From my lindy hop population post I discovered the swing dancing subreddit. During a discussion about a swing dance evolution infographic someone threw down the gauntlet to make an improved evolutionary tree and I (perhaps foolishly) picked it up.
Here’s the result (click on the image to load a viewer for the chart – complete with hyperlinks for most of the dances):
I’ve got mixed feelings about this chart. Whilst it’s an improvement over what’s currently out there it’s still rather reductionist. I know the real Lindy Hop historians are unlikely to be impressed, hence one of the reasons why I’ve gone to some lengths to emphasise on the chart it’s inaccurate nature.
Truth be told I’m not sure you could ever draw a decently accurate evolutionary tree. Even if you could pin down dates and names there are two obvious problems:
- Firstly there would be way more edges in the graph. All the dances being danced by the same people at the same time in the same place would have obviously influenced each other and movements of people around the United States and the world would have moved them around. How would you measure the influence of one dance on another – what would qualify as a link?
- Much of what’s written down and documented (aside from folk like Mura Dehn and Marshall Stearns – and even they aren’t necessarily 100% reliable) comes from (white) dance teachers who often invented simplified versions of steps that they saw in the ballrooms, gave them fancy names, and got their picture in the newspaper – but it’s unclear how many people actually danced these forms. What’s the criteria for including a dance in the first place? EDIT: I also don’t think I make clear that many of the ‘evolutions’ of dance forms involved the appropriation of Black vernacular forms by white dancers for profit – making them less cultural evolution and more cultural theft. The lines in the infographic should in no way be interpreted as neutral or natural – they obscure what was often dastardly conduct.
But enough from me – I’m no historian. So I’d welcome comments from those who are, tearing this apart. 🙂