The growing homogeneity of lindy hop
Posted by spectaprod on January 11, 2009
Because of shifting priorities and the growing complexity of my life I haven’t studied lindy hop outside of my own laboratory much in the past few years. As a result my exposure to the current trends in Lindy Hop is second hand and I have an interesting perspective as I judge competitions, teach classes, and make the travels I do get to take.
I started to dance in the height of the “Savoy” vs “Hollywood” vs “Wiggle-hop” days. A well travelled dancers could quickly and easily pick out regional styles, the influence of individual instructors, and there was some pride in dancing so that people new you were from Chicago, or San Francisco, or DC, etc.
As I watch You Tube, as I watch dancers throughout the southeast, as I watch various instructors I am disappointed by what I see as a growing homogeneity. And the ultimate irony is that the current trend was initially created by a few exciting dancers seeking out the rawness that exists in plenty in the archives of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers.
Events like ULHS are also accomplices. Created to counter the sterilization of ALHC it has also become a bastion of “dance like us”. Don’t misunderstand me, the dancing at ULHS is fantastic and entertaining, it’s just looking more and more the same with fewer and fewer competitors taking the risk of dancing their “own” way (Todd Yannacone and Peter Strom come to mind quickly as exceptions, as do Mike Faltesek and Sky Humphries – but they helped to create the “raw” trend). The big exception I see is in the Solo Charleston contests, where individualism is often the deciding factor.
I don’t like the homogeneity, I want the variety back. I’m tired of dancing with followers who can’t/won’t follow what I lead because it’s so far removed from their paradigm, even generally recognized exceptional followers. I want to look forward to an event because I love the way they dance in such city. I miss the focus placed on leading and following in classes, skills that allowed you to dance with anyone regardless of how they liked to dance. I miss watching the diversity on the dance floor, not just of levels of experience and talent, but of musicality, interpretation, and even just basic swingouts.
I want people to start trying to dance they way “they” dance again and stop the driving pursuit to dance just like “he” or “she” dances. I want judges to again qualify good dancing apart from “cool” dancing and I want to see a return to instruction about how to do what you want, rather than doing what is cool.