The Birthplace of the Lindy Hop

August 2, 2015 by Yuan | Filed under Dancing.

During the 20’s swing dance was very popular with the Roseland Ballroom in downtown New York as a mainly white swing dance club. The popularity of swing dancing also hit the black community and the Savoy Ballroom was created in Harlem along with other clubs. The Savoy Ballroom was 10,000 square feet on the second floor of a building that was an entire block long.

The interior of the Savoy had mirrored walls and painted pink with colored lights on the layered wooden floor. The ballroom offered a beautiful lobby with marble staircase and cut glass chandelier. On March 20, 1926, the New York Age printed an article with the headline, “Savoy Turns 2,000 Away On Opening Night – Crowds Pack Ball Room All Week”. The success of the Savoy took off immediately with more and more Harlem teens dancing the night away.

The bouncer, Herbert White known as Whitley, a former boxer, soon helped many teens get off the streets and begin enjoying swing dancing. As a matter of fact, the very first black troupe started in the Savoy with the most popular dance of its time, the Lindy Hop. The name of the dance club performers were Whitley’s Lindy Hoppers.

Whitley only chose the best dancers from the crowds that filled the ballroom every night and before long, socialites of New York were hammering to have his dancers perform at all kinds of elite parties and social functions. In 1935, the Savoy began holding a dance competition known as the Harvest Moon Ball which allowed competitors to show off their own Lindy Hop moves. The competition had both white and African American couples all there to win the title. In many cases, the clientele was often more black than white but in some cases about half and half. All judging was completely done on the unique dance moves and had nothing to do with the color of a performers skin. If you walked through the doors of the Savoy, everyone wanted to know if you could dance as this was the main goal of the club.

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