Judging from the movies made during World War II, one would think that every service man and woman was an expert swing dancer, except, of course, for the goofy side-kick who was always stepping on the feet of the leading lady’s slightly less attractive friend.
The fact is that dancing was an escape from the many troubles of the day, and the kids—the ones who were bearing most of the troubles—preferred to swing it, as they would say. Indeed, no less of an authority than Life Magazine proclaimed that the Lindy Hop “with the exception of tap dance . . . is this country’s only native and original dance form,” in its August 23, 1943 issue. After a brief introduction to the history of the Lindy, Life devoted nine full pages to photographs and descriptions of the various moves. If you find it difficult learning dance moves from videos, imagine those kids trying to figure out exactly what to do from still photos! Especially still-photos of experts who always make anything look so easy. I can only imagine how many Purple Hearts might have been handed out to an untold number of ladies for broken toes on the dance floor. This is not to say that it is impossible to recognize the poses and descriptions listed on these pages as I am sure many of my dance friends will.
Whether you are a dancer or not, the article is a fascinating look into what was a national craze despite the fact that “to elders, the gyrations of jitterbugs may appear disordered and vulgar.” Thanks to the folks who run jitterbuzz.com, you can see the entire article for yourself here. There is even a link that will allow you to download a pdf of the entire piece, and while you’re there, I recommend cruising around the website which is of interest to anyone who continues to believe that it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.