It is free, it is improvisation, it is fun, it is playful cheekiness, it is
I’ve never seen a Lindy Hopper who wasn’t smiling. It is a happy dance. It makes you feel good.Frankie Manning
Most of us had our experiences with classic ballroom dancing: Men lead women, there are strict patterns and forms and oftentimes it is connected with a certain mannerism. While I also happen to enjoy classic ballroom dancing from time to time, I want to tell you about a different kind of dance. First of all, there is no gender in Lindy Hop, there are only leaders and followers. You can choose whichever role you would like. If you are like me you are not satisfied with one of those and might sometimes even fancy switching between them during one single dance.
Leaders invite their followers to do a certain move but in the end, it is totally up to the followers if they want to go along with it or do their own thing. Improvisation is all over the place. You have all the freedom you would like. You might wonder now, how it is possible that partners dance together like this. That is because leaders and followers choose to follow along known patterns, but while doing that it usually happens that they invent novel ways of interacting. That is because the dance is all about connecting to your partner, about sharing the dance and sharing the fun!
Swing music moves people. Every time I go to a dancing event in a public location I observe people passing by that just can’t help themselves: Taking note of the music, witnessing people dancing and having a good time puts a smile on their face. Especially children start to move along the music. The general rhythm of swing music is very intuitive and gets everyone going.
On the one hand, it is so simple that everyone gets it, as it has its origins in the streets after all, on the other hand, it offers a lot of complexity which leaves room for musicians and dancers to include any kind of complex rhythm variations. What I love about the Lindy Hop is that the music plays an essential role as it is probably the most important part of the dance. The dance is based on a strong fundament of rhythm and you build your movements on top of that.
The aforementioned freedom in the dance enables the dancers to pick up the slightest changes or ornaments in the music. This offers an amazing possibility for musicians and dancers to interact. Some songs, especially Big Band music, might inspire you to do bigger powerful movements, others might lead you to dance more calmly. Note the words “lead” and “inspire”; those are almost the same words I used before to explain the relationship between leaders and followers in the dance. Thus, one might think of the music as an “universal leader” affecting leaders and followers equally.
For many people Lindy Hop is not just a dance, it is a way of life. A big part of dancing the Lindy Hop is going out there and dancing on the “social” dance floor. Sharing a dance with a stranger is one of the best ways to get to know them. The connection through dancing is something profound, a form of communication that can’t be put in words but I would like to give a try:
You look around the dance floor. The band is just starting to play the next song. Your eyes meet with a person you have never seen before. But you already know that you share the same passion, a love for dancing. You walk closer to each other. “Are you up for a dance”. Maybe even without those words, you connect for the first time. Slowly you start moving together: a small introduction in the form of movements. More and more, you start to deepen your connection to that stranger as your movements synchronize guided by the rhythm and the music. Then there it is, you don’t have to think about it anymore, you can’t take the smile off of your face. It is an indescribable feeling shared between you and your partner. For those few minutes, those very few moments of your life you share this deep connection. It is like flying over the dance floor. Pure happiness. You totally lose any sense of time. But then with the last finishing move, the song ends. “Thank you! Thank you very much for that dance!”. Sometimes you will never see that person again, sometimes you might engage in a long conversation afterward and become friends for life. You will never know.
Lindy Hoppers are a crazy bunch. To make those amazing experiences they travel all over the world. They dedicate their lives to spread this passion, the spirit to socialize, the happiness and the connection. I am just starting to explore more and more of that. Up until now, it has been an absolute blast! I have met the most amazing people from all over the world and shared the best dances with them. Spending a weekend at a swing dance festival and maybe dancing for more than 30 hours, just leaves you completely content. Even if your feet and legs might be sore, your mind is free and all your tensions are totally dissolved. Many dancers tend to say: “It is like a drug. If you get affected once, it never leaves you”.
If you think this could be something for you look for a local crowd of dancers. Travel to a festival. Take a course. Watch some videos. Listen to the music. Spread the message! And please, if you happen to cross my path do definitely ask me for a dance!