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Why I like Lindy Hop

Today would have been Frankie Manning’s birthday. For those that don’t know, Frankie was one of the key inventors of the Lindy Hop (he invented the air step and choreographed the famous Hellzapoppin’ routine) and the key figures of the revival. He was still dancing at 94. Check out this short documentary “Never Stop Swinging” for more. Frankie continues to be an inspiration to lindy hoppers everywhere.

I’m stuck in rural Victoria at a 2-day meeting so I’ll miss out on being around other dancers to have a dance in Frankie’s memory so I thought I’d try and do so in another way. Frankie’s love of the dance and his willingness to share it is one of the things that I find so inspiring. So I thought I’d share why I love Lindy Hop.

It’s fun (aka ‘Yeah superlative lindy hop’)
To me, Lindy Hop is the purest form of joy. When I’m dancing I feel like it just me, my partner and the music in the room, in that moment. All that is outside, past or future fades away for that instant. Or to put it in geekspeek the stimulation of the auditory and tactile centres of the brain combines to strongly stimulate the pleasure and reward centres by releasing large quantities of endorphins. (Okay so maybe not quite right, but I’m a physicist, not a neurobiologist).

It’s creative (aka the nerdy lindy hopper phenomenon)
I’m a physicist by training and a bureaucrat by trade neither of which are two particularly creative professions. Yet I love the creativeness that dancing brings into my life. This must not be unusual; plenty of people have made the observation that there are large amount of nerdy types who dance. Perhaps it makes us feel cool, perhaps we get to be around other types but I just love letting loose and indulging in my creative side.

There’s no rules (aka There’s no wrong moves, only new moves)
Part of the creativity of Lindy Hop is that there’s only a basic structure to the dance. You’re free to do whatever you want within that – if it can be led and followed then it’s fair game. Invent your own style, mix in bits of other dances. I’m sometimes a bit skeptical of how we apply the label “street dance” (more on that in the future) but if it is a street dance it’s this lack of rules that makes it so.

Swing music is some of the greatest music ever created 
Some people might disagree but I believe that music and dance are intimately connected; any music that isn’t trying to make people dance is missing something. There’s plenty of music as art out there and much of it is good music but it’s not great music. Great music is dance music, and swing music is the best dance music there is. Through the beauty of the human brain, music is the only artform that can quite literally move people. And swing music moves people in amazing ways – in ways that are more connected with the music than in almost any other dance.

It’s a fantastic icebreaker
“Hi, would you like to dance?” has got to be the best way to introduce yourself to a stranger. I’m a socially awkward person normally but get me out on a dancefloor and it’s like I can suddenly talk to people (and not just women either).

Lindy Hoppers are great folk
I don’t know whether lindy hop attracts good people or makes you a better person. Probably a bit of both, but the number of friendly, dedicated, caring, funny, gorgeous people that are lindy hoppers is amazing. And many of them will be so for complete strangers too. Last year when I travelled to the US on a music and dancing holiday I was taken aback by people in the dances scenes that would take me in – it was like instant friends. More broadly the people who pour themselves into organising events and exchanges, reach out to help another dancer and just be so warm and welcoming is amazing and will keep me coming back, time and time again.

Oh and it makes you smarter too.

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1 Comment

  • Oi. Physicists are creative thank you very much! 😛 Well… at least I am! Some physicists need to get out more thats all. Maybe you should stage a Lindy Hop Intervention to physics departments? It would be a good charitable cause for me to contribute to!

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