Where did the swing dance come from?


Lindy Hop ... one of the most popular swing dances, Lindy Hop has been delighting young and old for almost a century. With its freedom and inspiration, the dance offers a world of its own from which it is difficult to withdraw. The community, which feels at home all over the world, can hardly be surpassed in terms of happiness and fun in the hobby.


The swing dance is derived from various swing dances. The roots are in the Charleston, tap dance and other jazz dances of West African and European style. Lindy Hop is a ballroom dance and is danced in pairs. Jazz musicians provided the appropriate musical interpretation, although it is also possible to dance to other music. At the end of the 1920s, the dance emerged from the interplay of big and dance bands as well as the dancers themselves. The music was played for the dancers and the dancers interpreted the music in their dance. The Savoy Ballroom (1) in New York, which was one of the largest dance halls (2) at the time, was the main venue here.

He was open to all skin colors and offered a forum for a wide variety of swing dances. The Lindy Hop dance style was significantly shaped here.

One of the most famous dance video scenes comes from the movie "In hell the devil is loose!" (Eng. Hellzapoppin ') in which "Whitey's Lindy Hoppers" can be seen in 1941.

Lindy Hop in the present

Nowadays you can find many larger and smaller communities around the world. These organize national and regional events in order to gain as many new influences as possible from foreign dance scenes for their own local dance scene and to offer the dancers a platform for the exchange of dance experiences. In so-called "Lindy Exchanges" swing dancers come from everywhere came to dance together.

Lindy Hop is danced in social dance (evening parties in local surroundings), in tournament dance, in show dance, in courses, workshops and dance camps. We practice together, share new dance steps and improvise to music.


Lindy Hop competitions have become more and more widespread in recent years and there are national competitions in many countries. The largest is the "International Lindy Hop Championships" (3).

The ILHC took place in Washington DC on August 24-27, 2017. The dance elite gathers here every year. The ILHC offers a wide variety of disciplines in which the dancers can participate.

  • Pro-Showcase Invitational
  • Classic (non-showcase)
  • Pro-Classic Invitational (non-showcase)
  • Showcase
  • Pro-Am
  • Etc.

origin of the name

The origin of the name "Lindy Hop" is hotly debated, Norma Miller (4), who is still alive today, gives several insights into the origin.

In a report from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it is said that "Lindy" is an expression for a young lady. There is a not entirely verifiable version of the word "hop" from 1913 that it was an umbrella term for swing dances. Texas-Tommy dancers use the word "hop" to describe their dance moves. As of now, the report is unproven.

Another representation: The dancer legend Shorty Georg Snowden is said to have called the breakaway dance at that time as Lindy Hop during a dance competition.

The most believable version tells of the fact that Charles Lindbergh contributed to the naming on a transatlantic flight in 1927. "Lindy" was the name of the aviator (5) in which he was sitting and in an interview his name was mixed with that of the aviator for advertising purposes in order to make his story more extensive. Be that as it may, Te Roy Williams' orchestra wrote the song "Lindberg Hop" on May 25, 1927, with Ted Nixon and Elmer Snowden supplying the lyrics. The Memphis Jug Band made the recording "Lindberg Hop-Overseas Stomp" on September 19, 1928.


Lindy Hop is considered to be the first dance from America. It emerged from a fusion of many dances from the late 1920s era and has retained many of the basic elements to this day. Vernacular solo jazz, breakaway and Charleston, which existed before Lindy Hop, had the greatest influence on dance. The Collegiate Shag was created at the same time and also influenced Lindy Hop.

The basis is made up of solo jazz elements on an eight-count structure with an orientation towards Afro-American dances. The latter have the focus on social dance and bring with them the sociability that still makes dance so attractive today.

The Harlem Renaissance, which began in the early 1920s, brought music and dancing together on the dance floor. As a result, many new swing dances were created in the most famous club at the time, the Savoy Ballroom. In cooperation with the big bands, the right dance rhythm was worked out, which is still in place today.

From Harlem into the world

With the popularity that the dance brought with it, it began to spread over time. Where swing was played, the dance was not long in coming. Lindy Hop became mainstream in America in the 1930s and enjoyed growing popularity. Over time, more and more show groups came into being that brought dance to the stage.

Through the media, Lindy Hop also got appearances in films (Hellzapoppin ‘), shows and newspapers during this time, which led to the dance spreading more and more in the country. In the 1930s to 1940s, it went out into the big wide world. The show dance groups, films and dance teachers traveled the world bringing Lindy Hop to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

At that time (1937) swing dancing was in Germany, due to the regime at that time that was in power, forbidden been.


Basically there are no fixed roles in Lindy Hop, both leaders (leading person) and followers (following person) cannot be divided into fixed gender roles. It is true that the most common situation is that the leader is male and the follower is female. Due to the shortage of men in the dance scene, the leader part is also performed by women. It is less common for men to dominate the follower part.

The distribution of roles in social dance and training is not fixed.

Dance floor social dance

There is a relaxed atmosphere. Whether someone wants to dance or not is up to you. Nobody is forced to dance. Those who want to dance usually stand or sit at the edge of the dance floor, indicating that they are waiting for a dance opportunity. Nevertheless, it can also be rejected if there is a break from dancing or if the person is only there to watch.

Just a few hours of training are enough to go dancing. The dancers at the parties always help you!

Those who sit further away from the dance are mostly spectators or are in the mood to chat.

Those who politely and openly ask to dance are usually rewarded with a dance. “Do you want to dance?” Is often the ticket to the dance floor. It is rather secondary which level (dance experience) both dancers have. The Lindy Hop lives from the fact that even experienced dancers dance with not so experienced dancers.

Nor is it any shame to mention beforehand that you are still at the beginning yourself. So the other person can adjust to it well.

Swapping dance partners is common practice in every Lindy Hop scene in the world. It's part of etiquette and a staple on the dance floor.

However, there are no fixed guidelines for when to change partners. When a dance goes very well from both sides, 3 or more songs are often danced together.

A good dance experience is usually rewarded with 2-3 dances and then a change of partner is sought.

1. Dance is more of a sign that it does not fit in dance. This is not always due to whether someone is already very experienced or the other partner is very inexperienced. The decisive factor is whether someone feels comfortable in the dance. This can be B. mean:

  • Leading or following person is too tight in the sense of tension in the hand / arm.
  • Leading or following person is too heavy or light (in the lead, NOT in weight).
  • Leading or following person is uncomfortable for oneself.
  • The person leading or following is somehow not in the mood that evening.

It's hard to say what makes someone only get one dance. .

Important exception: We have heard that in some dance scenes it is also common to only dance one dance and then switch directly afterwards. So pay a little attention to the local conditions.


Dancing in the style of the 20s to 50s at a party is not uncommon. The women are usually dressed more appropriately than the men.

It is not mandatory to adhere to this dress code, many come to the parties in jeans, T-shirts and dance shoes. The rules for the dress code are either prescribed / suggested at parties or not, that is stated in the dance calendar or on the flyers themselves. Nevertheless, there are also rules of thumb here.

A dress code is usually worn at parties from € 15 plus. If a party has an entrance fee of approx. € 25, it can be assumed that although it was not necessarily written somewhere, an outfit with a 20s-inspired look can be worn. If the party costs € 30 or even € 50 (New Year's Eve, etc.), it can be assumed that everyone is well dressed.

For less than 15 € it's more casual clothing: pants, shirt, T-shirt, maybe suspenders.

Still, don't let that put you off, this is it no obligation, just a recommendation and everyone can come as they want.

Since you sweat a lot while dancing, some dancers also have towels, fans or even a change of clothes with them.


Lindy Hop definitely has a philosophy, but it's nowhere firmly anchored. In general, dancing is all about having fun together and about the fact that the experiences that everyone makes are shared with others.

The main component for most dancers is the local community, which makes dancing possible at all, which is why the philosophy lies in social dance itself. Remember: Lindy Hop does not only take place in the training room. It lives on the dance floor.

Everyone is allowed to dance with everyone who wants to and whoever doesn't want to, doesn't want to. With a bit of social sensitivity, you can get along wonderfully in the scene.