The following is part two of a questionnaire that Skye Humphries filled out for an article entitled “The Party’s Just Begun” that appeared in August 31, 2008. It only used a few sentences out of the 12 page response that Skye sent back. It’s a print magazine, so it’s not available online. Skye sent this to me last summer just to read. I thought it was too interesting not to share, so I asked him permission to post it here. Since it’s pretty long, I’m chopping it up into four parts. You can find part 1 here, part 3 here, and part 4 here.
What are some of the “core moves” of the Lindy Hop?
The basic of the Lindy Hop is the Swing Out: a circular step done in eight beats in which the partners come together and then move apart. I have never seen anything so perfectly put together, there is no more versatile or meaningful basic in any dance I’ve seen.
Charleston is another important step- the famous dance step from the twenties is crucial to Lindy.
There are other classic steps and classic combinations of steps, but for me those are the most important.
Lindy Hop is a cumulative dance, it bears little imprints of all the things that have come before it. And today it continues to accumulate bits and pieces. It is an expansive dance that has space to encompass many things.
Are Lindy Hop moves improvised? Planned? Both?
Lindy Hop is both planned and improvised. There is any number of ways to dance the Lindy Hop, but there is always room for both improvisation and planning in the Lindy Hop.
I would say, and most dancers would probably agree, [that] there is more of an emphasis on improvisation, and certainly traditionally, the dance is more of an improvisational than a planned dance; but there can be planning as well.
A great many moves have been passed down, or taken from old clips and formalized, but many moves are improvised as well, or – like the Swing Out in which the partners come together and then break away – there is space for both.
The Swing Out has a basic shape that brings the partners together and then takes them apart. When they break away there is room for improvisation. The Swing Out embodies and reconciles this tension in the dance: the connection between the partners when they come together and their freedom as individuals when they break away. Many people point to that “break-away” as the central innovation of Lindy Hop. Certainly it-and the freedom it allows-is integral to the basic step, and from there, informs the rest of the dance.
Lindy Hop, like the music to which it is danced, is based on a simple structure; a structure that should be limiting, but in fact is quite the opposite. The simplicity of structure allows for great complexity. Lindy Hop is so refreshing because it has certain structures (partners, a basic step, a consistent and simple rhythm) that allow for great communication.
Is there such a thing as a “mistake” in the Lindy Hop
It is very difficult to make a “mistake” in Lindy Hop. However, I would differ from other people in this: I think the great appeal of Lindy Hop is not it’s lack of right and wrong, but instead is this simplicity of structure. By having [a] clear structure the dance allows [for] great improvisation and communication.
Improvisation isn’t about doing away without all rules or all structures or all forms. It is about subverting those rules, reworking the structures from the inside, allowing one’s self to fill the form of the dance and then refashioning it. Improvisation comes from mastery of structure not its dissolution, and this is one of the real beauties of Lindy Hop. Its form is an incredible achievement. Its basic step is a complex negotiation between the couple and the individual. It leaves so much space.
To me the only mistake is to approach Lindy Hop as formless or structure-less [by] ignoring the rhythm, ignoring ones partner, ignoring the music, [or] ignoring how the dance has been done in the past.