Savoy-style Lindy Hop

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Savoy-style Lindy Hop is a contemporary term used to describe Lindy Hop as danced by African American dancers at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem in the 1930s and 1940s. It has been used in contrast with the terms 'Hollywood-style Lindy Hop' or 'Smooth-Style Lindy Hop', popularly associated with Dean Collins and his Lindy Hop choreography in Hollywood films. Savoy-style lindy hop is characterized by a high energy, circular, rotating style, in contrast with the smooth, slotted styling of Hollywood (Smooth).

The Savoy Ballroom was the end of the line for an ascending network of clubs, church socials, in New York and beyond. George Snowden, Frankie Manning and George Sullivan were all dismissed by prospective partners for having allegedly inadequate dance skills. WIth an unusually high proponderance of skilled social dancers there was an infinite variety of interpretations. As Frankie Manning put it, "Everyone at the Savoy had their [own] style." And there was no specific "Savoy style" of Lindy Hopping.[1]


Contents

Savoy Ballroom dancers and the history of African American Lindy Hop

Savoy style Lindy Hop was most frequently associated with living dancers from the 1930s such as Frankie Manning, and with the Swedish dance troupe The Rhythm Hot Shots (now replaced by the Harlem Hot Shots).

The term 'Savoy-style Lindy Hop' applies a generic relationship between all African American Lindy Hoppers (and aficionados of their styles) which ignores the variety and diversity of Lindy Hop in the 1930s and 40s. Lindy Hop historians see clear differences between the Lindy Hop of the early years of its development (the late 1920s) and dancers such as "Shorty" George Snowden, dancers of the 1930s (such as Manning), and then between individual dancers during these periods. Lennart Westerlund - a key member of The Rhythm Hot Shots and authoritative Lindy Hop historian - described the differences in styles between Manning and Al Minns, the dancer he worked with in the earliest years of the Lindy Hop revival. Al Minns and Leon James are often considered authoritative figures in the academic discussion of Lindy Hop, in part for their work with Marshall and Jean Stearns (in their book Jazz Dance and documentary films). Lindy Hop historians also draw clear distinctions between the dancing styles of key female dancers such as Norma Miller and Ann Johnson. The most useful point to be made about this variation within a single community of dancers in one historical moment, is that vernacular African American dance, and Lindy Hop in particular, prioritised individual style and creative improvisation and musical interpretation within a particular dance style.

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