Favorite Favorites 2010: We Are Lindy Hop

People come to this dance for all kinds of reasons.  A common one is often escapism; dancing as a chance to get away from it all.  Modern life can be filled with a lot of superficial interactions both online and in person.  Social dance gives you an opportunity to for a kind of real and intimate one on one interaction that you can’t find almost anywhere else-at least not without getting tested before or after.

Nina Gilkenson & Todd YannaconeMidwest Lindyfest 2010

Newbies and veterans alike usually have a vision of a perfect dance.  A dance where everything comes together for both people; creatively, physically, and emotionally.  This performance is that dance.

This is about as intimate a social dance as possible in a performance setting.  It’s easy to forget that there’s an audience because they never look in their direction.  Despite that, Nina and Todd command your attention with their quiet confidence and skill.

Frida Segerdahl & Sakarias LarssonHarlem 2010

That same sort of confidence manifests here, but through an almost completely opposite approach.  Frida and Sakarias mix equal parts power and grace for a dance that simply says “This is the Stuff!”

In a social dance community, it’s easy to anonymously melt into a crowded dance floor.  If you ever get the urge to stand up and let everyone know what you’re about, this is how it’s done.  Frida and Sakarias have been dancing together forever, and people have been watching them for almost as long.  If you’re one of those people, you’ll know that there isn’t a whole lot of new material here.  However, you can see in this video other dancers like Andy Reid sitting in front of the band or Ramona Staffeld off to the right; dancers that have seen and done their fair share of great dancing, and you can see nothing but their pure enjoyment of this picture perfect display of Lindy Hop.

Ngora Girl’s School Do The Shim Sham

Not everyone has to be a world renowned dancer to give the gift of Lindy Hop.  I noted earlier this year, that one of the ironies of this dance with it’s significant African roots, is that there are no Lindy scenes in Africa.  Here,  David Jacoby and his wife Kim do their very humble part to bring a some of it back.  I worked with David on Frankie95, and I think we both took away some of the same lessons.  Here, he takes it a bit further, probably inspired by Malou Meyenhofer and Tim Collins’ amazing short film (part I and part II) they submitted as part of the Global Shim Sham for Frankie.

I think about the Shim Sham, and how it’s such a simple routine.  Most anyone that has done Lindy Hop for any amount of time eventually learns Frankie’s version of it.  It’s just part of the culture of this community, and it has been for almost 80 years now.

It’s interesting to think about what sticks with us through our shared cultural memory.  That’s part of what this whole blog is about.  It’s even more amazing to see it played out in front of you in dance form.

Karen Turman & Andrew Thigpen – International Lindy Hop Championships 2010 Showcase

I thought when I saw this performance, and I still do, that this was the performance of a lifetime.  The thing I remember most about it isn’t what happened on the floor during the routine.  It was immediately after when I went to congratulate them as they walked off stage.  Andrew was gasping for air like he just got rescued from a near drowning and Karen was in tears, overwhelmed by the sheer emotion in the room.  Emotion they built up on through a routine that was over 80 years in the making. This wasn’t just a trip down memory lane.  This is a reminder of how a dance community comes together.

Before the weekend, I was talking to one of our people who helps with the event, and he told me that this was going to be his last ILHC.  Working on events as big as this takes a lot out of you.   You put in so much time and effort; so much of yourself into these things, it makes you doubt your sanity at times. But after the night of this performance, he was ready to start work on the next one.

That Saturday was one of the most rewarding days of my life.  I was up for 25 hours straight, and this performance was one of the reasons why I didn’t want to go to sleep.

It was amazing to feel the energy in the room build up as KAren & Andrew worked their way through to newer performances, but my favorite part of this routine is the “ding” at the end.  It’s a little nod to Karen & Andrew’s first piece together.  It was a nice acknowledgement that everything we do here is a culmination and continuation of everything that came before.

“Why I Dance” by Cheryl Crow2010 Swing/Jazz Dancing Video Contest

People come to this dance for all kinds of reasons.  They stay sometimes for different ones.  I won’t ruin this video with my clunky exposition.  It speaks for itself.  The message is simple enough though.

Lindy Hop is not Life.  I am not one of those people that likes to talk about the “magic of the dance.”  I don’t believe it.  I spend a lot of time here deconstructing it.

So many people come into this dance with weird preconceptions.  Of zoot suits and nylons.  Of sailors and pin ups.  Of eye popping aerials and wild kicks.

But even after they learn the more technical nuances of connection and the history of the dance, I still don’t think many people realize what they’re in most of the time.

People like to get wrapped up in the image that dancing gives them.  Whether it’s painting themselves a soulful blues dancer, a technically slick balboa dancer, or a badass lindy hopper.

Eventually people hit a wall when the reality stops helping them maintain these fantasies.  It’s discouraging to discover that people in Lindy Hop are just like people anywhere else; that they can be just as superficial and petty on the dance floor as they are on the street or in the board room or in the classroom.  A lot of those people just leave upon this discovery.  Maybe move on to their next form of escapism.

For me, the people who stay and make this dance worthwhile are the ones that learn to deal with it. In that sense, Lindy Hop is a tool, a way to make sense of who you are, what you want, and how you want to do it.  Like a lot of things in your life, it’s not always pretty and far from perfect.

Raw used to be a popular term many years ago in Lindy Hop.  For some reason it got associated with dancing really fast to old music around these parts.

But raw really was about keeping it real.  Getting people to go outside of the formulaic, and to get them to bring itIt being a piece of themselves to contribute to the fabric of this community.  It’s not just about new stuff, whatever that may be.  New is nice, and as you’ve seen there’s a lot of it to go around.  Rather, it’s about experiencing something honest.

In the end, Lindy Hop is just an opportunity.  One that can be valued as much as it can be squandered.  It’s a chance to either belong and be a part of something larger than yourself or to stand out and make a statement.  It’s a chance to connect to a community, one that spans an entire world, one person at a time.

If you want to be a part of this thing—alongside Nina, Todd, Frida, Sakarias, Kim, David, Karen, Andrew, and Cheryl—all you have to do is just get out there.  But that doesn’t mean leaving behind the real world to enter a different one.

I don’t lindy hop to escape from life.  I do it to enjoy it.  To revel in the things that make it great, and to learn from the things that don’t.  It’s just like anything else out there.  It just happens to have a better soundtrack then most.

Here’s to everyone that made 2010.  Remember Keith,  Benny, and  grandpa.  And as always, Frankie.  Here’s to the hard times and the more whimsical ones.  Here’s to 2011.  Happy New Year!

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10 Comments

  1. Alain Wong said,

    January 7, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    Great post, Jerry. Thank you 🙂

  2. Rachel Green said,

    January 9, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Yeah, you’re pretty much awesome. Very insightful, indeed. 🙂

  3. Paul Roth said,

    January 10, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Great way for me to start the week. We Are Lindy Hop.

  4. Lisa Casper said,

    January 10, 2011 at 11:52 am

    That was beautiful. Thank you for taking the time to reflect on this amazing world we have created and are lucky to be a part of. Anywhere in the world we can go and have wonderful friends who care about us, even if we haven’t met before! Dancing makes me happier than most things. What a lucky life we have!

  5. Kara Fabina said,

    January 10, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    Great post Jerry, I really enjoyed some of the insightful things you have written. I never came to dance for an escape or a community, but have found that it can serve those purposes. I just love to move, create, express and communicate through movement. Never thought I would have been dancing this much and this passionately, but then again the music is pretty rad. Again, thanks for the post… it’s got me thinking about a lot. ❤

  6. January 14, 2011 at 1:53 am

    […] make it work with humility and honesty.   This is the kind of thing that I was talking about in my year end wrap up.  Not every performance has to be super fancy to be memorable.  People don’t usually remember […]

  7. Cassie said,

    April 15, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Cheryl’s video brought tears to my eyes. And your insights are touching, thought provoking, and a great reminder of why I love this dance. Thank you.

  8. April 25, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    […] sharing my story and capturing some of the essence of why we all dance.  It was also featured on a prominent dancer’s blog during his end of the year review.  I was deeply happy to see that the video was also shared […]

  9. Samantha said,

    May 20, 2011 at 7:52 am

    Hello, brilliant post, lots of think about and watch over again!
    I’ve just started my Lindy Hop journey last week after discovering it two weeks ago, I took my own advice and just went for it as there’s no good watching these videos still 6 months down the line and wondering if I’ll ever get the beat and enjoy it as much as others do.
    Thank you for the day’s (and dance) inspiration

  10. December 20, 2012 at 2:55 am

    […] to keep us afloat. Don’t get me wrong. I am fond of saying that Lindy Hop is a lot of things, but it is not an escape. It’s just another way of experiencing the world. One where the most basic element is to find […]


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