Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Two Archival Lindy Hop (Swing) Dance Videos

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides information about The Lindy Hop (Swing) and showcases two archival Lindy Hop (Swing) dance videos.

My thanks to Whitey's Lindy Hoppers, the choreographers, dancers, musicians, and producers of these film clips. Thanks also to the uploaders of these videos and the authors of the information that is quoted.

The Lindy Hop is an American dance that evolved in Harlem, New York City in the 1920s and 1930s and originally evolved with the jazz music of that time. Lindy was a fusion of many dances that preceded it or were popular during its development but is mainly based on jazz, tap, breakaway and Charleston. It is frequently described as a jazz dance and is a member of the swing dance family.

In its development, the Lindy Hop combined elements of both partnered and solo dancing by using the movements and improvisation of black dances along with the formal eight-count structure of European partner dances...

Revived in the 1980s by American, Swedish, and British dancers, the Lindy Hop is now represented by dancers and loosely affiliated grass roots organizations in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Oceania

The name "Lindy Hop" is said to have been coined by Savoy dancer "Shorty" George Snowden as a referent to aviator Charles Lindberg, although the Hop dance was performed years before Lindberg's trans-Atlantic flight. Read about the history of the Lindy dance (Swing)on that Wikipedia page given above, including this quote from African American writer Langston Hughes:
As white people began going to Harlem to watch black dancers, according to Langston Hughes: "The lindy-hoppers at the Savoy even began to practice acrobatic routines, and to do absurd things for the entertainment of the whites, that probably never would have entered their heads to attempt for their own effortless amusement. Some of the lindy-hoppers had cards printed with their names on them and became dance professors teaching the tourists. Then Harlem nights became show nights for the Nordics.

Source: Langston Hughes (1940). The Big Sea. New York: Hill and Wang. - cited in Lynne Fauley Emery (1972). Black Dance in the United States from 1916 to 1970. National Press Books. ISBN 0874842034.


Video #1: Hellzapoppin' (1941) - Whitey's Lindy Hoppers w/ Dancers' Names - Harlem Congaroos

SwingcatVB, Published on Aug 10, 2012
Lindy Hop / Swing Dance scene from the movie - Hellzapoppin' - One of the top lindy hop swing dance scenes complete with aerials ever in the movies.
Film Clip Description:
This scene depicts various Black employees spontaneously interrupting their work to play musical instruments & dance. When the Black men & women realize that they are being viewed by their White employees, they stop dancing & playing music, and return to their assigned work.

Were it not for racism, these dancers & musicians would have been the stars of the planned show instead of backstage laborers & other support people.

Video #2: Day At The Races Movie [swing dance scene]

Uploaded by themindstripper on Sep 1, 2007

The whole beautiful, inspiring dancing scene of Whitey's Lindy Hoppers.

Film Clip Description:
The scene begins with a White pied piper figure [one of the Marx brothers who were stars of that movie] playing his flute for a White couple who ignore him. He then moves on to the barnyard where he interrupts Black girls jumping rope, and other Black children at play [The longest focus is of boys engaged in the lower class pastime of shooting dice. ]The children ask "Who dat man?" and answer "It's Gabriel!' (meaning the Biblical archangel) singing a Gospel tinged song.

Unlike the White couple who brush the pied piper off, the Black children and adults quickly drop what they are doing, form a circle and dance for the pied piper, and supposedly for themselves.

In my opinion, the set up for this dancing, and some of the antics found in the dancing displays and reinforces a prevailing White view at that time of Black people as coons, meaning immature, happy, care-free, non-threatening, and superstitous people who love to dance.

Click to read a compilation of YouTube comments about whether the Whitey's Lindy Hoppers dance scene in the "Day At The Races" film is racist or not.

Also, for a largely non-dance related critique of this film clip and a non-dance related critique of neo-Swing in general, click Race, Appropriation, & Lindy Hop: How to Honor our Heroes.

OTHER RELATED LINKS African American Jazz Dances

This compilation post features videos of Jazz Dances such as The Big Apple, The Black Bottom, The Charleston, and more.

** Gap Commercial - Khaki Swing

This 1998 commercial for The Gap stores feature White "Swing" dancers. Contrary to the uploader's comments, several viewers indicated that this commercial helped to occurred toward the end of the Swing dance trend (in the USA), and may have even helped to usher in the end of that trend (although there are still some people in the USA & elsewhere who are avid Swing dancers).

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