Wearing zoot suits and skirts that twirl, Lindy Hoppers are making lots of whoopee from coast to coast
Dance studios that once offered a few classes now find that they are packing in the crowds and swing dancing is the reason why. The dancers, many in their 20s, are spinning mooching and trucking with varying degrees of skill to the syncopated jump blues of Big Joe Turner and Louis Jordan.
Swing dancing is enjoying a loud and rambunctious revival in nightclubs, ballrooms and dance studios. The music is raucous and high-decibel, and so are the crowds. At gyms and ballrooms, dancers too young to remember Tommy Dorsey, or even Talking Heads, are bopping to the stripped-down, speeded-up sound of electrified bands — swing with a backbeat. The bandleaders of the new “retro” bands, following the lead of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and the Brian Setzer Orchestra, are more apt to play a cranked-up electric guitar than a clarinet.
In New York, the scene ranges from the swank Supper Club to the more casual 92nd Street YMHA, where the eclectic mix includes retired longshoremen and dreadlocked actresses, dance teachers and dance-challenged street peddlers. Wherever there are swing dancers, there is also the look: vintage 1940s dresses, wide-brimmed fedoras, rolled hairstyles and red, red lipstick.
From the Spanish Ballroom in Washington, D.C. to the Derby in Hollywood, the best swing dancers are literally thrilling to watch, and the fluid and acrobatic dance style they do is the Lindy Hop. Named after Charles Lindbergh’s epic 1927 flight, it was originally a set of moves improvised by African-Americans on sidewalks and in clubs in New York. Today, the Lindy Hop’s aerials and floor steps have become standardized — and just about everybody’s doing it. Read all about it in the Smithsonian Magazine.