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Evolution of the Lindy Hop
October 3, 2010 8:54 AM   Subscribe

This year at the International Lindy Hop Championship, Andrew Thigpen and Karen Turman’s routine showcased the Evolution of Lindy Hop (a takeoff on the Evolution of Dance) – from its origins as a variation on the Charleston to the Gap Khaki commercial to its current incarnation.

Today’s lindy hoppers are steeped in history, drawing inspiration and stealing moves from the greats like Whitey's Lindy Hoppers (if you watch no other clips, watch this one!), Dean Collins and Jewel McGowan, Shorty George and Big Bea, and the many unnamed dancers captured on film. Andrew and Karen’s dance was a great way for dancers to connect with their “heritage,” and a number of people have dissected the dance into its many parts (via):

After SebenA Day at the RacesThe Big AppleGroovie MovieMama Lou ParksThe Shim ShamThe Jitterbug StrollThe Rhythm Hot Shots!The movie "Swingers"The Gap commercialErik Robinson and Sylvia Skylar at the 1998 ALHC (American Lindy Hop Championships)Minnie's Moochers at the 1999 ALHCTodd Yannacone and Emily Jo Hoffburg at the 2001 ALHCMad Dog at the 2002 ALHCKevin St. Laurent and Carla Heiney at the DoghouseKevin St. Laurent and Carla Heiney - Love Me or Leave Me at Montpellier Swing Dance FestivalTodd Yannacone and Naomi Uyama2005 Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown - Fast DivisionThe Silver Shadows at the 2005 Ultimate Lindy Hop ChampionshipThe Silver Shadows at the 2006 American Lindy Hop ChampionshipSkye Humphries and Frida Segerdahl at the 2007 Ultimate Lindy Hop ShowdownMax Pitruzella and Annie Trudeau at the 2008 International Lindy Hop ChampionshipAndrew Thigpen and Karen Turman at Lindy Focus 2008The California Rolls at the 2009 International Lindy Hop ChampionshipThe Silver Shadows at Frankie's 95 Birthday Tribute, in 2009
posted by ChuraChura (16 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

Excellent means of displaying reproductive fitness for mate selection. Both sexes demonstrate their overall body strength and cardiovascular health over the course of the dance. The male repeatedly lifts the female off the floor to indicate that he is capable of heavy labor and can help "support" his mate and her offspring during parturition and infancy. The female spreads her legs wide and pumps her thigh muscles to show that she has a wide enough birth canal and sufficient lower body strength to bear many children.
posted by Faze at 9:39 AM on October 3, 2010 [5 favorites]

What fun! Thanks for this.
posted by farishta at 9:40 AM on October 3, 2010

For those unaware, "Jack and Jill" means that dancers have been paired at random and are judged individually with each dance.
posted by rouftop at 9:40 AM on October 3, 2010

(That is, the Jack and Jill dances are 100% improvised. While at this level it's unlikely, it's possible the partners are meeting each other for the first time.)
posted by rouftop at 9:41 AM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Terrific post. There's some awesome routines here but, to me, the highlighted vid is the weakest. Andrew and Karen seem very stiff and without any grace. Their routine seems rushed and about as thought out as their costumes. A denim skirt for lindyhop just seems bizarre to me. I know it's supposed to harken back to the Evolution of Dance guy but it really falls flat and takes away from any looseness she might have. Maybe I just don't care for their style as I thought their hillbilly routine poor as well.

My favorite was this one. The dance is fluid, inventive, surprising, varied, fun, and graceful. The same dancers from 2010 kicked ass and Trudeau even manages to make the tight skirt work.
posted by dobbs at 9:43 AM on October 3, 2010 [5 favorites]

Show offs.
posted by Diablevert at 9:47 AM on October 3, 2010

I appreciate the creativity behind the routine (and great post, ChuraChura!) but that's not very good dancing, strictly speaking -- it's sloppy, all over the place, out of sync, and sorta a mess. Or am I missing something? I spent a lot of time at the Derby in Los Feliz 10 or 15 years ago when swing dancing was at its peak. Maybe it's just nostalgia, but I recall those dancers being generally better in comparison to Andrew & Karen. Or am I missing part of the point to the ILHC?
posted by incessant at 9:48 AM on October 3, 2010

Their dance was definitely not meant to impress with its virtuosity. It was more like an in-joke for the lindy hop community, and I think part of the sloppiness was that it was taking such a huge range of dance styles and putting them together in one thing. Plus the original Evolution of Dance video wasn't full of brilliant displays :-P

If you look at other dances from ILHC over the past couple of years, you can see the level of competition is ridiculous. Dobbs pointed to Max and Annie's 2010 piece, which is insane. Their dance from 2009 is probably my favorite lindy routine ever, except for Helzapoppin'.
posted by ChuraChura at 10:07 AM on October 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

except for Helzapoppin'
Indeed. I'm glad that these young people are out there doing this, because maybe I'll get to see something like this live someday, which you can tell by the crowd sounds must be extremely exciting. But Helzapoppin' is an extremely high bar to reach.
posted by bitslayer at 11:25 AM on October 3, 2010

Is there any formal connection between this and skanking? Is the kind of step back and kick thing basic enough that it's just convergent evolution?
posted by cmoj at 12:21 PM on October 3, 2010

What amazes me is the violence inherent in these dances especially with the throws. These people aren't being picked up and encouraged along through the air as in ballet but are being flung in what is, I assume, an attempt at escaping the Earth's atmosphere. Added to this all the times each person throws her or himself to the ground only to be stopped in the nick of time by the partner. Really cool stuff.
posted by bfootdav at 4:27 PM on October 3, 2010

"They're all desperadoes, these kids, all of them with any life in their veins; the girls as well as the boys; maybe more than the boys."
--- from "Flaming Youth," by Warner Fabian
These kids today with their jazz records, lewd dancing, and lack of respect.
posted by TheProudAardvark at 5:27 PM on October 3, 2010

Thank you for this post--it's great. I love watching this kind of dancing. Max and Annie are my favourite--they make it look so smooth and effortless.

bfootdav: What amazes me is the violence inherent in these dances especially with the throws. These people aren't being picked up and encouraged along through the air as in ballet but are being flung in what is, I assume, an attempt at escaping the Earth's atmosphere. Added to this all the times each person throws her or himself to the ground only to be stopped in the nick of time by the partner. Really cool stuff.

Ah memories. I am not someone blessed with good coordination or a sense of rhythm, but during the height of the swing dance revival my university offered discounted lessons for students, so I took advantage and signed up. By sheer luck I got assigned a partner who was a fabulous dancer. We were taught how to do those throws and swings and flips so no one got hurt, and it was exhilarating. It wasn't until someone brought a video camera to class and I could actually watch one of our routines that I realized how close my head was coming to the floor and how far up I was being thrown to the ceiling. Crazy stuff. I couldn't dance like that now if my life depended on it, but it was sure fun at the time.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:57 PM on October 3, 2010

Love the Erik & Syliva video from 1999. Love the smooth Hollywood style. I will account taking lessons from E&S at the Derby in the late 1990s to helping restore my relationship with my grandpa, as we now can dance the Balboa at family weddings. Grandpa is always surprised that I know the Balboa.

But where is Ben Yau in your video list?! There used to be a video of Ben & Jenny winning the Lindy Hop Championships in the early 2000s, but I can't find it now.
posted by msjen at 9:58 PM on October 3, 2010

Well I don't know if anything can beat Hellzapoppin for sheer energy, but Lindy Hip Hop (Previously, the original link to the video in the post was taken down) has to be my favorite lindy hop routine.

And it might be west coast swing and not lindy but Jordan Frisbee and Tatiana Mollman have some of the best dances I've seen that really fuse with the music, music not normally associated with swing dancing. When the dancing connects with hits and the pauses of the music, that's where it gets fun.

I've been traveling for a little while now and damn this makes me miss dancing!
posted by wilburthefrog at 5:09 AM on October 4, 2010

Enjoying these links! I'll toss out one of my favorite jack and jills - Peter Strom and Emily Jo Hoffberg. You watch this for a minute and you just forget they have arms. It's just two connected cores moving the floor.
posted by lholladay at 10:48 AM on October 5, 2010

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