The Beginning of the Lindy Hop


Lindy Hop's birthplace was the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, New York. On March 26, 1926, the Savoy opened its doors, and would soon become the epicenter of the Lindy Hop world. The Savoy -- the first integrated ballroom -- was an immediate success with its block-long, 4000 person capacity dance floor, and a raised double bandstand. Nightly dancing attracted most of the best dancers in the New York area. Stimulated by the presence of great dancers and the best bands. The music at the Savoy at the time it opened was largely Hot Jazz and a newly emerging Swing Jazz. Lindy Hoppers competed in massive dance contests every week as two big bands (one on each end of the dance floor) played.

July 4, 1928. On the 18th day of a non-stop dance marathon at the Marathon Casino, the NYC Board of Health had finally closed down the event. Four of the original 80 couples were left standing. Contestant number 7, Savoy Ballroom dance star "Shorty" George Snowden, and his partner shared the prize with the other three couples. Earlier, when the event was still in full swing, people could post a small cash prize with the emcee for a brief mini-contest among the survivors. This was the backdrop in which Shorty's spontaneous throw-out breakaway, and a flash footwork improv, capturing media attention. "What are you doing with your feet?" asked the Fox Movie Tone News interviewer. "The Lindy Hop," replied Shorty George -- Charles A. Lindbergh (aka "Lindy") had recently "hopped" the Atlantic, landing on May 21, 1927. From Shorty George's ad hoc reply, the Lindy Hop was officially given a name.

"Jitter" was the Jazz culture slang for alcohol, and thus a "Jitterbug" was a term for those who drank a lot of alcohol. However, in the mid 1930's, the Lindy Hop started to be called the Jitterbug when the band leader Cab Calloway introduced a tune in 1934 entitled "Jitterbug."

By 1942, the Lindy Hop would be fully renamed as the Jitterbug Jive, or more commonly as the "Jitterbug." It would later share this same name with a later related dance, but the reason why the Lindy Hop was renamed appears to go back to the man referred to as "Lindy" : Charles Lindbergh. Although Charles Lindburgh had been previously praised and celebrated as a hero, his outspoken pro-nazi stance leading up to World War 2 caused him, and his name, to become an object to be shunned. Much like saurkraut was renamed from its German name into the politically correct "liberty cabbage," the Lindy Hop was renamed the Jitterbug Jive, and later on, just the Jitterbug. In time, the term "Lindy Hop" would almost be forgotten about.

Several personal styles of Lindy Hop existed on the floor of the Savoy Ballroom. Two main styles of Lindy Hop would continue after the swing era ended: Frankie Manning's "Savoy Style" and Dean Collins' "Hollywood Style". During the 40's and 50's and later, other styles of swing dance would evolve out of Lindy Hop, including West Coast Swing, East Coast Swing, Rockabilly Swing, Boogie Woogie, Jive, Shag, Bop, Balboa, Imperial, Whip and Push.


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