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Swing dancing on Australian screens

I found a video today through Yehoodi of some jitterbug dancers in 1961. The poster expressed a bit of surprise to find footage of swing dancing in the 1960’s. This got me thinking about the history of lindy hop in Australia – something I have an interest in but have never had the time, and still don’t, to go research properly.

I thought I’d turn to the intertubz to see what I could find…

Although there’s record of Lindy Hop making it’s way to Australia before World War II (The Big Apple was being taught in Sydney in early 1938 and Frankie Manning and a troupe of Harlem dancers performed in Australia in 1938 and 1939) it seems that it wasn’t caught on film until 1940.

I’ve done some searching on the National Film and Sound Archive website and come up with a list of clips that I’d be interested in checking out. Unfortunately the majority of the holdings of the NFSA are very difficult to access and impossible to reproduce without permission from the copyright holder. I’ll put this on the list of longer term projects and see what I can come up with…

The British Pathé does have a few clips available. This one features a couple of young swing dancers and a bunch of kids joining in – reminds me of Groovie Movie

1943: This clip details the R&R experience of an American serviceman in Australia. It’s not clear where this was shot, but it certainly shows a rather different view of the War in the Pacific.

1944: This film show footage from a Jitterbug contest in July of 1944. It’s difficult to say where this was shot, contests were occurring in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, even Papua New Guinea.
The Australian Jitterbug Championships, which saw contestants from all over the country compete, were first held in the early 40s (probably 1940 or 41) and continued until at least 1954

Here’s a few more modern videos charting some of the Lindy Hop revival. There’s not a lot of information out there about how the revival got going in Australia. The prevailing assumption is that it first got going through groups of Rock and Roll dancers (who danced rock and roll back in the 60s when it was very popular) where it is still danced today – it’s also how I first started dancing. I need to go and do some more research and talk to some folk to learn more.

1995?: The early days of the revival in Australia

1997: Frankie Manning returns to Australia

2001: Competition Lindy Hop in Sydney

2003: The Today Show and ABC’s Stateline featured the return of the Australian Jitterbug Championships:

I’ve also tracked down the first group email newsletter from Swing Patrol in Sydney 

There’s plenty of other recent footage out there on the intertubz, but if anyone else knows of anything older, particularly vintage footage or clips from the 90s please let me know. I’m going to keep updating this post; it will be linked on my Lindy History page.

Posted in clips, history, lindy

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