Is there a better way to follow a marathon and very talky sit-down meeting than dancing? Joyce and Andrew from Swing Jive Leeds joined us after our lunch stop and got the party started. The pair began with a little talk through the origins of lindy hop, which was fascinating. It was the first partner dance to evolve in the more modern, 'free' style. It appeared in Harlem in the late 1920s, evolving from the Charleston and the Swing Jazz music scene of the time. The dance was wildly popular until around the time of World War II, and then declined (pretty much disappeared in fact), until something in the zeitgeist caused some different groups of dancers in Britain, Sweden and America to all become interested in lindy hop around the same time in the 1980s. The dance was all the rage again, and some of the earliest old-time lindy hoppers were even coaxed out of retirement in New York, with some travelling the world teaching the joys of their re-discovered dance.
Joyce and Andrew then performed some lindy hop for us, giving us a better idea of the improvised nature of the dance. Essentially, there is a 'leader' and a 'follower', and yes there are certain steps (with what looks like a lot of room for inventive add-ons!) but the dancers simply go with the flow, the follower's job being to take cues from the leader and fall in line with their steps. Scary! Luckily for us first-timers, we weren't expected to get to this improv level of slickness at our first attempt, and Joyce and Andrew patiently taught us a little dance routine, doled out to us one step at a time. We all chose to either be a leader or a follower, and once you'd made your choice you stuck with it. The leaders stayed in their positions around the room, and the followers rotated around the circle, swapping from dance partner to partner. (Probably giving something of a clumsy music box effect to the observer ;-) obviously we all imagined we looked the epitome of grace!)
The workshop was enormous fun, and I really can't say enough good things about what a joyful dance lindy hop is, and what brilliant, patient teachers the guys from Swing Jive Leeds were. Thank you very much to Joyce and Andrew. It was a blast.