Lindy Hopping and the Marx Brothers

[I may have put in too many video clips, just take a dip or two]

Important questions first. What is Lindy Hopping? It is basically Swing Dancing, it started in  America in the 1920s and gathered pace with many variations through the next twenty years. To see the genuine article watch this clip from the Marx Brothers Day at the Races. The Lindy Hopping sequence doesn’t start until about 3.25 mins in, and the Lindy Hop dancing really starts about 5 mins in, but I love the section with Harpo and Who Dat Man that precedes it.

And no, I can’t dance like that.

Here’s a modern version of it.

I can’t dance like that either – but I try (the front couple in this demo were my first teachers).

In the last twenty years there has been a massive revival of Swing Dancing, particularly Lindy Hop and some of the original dancers were still with us until very recently. Most famous and beloved was Frankie Manning (d. 2009). Here he is age 90 doing the Shim Sham (a group Lindy dance)

(and if you want to be cheered and moved watch these two clips of villagers in India doing the Shim Sham in honour of Frankie on his Birthday).

Lindy is a partnered dance for all ages and everyone dances with everyone, you are either a lead (traditionally male) or a follow (female), but both men and women try the other roles. There are clubs in most big cities across the world run by enthusiasts. It is the best and most enjoyable exercise I know and I swear it has given my knees a new lease of life.

12 thoughts on “Lindy Hopping and the Marx Brothers

  1. Fantastic fun for the fully fit. I did try line dancing a year or so ago, but found that the instructors were simply too quick for me. I got the unmistakeable impression that they were just going through the motions.
    All the videos I’ve seen of swing remind me a bit of what we called jiving when we were early teenagers – and it was to Bill Haley & the Comets, too ! 🙂

    • Most of the teachers are easy to follow, but each partner (and you swap partners continuously) varies somewhat. It’s actually gentler than jiving (which I did way back too), the holds are light and depend on responses of the whole body, everything works on a sort of bouncing rhythm. Gosh, it’s difficult to describe moment.

      • I remain envious of your litheness, Hilary ! And as I can remember the fun we had jiving, I’m sure this is even more so. Dancing to the beat … sighh … wonderful !!!

  2. The music reminded me of Glenn Miller on a 33rpm record played at 45! Great fun and its hard to beat the Marx Brothers even now. It looks terrific exercise. Lovely post, Hilary.

  3. I am better educated now than I was before. As for the dancing, I’m pleased to hear your knees are taking it so well, but I believe I will stick with the minuet. I’m sure I couldn’t keep up.

  4. I can’t tell you how much I love this post, Hilary! The Lindy Hop is such a joyful dance! And no, for me, there are not too many videos at all. I love them all, but I can’t tell you how much my partner and I enjoyed watching the “Adavasi Shim Sham” video. I called out to him to come and watch them too and they moved us both to happy tears. Thank you so much for sharing the infectious, happy, fun, spirit of the Lindy Hop, for taking the time to select and post all the videos, and mostly, for making our day! :))

    – Jeannie

    • Oh I’m so glad you watched the Adivasi clips. My daughter, who persuaded me to try Lindy in the first place, sent the links to me from India a few years ago and they moved me to tears then. It took me a while to find them again, and I’m so happy that they gave you joy too.

  5. Thanks for sharing, brilliant, I’ve been out with my big brother tonight he met me and taught me how to buy an Oyster card and use the tube, we lindy hop together but he’s so precise and I’m an improviser lol. Glad you have so much fun doing this, makes me want to go out dancing.

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