The Lindy Hop community has been striving to acknowledge this art form is a product of African American culture, and to continue teaching dancers the history of this dance. Committing to the characteristics, values, and aesthetics of this art form can help move this tradition forward.
Before I go on, I need to acknowledge and thank Damon and Kelsy Stone, LaTasha Barnes, Chester Whitmore, Ujima Blues Foundation, the Frankie Manning Foundation, and the Queen of Swing herself, Norma Miller, for teaching me nuggets of information via classes and conversations, or exposing me to these ideas I’m about to expand on.
Lindy Hop, Blues, Tap dancing, Breaking, House dancing, Chicago Steppin’, DC Hand dancing, and DFW Swing out all have absolutely different looks to them, but share core characteristics. These commonalities present differently in each dance, but weave a common thread throughout, linking them all together.
That linking thread is Black Vernacular Dance Aesthetics, also referred to in many pieces of literature as African American vernacular dance aesthetics or characteristics.
Jacqui Malone, author of Steppin’ on the Blues: The Visible Rhythms of African American Dance, identifies African American Vernacular Dance as having six definitive characteristics: rhythm, improvisation, control, angularity, asymmetry and dynamism. As scene leaders and teachers, we must be aware of these values, know what they are, and teach in a manner that our scene sees and develops them.
Coolness isn’t included in Malone’s list, but she speaks about how all these characteristics help achieve it. Personal coolness is a hallmark of good style.