During 2004, this writer frequented many of the Blues and Jazz clubs throughout Kansas City; most of the time with a talented Lindy Hop follow in tow. While dancing in these public venues, two things became apparent:
- Lindy Hop swing dancing is rarely seen in public where dancers can interact with live musicians in a spontaneous and improvised way.
- The general public appreciates Lindy Hop swing dancing, is curious about its origin, and eager to know where to learn more about it.
When faced with questions about Lindy Hop Swing, the only local resource that could be offered was splanky.com. But as a swing dance message board for people who were already swing dancers, I knew it wouldn't provide answers to the questions asked by the non-dancing public. The other option was to suggest that by typing "Lindy Hop" into any Internet search engine, more information could be found. The downside with this option is that it wouldn't provide any local information or points of contact.
These encounters with the public, and the lack of a resource to refer them to, were the inspiration for a Lindy Hop Web site that would combine information from a wide variety of sources into one detailed account of the history of Lindy Hop Swing, and how it fits into today's dance culture.
In January of 2005, at a back table in Blayney's Westport Blues Bar, the founding president of the Kansas City Lindy Hop Society, Hilary Wright, and I confirmed something we already knew: my interpretation of Lindy Hop swing dancing, its music, and culture was fundamentally the same as those who were now guiding the Kansas City Lindy Hop Society. It was then that I first proposed the idea of a Web site clearly branded to represent vintage Lindy Hop Swing and its history. Moreover, I offered to personally subsidize and create such a Web site if the Kansas City Lindy Hop Society would be interested in making it their home.
In February of 2005, the board of the Kansas City Lindy Hop Society welcomed my proposal and the kclindyhop.org Internet domain was registered. Nine months later, in November 2005, this website was opened to the public.
Closing Remarks and Editorial Comment
And so it goes, one lindy hopper's version of how the African tribal dancing that was imported to America during the slave trade, combined with the European notion of partner dancing, and evolved under the influence of the Jazz Age, Big Band Swing Era, and the swing/shuffle rhythms of Jump Blues Swing to become Lindy Hop Swing culture.
An often heard discussion/debate among contemporary swing dancers is how Lindy Hop needs to grow and evolve. A common argument presented to support this idea is the fact that Lindy Hop was itself a product of evolving dance and musical styles, and that to not continue to evolve and adapt the dance would be a disservice to its heritage.
The problem with this argument is that the evolution of what was once Lindy Hop swing dancing, the continued adaptation of what was once the Lindy Hop style to meet the needs of contemporary music, never stopped. It is very much alive and well, and now exists under the name of West Coast Swing. In other words: What some propose, the growth and evolution of Lindy Hop Swing to keep pace with contemporary music, has already been done once. There is no need to do it again.
Throughout this text the clarifying adjective vintage was used to precede the words Lindy Hop Swing. To those who get the concept of Lindy Hop Swing, this added qualifier is understood and superfluous. Lindy Hop is a swing style from the past. In the early 1980s swing dancers went to great lengths to discover, resurrect, and recreate this dance in its original authentic style. As a Lindy Hop swing dancer, I am in no hurry to force fit this vintage dance style (that was so hard to come by) into modern pop music and dance culture.
While to be sure, some lindy hoppers do toy with the notion of contemporary Lindy Hop. There is, after all, Hip Hop Lindy Hop and occasionally you will hear some non-swing contemporary music at a Lindy Hop event. Though this may be, what lies at the core of Lindy Hop Swing is the spirit of dancing in the African American swing style to the Big Band, Jump Blues, and Jazz swing music that defined America's great Swing Era of the 1930s and 1940s.
This is what defines Lindy Hop swing dancing, its music, and culture.