Here are some clips of some of the great dancers from the Golden Age of Swing. Obviously these only scratch the surface: YouTube is awash with amazing videos of Lindy Hoppers from both the classic and the modern eras. Your journey begins here!
These clips contain amazing examples of swing dancing that exists on film, but we should also be aware of how the black dancers are dressed- as servants, cooks, maids, servicemen. Portraying black people belonging to a different ‘class’ to white people. The clip from Hellzapoppin’ is also detached from the film storyline so it could be taken out when played to audiences in the South. This is typical of segregation in films of the time and popular Black dance clips we view today. Although these years are indeed considered the Golden era of swing dancing, they are also the years of segregation and blatant racism. Simply referring to this period as the “good old days” and viewing it with a nostalgic lens is not only shortsighted and incorrect, but also objectionable.
This clip from the 1929 short film After Seben features “Shorty” George Snowden, one of the “first-generation” dancers of the Lindy Hop:
Here is Shorty George again, dancing with his partner Big Bea:
This one is from the Marx Brothers 1937 film A Day at the Races and features Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, including in particular Norma Miller and Leon James:
Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers again, this time in the 1941 film Hellzapoppin’. Look out in particular for Al Minns (white jacket, black trousers) dancing with Willa Mae Ricker and Frankie Manning (overalls) dancing with Ann Johnson:
By the early 1940s, the Lindy Hop had spread from the ballrooms of Harlem, New York, to the West Coast and Hollywood! Largely credited with this migration is Dean Collins. Here he is with one of his frequent dance partners Jewel McGowan in the 1941 Abbott and Costello film Buck Privates:
Obviously the list goes on and on… here’s a brief summary of some Lindy Hoppers you just have to know: