Norwich Swing Cats

Copyright: Robert Austin 2015 -2017 All Rights Reserved

Authentic Lindy Hop & Jitterbug from the 1930s, ‘40s & ‘50s

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Lindy Hop & Natural Movement

We walk, run, turn corners, turn round, put resistance in our arms when we open doors, envelopes or pick up objects. In fact, almost everything we do in everyday life we do without thinking - it's natural.

We are born pre-disposed and our childhood is spent perfecting this natural movement.

The great irony of this is that the moment someone steps into dance class, suddenly all this natural movement seems to evaporate.

If dance a teacher says walk from one side of the room to another, the question the student will ask themselves is "how do I walk?".

Lindy Hop wasn't created, it evolved (like most social partner dances) in response to the music.

The young men and women of Harlem simply moved in response to the music they felt and they did this in a natural, organic way.

Firstly, to the two beat rhythms of hot jazz of the late 1920's and early 30's using the Charleston as the basis.

Then secondly, as the weaker back beats were strengthened, to the propulsive 4/4 beats, to the swing of the mid-1930s

and the burgeoning Jump Blues rhythms of the late '30s and '40s.

They copied and borrowed from early dances and from each other.

The music was fast, so they used ergonomic movement and methods of connection that simply worked.

Their movement was natural and unforced because they were the dance, it was never something external to them.

The dancers evolved the dance in a way that was imbued with their own sense of natural movement.

As a Lindy Hop teacher I consider my major challenge, and one that I try to address in every single lesson, is to connect students with their own sense of natural movement. That the dance is not separate from their everyday life but an extension of it.

My job is not simply teaching people some abstract footwork patterns, but to show and teach how that footwork creates a natural sense of movement and how that facilitates good smooth lead and follow. In fact, how it creates good and authentic dancing and dancers.

Watch a couple walking down he street together, either on of them may lead and follow at any time, they don't even have to hold hands. If one of them speeds up, slows down or stops, the other will do the same. Neither will push, pull or drag the other around (unless, of course, they are in the middle of some row or disagreement.). If one of them turns or looks in shop window the other will mirror their behaviour. All this happens instantaneously. We are all social animals and lead & follow is part of the fabric of our being.

So why do I see Lindy Hop leaders pulling and yanking their partners around and why do I see follows constantly anticipating what the leader is doing. In general, this is not the fault of the dancers and to a point it is not even the fault of their teachers.

It is more to do with the simple "show and repeat" culture in the Lindy Hop World. Teachers learn from other teachers, and if those teachers never appreciated, understood or taught the importance of natural movement then we have a continuous loop of push & pull disconnected Lindy Hop.

Of course, there are some amazing dancers around the World who have never even thought about the concept of natural movement, but they still possess it. So how did they become such great dancers? The answers are simple. Either, these dancers have been taught by teachers who emphasise natural movement but use different terminology, or they have unconsciously learned by feeling what is right and natural for their body.

These dancers are rare but are always the ones that generate the acclaim.

People, often describe my teaching as very different from other teachers they have been to and they are absolutely right.

I believe that learning how to move is as important as the moves themselves and that re-connecting with our own sense of natural movement creates and turns us into better dancers.

Robert Austin