- Claude Conyers
An exuberant and often acrobatic social dance for couples. The Lindy hop originated in the ballrooms and dance clubs of Harlem in New York City in the late 1920s. Developed from four popular social dances of earlier days—the Charleston, the collegiate, the breakaway, and the Texas tommy—it consists of a common vocabulary of steps, which are danced in random order. The characteristic step is the swingout, in which the man, exploiting centrifugal force, swings his partner out of a closed position, holding her by only one hand to guide her outward and then bring her back into coupled position. In addition to standard steps, the Lindy hop lends itself to improvisation, which sometimes reaches wild and extravagant heights.
Most sources agree that the name “Lindy hop” became attached to the dance soon after Charles Lindbergh completed the first solo transatlantic flight on 20 May 1927, heralded in the tabloid press as a “hop” across the ocean. George Snowden, a diminutive dancer known as Shorty George and a star performer in Harlem ballrooms, is credited with coming up with “Lindy hop” as the name. During a dance marathon at Manhattan Casino, he cut loose with a breakaway hop and was asked by reporters what he was doing with his feet; he replied “The Lindy hop,” thus giving a new and catchy name to a basic breakaway step. The name was soon extended to identify a whole new dance....