Tag Archives: Lindy Hop Culture

What Does This Have To Do With Lindy Hop?

So one thing you may not know about me (Tina) is that I love, love, LOVE African Dance! So I was super excited when Nii Kwarty Owoo turned up in Leeds and started running weekly classes! His classes are brilliant and I want more people to know about them so I’ve organised a weekend workshop for him in November and I’m really hoping especially to see lots of Lindy Hoppers there.

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If you’re wondering, “What does West African Dance have to do with Lindy Hop”, the answer is “Basically everything!” Lindy hop is an African-American dance that grew out of earlier dance styles (Charleston, cake walk, tap, etc) that would have been heavily influenced by the traditional dances that came over from West Africa. This blog post does a much better job than I would of breaking down the influences and similarities that you might notice.

For me, personally I find that African Dance feels vibrant and joyful in the same way that lindy hop does and it uses the whole body in ways that feel strong and natural. Its also similarly geeky and challenging. I’ve taken classes all over the world but still struggle to hear the beat of the music correctly and have to work really hard to figure out how to make some movements look right–I love the challenge!

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I hope you can join us in November, either to explore the roots of lindy hop or just to try out a new dance style. There will also be a drumming workshop and Ghanaian lunch but you can pick and choose which bits of the day interest you most.

West African Dance & Drumming Workshop

24th November 2018

at Chapel Allerton Methodist Centre, LS7 4NB

10:00-11:30 Drumming Workshop
12:00-13:30 Dance Workshop
13:30-14:30 Lunch Break (Homemade Ghanaian food!)
14:30-16:00 Dance Workshop

 Please book your ticket in advance as it may sell out. You can book from the facebook event in the link above or go directly to the booking form

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Let’s Talk About Shoes

Whether you’re going for maximum performance and comfort or authentic vintage style shoes are a very important part of any dancers wardrobe. We’ll have a look at what options are out there, some popular brands, and how to find your perfect shoe!

You Gotta Have Sole

One of the most important features of your dance shoe is what’s on the bottom! You want a shoe that will allow your feet to slide around on the floor a bit but there’s a lot of room for personal preference here–some dancers like just enough slip to be able to spin easily while others want to glide through every move frictionlessly. At some point you will probably end up with a variety of shoes for dancing on different types of floors so that you can always achieve the perfect combination of shoe and dancefloor to create your desired amount of slippiness. Here’s a rundown of the basic options:

  • Rubber: A rubber sole without too much texture (think plimsolls not walking boots) can be a great option for newer dancers and those who prefer a less slippery shoe. Rubber soled shoes are generally softer so good for those who are worried about stepping on their partners’ feet or have yet to master the art of floorcraft. Pros: Soft, durable, and easy to clean, forces you to pick up your feet and be more precise with your footwork, Cons: May be too sticky for some dance floors.
  • Suede: So long as you have a suede brush you can have some control over the slipperiness of sueded shoes. Brush them regularly to give them a bit of grip or leave the suede to matt down for a bit more slip. You can purchase dance shoes with suede soles, get your favourite shoes sueded by a cobbler or even do it yourself with a bit of superglue. Pros: versatility, Cons: Do not get wet! Also hard to clean so not  great on sticky bar floors
  • Leather: Hard leather soles will give you the maximum slide on most floors, soft leather can be slightly less slippery but its not as hard-wearing. Pros: excellent for slides and slip slops, hard-wearing (hard leather), Cons: May be too slippery on some dance floors
  • Split soles: Split soled shoes are popular for many styles of dance so you may see them around a bit. Rather than being one piece the sole is in two sections to allow your foot to bend in the middle. Pros: Can be very comfy, Cons: Prevent you from using your whole foot on the floor
  • Heels: Heels aren’t strictly necessary for lindy hop but many dancers love the aesthetic. We would recommend flats to start with for most dancers but once you’ve been at it for a while you may want to experiment with heeled shoes. Wedges or chunky heels are your best bet. Pros: Can really change the look of your dancing, preferable for some styles like balboa Cons: Takes a bit of practice if you don’t normally wear heals, will have an effect on balance
  • Sole Hacks: These are temporary solutions–none of them ideal but good to be aware of. Earlier in the revival dancers often put gaffa tape on the bottom of their shoes to make rubber soled shoes a bit more slippery. It is cheap and effective! Though you do have to keep an eye on them to make sure the tape doesn’t start to wear down and get sticky. Also once you’ve put tape on the bottom of your shoes there is no going back the sticky gunk doesn’t come off easily. Socks over shoes–some people seem to make this work in a pinch but it is a VERY slippery option. Talc–you may see some dancers put talc on the floor to make it more slippery. As a general rule, if you are sharing the dance floor with other dancers who have not consented to the use of talc PLEASE DON’T DO THIS. It changes the floor for everyone, and not everyone want’s to slide around like Bambi. Change your shoes not the floor.

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Look the Part

If you want to go for an authentic vintage look. Here is a rundown of authentic swing era shoe styles.

For Men: Leather suit shoes are your best bet, two toned brogues are an authentic 30s style. Plimsolls are also an authentic vintage style for men and women as revealed in our last style feature.

For Women: Women’s shoes came in lots of styles in the 20s-40s. Heels were the norm for going out but flats are not inauthentic as there were sports shoes available with a very small heel. Iconic styles from the swing era include mary janes, oxfords, brogues, T-straps and wedges.

The Vintage Dancer website is a great resource with lots of photos of clothes and shoes from different eras.

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Where to Shop

First Shoes: If you’re just starting out we highly recommend picking up a pair of cheap plimsolls from Primark. They are an excellent first dance shoe! If you want something a bit fancier Keds and Toms and also great for this style.

Shoe retailers popular with lindy hoppers in the UK:

www.remixvintageshoes.com

www.slideandswing.es

www.swingdancestore.co.uk

https://www.swinggear.co.uk/

The DIY Option: In our experience, even some of the more reputable brands of dance shoes can be very pricey and at the same time not very well made so another good option is to make your own bespoke dance shoes. Find a pair of shoes that are comfortable and have the look you want on the high street or wherever you normally shop for shoes. If the sole is already appropriately slippy then you’re done! If not, take your shoes to a cobbler who will be able to grind them flat if they are too textured, or resole them with suede, leather, or whatever you want (Cobblers are awesome). Voila the perfect dance shoe!

 

 

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A Lesson in Vintage Glamour from the Someday Sweethearts

You don’t have to be into vintage style to to enjoy vintage dancing but we thought we’d do a couple of features on how to acheive a vintage look for those who want to give it a go! We got in touch with Nina Elkin, Artistic Director of the Someday Sweethearts, to ask if she had any top tips to share. Her response: “Oh…I have more then one” 

The Someday Sweethearts are a chorus line dance troupe based in San Francisco that perform routines inspired by 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s. The group was started back in 2014 by Gaby Cook (and originally called the Sweet Sixteen). They are still going strong today. Part of their mission as a group is to promote all women in lindy hop and support the growth of female performers, community leaders and choreographers.

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Signature Sweethearts Style

Their version of vintage style is about what looks good for performances rather than about being 100% historically accurate. Depending on what they are performing the Sweethearts have three general looks:

1920’s Flapper: Smoky Eye Makeup, darker red lip color in cupids bow, Finger Waves / Marcel Waves in the front.

1930’s Chorus Line: 1-3 Pin curls in the front. Bun, Gibson Tuck or Chignon in the back. Neutral earth tone eye makeup & red lip color with a hint of pink in it.

1940’s USO Show: Victory rolls in front, Bun, Gibson Tuck or Chignon in the back. Neutral earth tone eye makeup & bright fire engine / victory red lip color with full lip.

What do the Sweethearts keep in their hair styling kits?

  • Bobby Pins
  • Setting Lotion for Hot Iron
  • Setting Lotion for wet set
  • Curling Iron
  • Hair / U-Pins
  • Rat Tail Comb
  • Bristle Brush (for smoothing)
  • Hair Spray
  • Pomade
  • Marcel / Duck Clips : for 1920’s Marcel Waves / Finger Waves.
  • Dry Shampoo (A must for extra texture & body)

Videos, books and other resources they recommend:

Top tips for Vintage Makeup:

For performance/vintage look the Sweethearts to go with earth tones for 30’s-40’s and smokey eye for 20’s. NO SPARKLES. Vintage make up was matte. They recommend this website for research: Vintage Makeup Guides

Their makeup bag includes:

  • Matte Foundation
  • Concealer
  • Primer (for eyelids – Urban Decay Primer. The colorless one)
  • Powder – loose (clinique)
  • Blush – with bright pink / orange tones
  • Matte eye shadow – e.g. Naked Basics by Urban Decay
  • Eyeliner – (brush tip marker)
  • Lipstick – Besame! Vintage makeup shop, LipSense in a red lip for a non-smear option
  • Makeup Fixer (Mac Pro Fix Plus)
  • Brush Set

 

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Flying Solo

I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve heard “I’ll never be a good dancer because I don’t have a partner.” Please do not let yourself believe this nonsense! Sure, Lindy Hop is a partner dance, but it’s also a social dance that offers a whole range of opportunites for anyone–with or without a dedicated dance partner. Especially if you’ve only been dancing for a year or less, there is no reason to think that you need to have a regular dance partner in order to improve. We rotate partners in all our classes because it’s better for everyone’s learning. New dancers are less likely to develop bad habits, couples don’t get the chance to argue, and those who need a little extra help benefit from dancing with more experienced partners. Still not convinced? Here’s a whole list of things that anyone at any level can do to improve their dancing—no partner required!

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  • Focus on your feet Practice the basic footwork patterns on your own so that you can do your footwork consistently without having to put any thought into it. For an extra challenge, really push the tempo!
  • Get yourself out there Get out to social dances whenever you can and ask everyone to dance. Learning to dance is a lot like learning a language—at some point you need to leave the classroom and attempt to have a real conversation. Social dancing will help you work on important skills like adjusting to different partners, and reacting in real time. It’s also a great way to make friends with other dancers
  • Get it together Organise a practice group. Maybe you’ve got some space in your house or know of a public space with a good floor. Invite some of your dance mates to meet up and work on some moves that you’ve learnt recently or just try out ideas on each other.
  • Up your solo game Have a go at some solo Charleston, Vernacular Jazz, or solo Blues—these are all great vintage dances that don’t require a partner. These dances offer a great opportunity to challenge yourself, work on your quality of movement and build your repertoire of useful steps.
  • Switch it up If you’re feeling quite confident with the basics and want a new challenge, have a go at dancing the other role. Then you’ll be able to dance to every song because you can partner with anyone!
  • Get competitive If your aspiration is to dance competitively, never fear! Most lindy hop events with competitions will have a Mix & Match (or Jack & Jill) Competition where you enter as an individual and get matched with a random partner.
  • Invest in the next generation If you’ve tried all these other ideas and still have things you really want to work on with one consistent partner, consider mentoring a newer dancer. Find a keen newbie that you get on well with and help them develop into your ideal dance partner.

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On Lindy Hop and Motherhood

So while everyone else is out dancing to a live band tonight I thought I’d spend Mothers’ Day evening writing about my experience so far of balancing motherhood and dancing. I left it quite late to have a child, partially because I hadn’t met the right person and partially because I wasn’t ready to give up dancing, traveling, and all those other fun things that are much easier without children. Fortunately, once our daughter was born, crazy hormones completely took over my brain and made it so that all I could care about was my baby. Well, okay for the first few weeks I do remember getting annoyed when people said things like “Don’t you wonder what you did with your time before having kids?” Nope, I didn’t wonder–I knew exactly what I’d have been doing if I weren’t feeding a tiny baby round the clock, thank you very much! After those first weeks though, I now only get occasional twinges of disappointment about missing out on dance weekends and even those are quickly replaced by a genuine and overwhelming feeling of “aw my baby needs me though so it’s okay”. Those are some seriously strong hormones! Also I know it won’t be forever.

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I danced throughout my pregnancy (even in the delivery room). We stopped doing performances with aerials when I started showing because we didn’t want people to worry. I kept waiting for balance to become a problem but it never really did, though I did need to slow down a bit, take more breaks, and in the later months avoid moves that required a lot of core strength. Keeping active in that way was fantastic for my body and soul! I think it helped me avoid a lot of aches and pains, helped with labour and recovery. I’m not yet back to my pre-baby figure and I still feel like my core is a bit weak but it will come with time. On the plus side, I think I’ve gained slightly better balance as a result of having to focus on protecting a small baby, first in my belly and then on the outside, whilst also adjusting to a changing centre of gravity.

You think that as a parent you’ll get to make all the choices but really a lot is shaped by your circumstances. Rob and I wanted to continue teaching together after having Talia but we don’t have any family nearby so we’ve ended up having her with us most of the time in classes and at social dances. It’s an ever-evolving experience that has so far worked out alright. At first she was most content being attached to one of us and would happily drift off to sleep during classes, eventually we were able to sit her down with some toys for half the time, then she started crawling and we found ourselves building a variety of barricades to try to contain her, now at 12 months she spends most classes licking the mirror or careening around the studio with a walker. As a result, she loves swing music–it makes her feel like clapping, stomping and wiggling. It’s been great to be able to listen to Naomi and her Handsome Devils in the car rather than nursery rhymes. We’ve enjoyed sharing dances with her and it’s given her Daddy a great way to put her to sleep.

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We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the reactions we get to Talia’s presence in the room when we’re teaching. When you spend most of your time in the normal adult world I think it’s quite easy to never really encounter babies or children. Even though our little one is calm and happy in a dance environment, I worried that people might be annoyed by the presence of a baby in an adult space but everyone seems to love having her around. Some of our beginners have said that they enjoyed having her in class because it gave them something else to focus on besides being nervous. I’ve started thinking of it as a way of normalising parenthood, giving people the opportunity to interact with a baby and to see breastfeeding and as part of normal life, showing how we can make space for families and that being a parent doesn’t mean you have to only do baby things and be home by 6pm.

 

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All Are Welcome!

What Does a Lindy Hopper Look Like?

On a fairly regular basis we get emails from folks asking if they would be welcome in a lindy hop class if they don’t happen to look like either of the people in this silhouette. So here’s a quick run down of what to expect from lindy hop classes and socials that will hopefully reassure you that this dance is for everyone! I can’t guarantee that what I say here will be true of every class everywhere you go but this what you can expect from the classes and events listed on our website (and this is the trend in the wider lindy hop scene in general).

Sometimes when people think of vintage partner dancing, they think of big frilly skirts, dapper hats, two-toned shoes and traditional gender roles. However, just because lindy hop is a vintage dance it does not mean that we all act as though we’re living in the 1930s. Some dancers go in for victory roles and seamed stockings but many dress in jeans and T-shirts or whatever else they feel like wearing. Lindy hop is still typically danced as a partnership between a leader and a follower, though it has become completely normal to see dancers dancing whichever role they choose regardless of gender. At a lindy hop class or social dance it is the norm to change partners regularly through the evening rather than to have one set partner. This gives everyone a bit more freedom to choose the role that suits them and to dance with a variety of partners. Some dancers prefer to focus exclusively on leading or exclusively on following while others start with one role and then learn the opposite role as well so that they can dance with everyone. Occasionally you may even come across an ambidancestrous class in which everyone dances both roles throughout the class.

So, how do you know who you can dance with?

In classes we’ll usually ask that you choose one role (lead or follow) and stick with that role throughout the class. Followers and leaders may be asked to gather at opposite ends of the room at the start or there will be some other mechanism to help everyone find an appropriate partner such as having leaders raise their hands to identify themselves. At a social dance the best policy is to watch and see. Once you’ve been to a dance a few times you’ll quickly become familiar with the dancers who attend regularly and will know who dances which roles. If you’re new you’ll need to pay a bit closer attention. If you are a follower look out for anyone who’s leading, those are the people you can ask to dance and vice versa. If you want to be extra sure, it’s fine to approach someone and say something like “Hi, would you like to dance? I’m a leader”

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