Dance Essays - THE DEFINITIVE LINDY TURN
This page will be of little interest to those who have not done much Lindy hop.
To those of you who have danced a fair bit of Lindy, I address the following. There is an attitude, all too frequently encountered, which holds that there is correct way to do a Lindy turn*, and that this way is strictly in a 'slot', and that the leader must let go with his right hand on the fifth beat. Those believing that this is true tend to look down with slight regard upon those who would execute an unofficial Lindy turn. I intend to show that this belief is a bad one.
The main purpose of Lindy hop is to afford those doing this dance an opportunity to have fun. Ideas which increase the likelihood of fun's being had are good. Ideas which decrease this are bad.
Lindy hop is a dance which particularly lends itself to being danced in a happy and relaxed manner. It is also a largely improvised dance, not a choreographed one. It is fun to be in ignorance of what steps one might dance next. The Lindy turn is a tool, like all moves in Lindy, and it is up to the dancers themselves how to use this tool. The more flexible an attitude dancers have to such basic moves as the Lindy turn, the more potential they have for improvisation, and for fitting in with the style of their partners.
At Herräng in 2000, people wore T-shirts which read "REAL MEN LET GO ON FIVE". These T-shirts told the world that their wearers were members an exclusive club, the members of which could do the Lindy turn properly. A common way to criticise someone's dancing was along the lines of "What is he doing in the advanced class? He can't even do a Lindy turn properly! It's embarrassing!"
Relax, everyone. It's only a dance step.
Recently, in conversation with two of the London-based Jiving Lindy Hoppers, I was pleased to learn from them that they shared my attitude on this matter. The Jiving Lindy Hoppers have put a great deal of effort into researching the authenticity of the dances they do. It seems that some people take as their model certain Lindy dance routines in films, such as Hellzapoppin'. It is in the nature of films that no matter how many times one views them, the moves danced in them are done in exactly the same way. Real dancers are constantly varying things. The way a move is danced in a film is not the only way, nor often the best way to do the move at a social dance.
I wrote down the following on a piece of paper.
"This is to certify that during the Lindy turn, it is not necessary to dance the move in a slot, nor to let go on five. The correct way to do the move is any way one enjoys."
Both of my consultants were happy to sign this.
I am considering getting the piece of paper laminated, ready to show any git or gittess who again regards me with disdain whenever I execute an unofficial version of the Lindy turn. Indeed, I suspect that credit-card sized versions of this document might sell like hot cakes. Perhaps I shall create some downloadable file which would allow you to create your own.
You may consider that I have myself just committed the same offence as the one I am criticising. I have used The Jiving Lindy Hoppers as some higher authority to back up my opinion. This is true, but I would say that there is an important difference between using some authority to censure the way other people dance, and using it to free up the way people might dance. If you don't place any weight on the opinions of professionals, then follow my argument - that it is more fun to do a freeform dance where nothing is wrong, than a strictly defined dance during which one may at any time be judged to be 'wrong'. I'd rather have my partners say of me that I'm fun to dance with, than that I dance correctly.
If I were a person who could bear to wear clothing with things written on it, I might be tempted to have T-shirts made with something like one of the following emblazoned on their fronts:
"Real men let go whenever they damn well please"
"Real men let go at will"
"Real men let go on seven, if they feel like it"
"Real men let go when it suits the music"
"Real men let go at a time dependant on what they intend to lead"
"Real men let go when it is fun to do so"
"I let go at some point between 1 and 8, usually"
"Why dance in a slot when we've got the whole floor?"
Have fun, everyone.
Later, it became a core move (SWING OUT) in the dance he named. Lindy HOP quickly encompassed the huge repertoire of its pre-history jazz dances and moves; then its repertoire grew like crazy. Shorty George Snowden would no doubt be greatly amused were he to know that 70 years later, tens of thousands of baffled honkies would spend millions of dollars agonizing over the "correct" way to do a move that he had casually tossed off in a couple seconds: a move with no real "correct" way!
Here are links to my other dance essays: