Things that are old will be new again – revolution in its purest form. But it goes further than that – when the past comes around again you suddenly have both re-emergence of the past colliding with all the knowledge of the present.
Lindy hop is a dance from the past – it is squarely a vintage partner dance, where a lot of effort has been spent learning from the dancers of that era and the available video recordings, as well as dissecting the partner mechanics. Nowadays though, the learning arc for a new dancer is usually through classes rather than learned on the fly on the dance floor. We also have easy access to recordings from both the past and present, both instructional and as examples of the dance. We also have the ability to travel much farther than in the past – dancing in other cities, and learning from dancers from all over the world. I think this ability for dancers to share their knowledge amongst each other, transcending physical location, is what allows us to take the lindy hop of the past, the dance half-lost in the mists of a world half a century away, and makes it a living, present dance. The fact that we are not just inspired by the past dancers, but also by present dancers – that we can still be surprised – is what makes me believe the dance continues to grow.
I consider the music that we dance to is also be intertwined with the continued development of the dance. There is some debate as to whether “lindy hop movement” to “non-swing music” is lindy hop. Personally, I’ve come to consider present-day lindy hop to be the evolution of the vintage dance from the days gone by. I think actually that we over-analyse the mechanics of the dance, but in a completely awesome way – what might have originally be flashes of inspiration, dancing by instinct – is now slowly being understood in terms of mechanics, momentum, dynamics – a whole “science” of movement dissecting and extracting the fundamental aspects. And just as I think we should not be afraid to over-analyse the dance, we should not be afraid to bring the dance to other music, and should not be afraid to see what happens with it. In some sense, with the power of technology we can now time-travel with the dance, taking it into the past before its inception to trad jazz before the partner dance and the mechanics of the swingout were put together, to the music of lindy hop’s future, after all the dancers disappeared. I think doing so – especially dancing to live bands and the live musicians living the legacy of this music – allows the lindy hop to grow, but also allows the music to continue. By dancing to live music, we allow, effect and affect the creation of more swing dance music, which is another key component to the continued growth of the lindy hop.
And really, to be a bit facetious, when you’re in the “lindy hop to swing music” debate – if you define lindy hop as the dance you do to swing music, how would you define swing music? The music you lindy hop to, of course 😉