Frank or George prior

(I did

to the

interview, and the two together supported my own independent


that the Lindy came from the Two-step

and the


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.


new dances.

changes had a lot to do with the creation


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



sense to look at differences. 14

People get bored and


a change, a rebellion

from the past ,

or something to


their own.

( Kids don't want to do the same dance


their parents.)

Ragtime music, a new march-like music with

many rhythmic syncopations, became popular.


the One-step, a new and easy dance

People started

that anyone could


Originally called the Four - step, it was simply walking


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

o f the greatest

s w ing music, such as that of Benny Moten and

Count Basie.)

Blues dances were close held one-steps .

mal Dances, such as the clutching Grizzly

Bear, were the



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 •



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


In 1917, the Original New Orleans

New York.

~azz Band opened in

There was not much dancing

during World War I, but the


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 Walter Page, bassist

of the Count Basie band,


played a four-beat walking bass, whic h added a new dimension

to swing music.

It traveled more, and added

excitement of the dancers.

to the

Music, previous dances, social climate and reactions,

and the desire

to try something new, to create something


to one's own generation,

birth of a new dance.

all add up to the magical

The Lindy Hop became known as the Jitterbug

in the


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


I found different

opinions among almost everyone

I spoke


According to

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

Lindy Hoppers,

a group which toured

the world

dancing on stages and in films, said Jitterbug

in the 40's,

was a derog-

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

good. 16


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


Frank Manning. also a former member of Whitey's


Lindy Hoppers, said,

Lindy and swing are the same.


as rock'n'roll was a white version of rhythm and blues.

Jitterbug is from the

It was a white

It's bouncier and faste~.


It's also more what was done in the 50's than the lindy

which was smoother. contain aerials. 17

The jitterbug doesn't necessarily

Rebecca Reitz, a young white dancer, said,

was a dancer in her youth in the 40'S would

"My mother who


'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"


The term Jitterbug was first used in the southern part

of the country to describe people who displayed

symptoms of secondary syphilis, ·uncontrollable jerking

and trembling and lack of muscular control.

servers were apparently unable to perceive the precise


Such ob-

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

with it~ We became Jitterbugs and for the most part,

we accepted the title with good grace and tolerant



The general pUblic, however,

did not view us in our kind of dancing view, and so dif-

turn with equal tolerance. Because

new to the public

ferent tram anything

was so completely

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


in manners and morals.

That was the general


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


mu~ic, we were less and less

ot years. By the 1950's, we we~e referring to our-


selves as swing dancers, and the term Jitterbug

capable of doing justice

to this new and exciting

maligned with the passing


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"


plainlng where the term "Jitterbug" came from.

In the 30's,

in his band that nipped the sauce too much.

tell him, "Bette~ - quit drinking

Cab Calloway had a hep cat trombone player

Cab would

that bug juice, man, or

you'll shake and jitter to death."

Cab's band were calling the 'bone player a "Jitterbug."


the guys in

The phrase stuck and spread around the black musical

community to mean one that was super hip those days.

(or "hep" in

Later the meaning

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

changed to the name of the dance.


To the police of D.D. [Ocean Drive,

strip in Myrtle Beach), "Jitterbug"

with long hair and draped pants for the pokey!20


the nightclub/beach once meant all guys . prime candidates

Craig Hutchinson of Alexandria, Virginia, sections his

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

Jitterbug," "Forties Swing,"

Solo," and "Seventies Hustle."



Ro ck t n t Ro Ll i "


In "Thirties Jitterbug," he

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

dancer at the black dance clubs

with fast feet was called a flash

kids hooked on Jitterbug

were called "jive


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.


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


He said,

The word "Jitterbug" came from a radio announcer

covering the 1936 or 7 Harvest Moon ball.

Movietone news

dancers, "They all look like Jitterbugs." caught on after that . 22

It was on

and he said, referring

to the Lindy

And so it

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


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


it's derogatory, others complimentary.}

To me, Jitterbug,


to the Lindy, means the same thing,

but I would not

use it unless someone did not know the word



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.


often call Lindy "East Coast Style" to distinguish

it trom



Coast Swing, and also to give

Lindy, Shag, and West Coast

the East Coast a better

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


The three vary in when, at which point in the

rhythm pattern, the partners move away and towards one


shag is the official dance of S~uth Carolina.



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


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).

to what is called beach music, a slow rhythm

Shag is done

and blues.

West Coast S w ing 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.


styling is more like

modern television jazz as opposed to old black jazz.


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


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


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-


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


hip, knee, and fast foot movements

in more complex

rhythm patterns.

To confuse things even more, Western


which is short

West Coast Swing used

for Country Western Swing, is what

to be called.


there is a move

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


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


Country Western Swing.

It is done in closed position,


cling around, with the inside foot rooted

like it is on a


The beat is even

one-step with the downbeat


Thus, ironically, the major difference between the


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

dances very different stylings and feelings.


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


Washington , D.C.) and

in the West (Washington, Colorado) is


a 6-count,

and thus lacks the flow and smoothness

8-count gives the danc~.

(I have

recently been asked to


teach for the DC society, who have expressed

an interest in


the a-count, so this may change

in the near

future . )


the 8-count,

it is not

the Lindy and does

not have the Lindy feel .

The English International Ballroom dance "Jive" is sup-


to be a derivation

of the Lindy,

the same way their

T ango

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



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


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.


spoke to one of the members of the Swedish

swing Society


said he never does any social


he is too busy



He is a serious competition dancer.

His dancing

lacked the smooth finesse of a social dancer.

His lead was

heavy and rough,

.not already know

and he had trouble

leading those who did

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


and walk in Europe is different


the way people lounge and walk

in the United States.


climate and thus the dancing is physically looser and freer


The Lindy is not always

lunges, twists, and bounces.

or moderate tempos.

done fast with frantic

It can also be danced to slow


Social History:

Black Culture


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,


one tha t 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.


time this happens

the dance is so changed

sometimes by the

that only the name

reminds us that it is the same dance.

From black pertorm-

ance of Cakewalk,

to Charleston,

to Lindy, to Breaking,


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!


Anne Barzel in the Danee ~neyclopedia writes l "M~d~rn


ballroom dance has its roots in the religiou~ritual,


funeral, the wooing, initiation and war dances of primitive

times. n24

European white formalism was combined with

African rhythm.

Lynne Emery in Black

States from 1916 to 1970 writes,

Dance in the


The heart and soul of Africa

drum, and the rhythms of its dance

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

is, in effect, a gigantic

are basic to social

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 twentieth century.27

dances of the early

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.


were danced for fun and spirited enjoyment rather than for

grace and proper etjquette.


All shocked

the public at first

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


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.


(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.)


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


After the Civil War, there was a slow migration


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-


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


"Jook houses" and segregated dance halls sprang up


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' . "eatedsteps 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


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


of the dance (the Big

Apple) .36 When blacks mov~d


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


influential in the development of the Lindy. They were

u sed 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 ,


blacks moved North; Harlem grew from 50,000 blacks

in 191 4 to 80,000 by 1920, to 200,000

by 1930. 39


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


on how to do the dance.

of dance songs with in-

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,


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



in this and The Merry Widow

in 1907, they decided


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,

to pay for them.

The Castles

and the wealthy

had th~ money


a book of proper


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.


Castle, an amateur jazz

drummer himself, appreciated African rhythms Gnd actually


doing the animal dances,

watching black dancers. 46

which he would pick up from


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~


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


a show, which had specific


Everyone would want to

see the new dance and learn to do it,


the song and the show.

thus helping to popu-

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,"

the show.

written for

The Charleston'~ popularity was soon superseded by that

of the Black Bottom 48 (although the Charleston's simplicity

and unique character made it lastingly more populdr through-

out the years).

The Black Bottom hit Broadway in George



of 1926, to a DeSilva,

Brown and Henderson


The original "Black Bottom" song was published by


Bradford as a dance instruction

song in 1919.


dance was

"as old as the hills"

but didn't gain popularity


the 1926 show with the new Black Bottom song with its


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

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.


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



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


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.


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.

was a ,real status symbol to be a member

of his gang.




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

In turn,

this emotional climate was reflected in the tireless vigor and daring invention of the Lindy, or Jitter-


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

few who became deeply interested in dancing.


to stardom in films and

world touring shows.

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

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

It was the black dancers from this en-

"nobodies" in a poor environment,

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


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


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


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

plus a way to make money