Somewhat fittingly, the dance of the big depression years, the Lindy hop, has finally made it to Iceland. This month, Arctic Lindy Exchange, the first swing festival of Iceland and probably the first travelling dance festival on earth, will bring together hundreds of dancers from around the world with the finest swing music. They aim to invoke the atmosphere of the interwar period, the golden era of jazz, in Iceland at the the festival, which runs from the 3rd to the 11th of August with swing concerts every night, swing parades, street concerts and more.
Lindy hop, you say?
But what is Lindy hop? Well, it’s a dance that plays an important role in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the world today. During the roaring twenties and throughout the thirties, it was THE dance craze that swept the world (probably more so than even the fabled Macarena). At present, it is a phenomenon that can attract hundreds of people from across the world to Iceland. Well-kept in an underground community over the last few decades, the Lindy Hop has seen a big increase in interest lately that may see it as the world’s most popular dance-craze once again.
As crucial as Charles Lindberg’s cross-Atlantic flight may have been, it didn’t only affect the world of aviation. The Lindy hop moniker is traced to Shorty George, one of the inventors of this African-American jazz dance, who – after long hours of dance marathon – when asked for the name of the thing he replied without much thought: “The Lindy hop! We’re flying like Lindy did.”
Jazz it up
Like all dance styles throughout history, the Lindy hop evolved with a certain type of music. This music was jazz, one of the most important tools of the African-American community in the US to express themselves in a very racist period of time. It’s no surprise that this same community created the Lindy hop after the mid 20s in Harlem, New York. It was the first form of jazz dance that White America knew and fell in love with. It’s a very significant fact that in the period of segregation, blacks and whites would come together in the ballrooms where Lindy hop was danced.
Around the mid 40s though Lindy hop was still popular but jazz started to become more intricate and deviated from dance music with the arrival of Bebop. On the other hand, by the 50s another type of music swept the young crowds and the popular culture, bringing other styles of dance to the forefront.
Revived from obscurity
In the next three decades, Lindy hop faded away so much that there was hardly anyone who knew its name. In 1984, a dance couple eager to learn the roots of swing dancing discovered the August 23, 1943 issue of LIFE magazine. It was the first time that they had seen the name Lindy hop. “This magazine changed our lives,” say Erin Stevens and Steven Mitchell, who then begun the search for the original Lindy hoppers. In this same period, founding members of Sweden’s Rhythm Hot Shots (Anders Lind, Lennart Westerlund, and Henning Sörensen) were also in New York seeking Lindy hoppers for the same reason: to learn and bring this dance to life. Thus began the revival.
They’ve found many names like Al Minns, Norma Miller, Frankie Manning. They spread the word and helped bringing up new generations of dancers. Frankie Manning, one of the fathers of Lindy hop, passed away this year on April 27 at the age of 94. He kept on dancing and sharing his experience with the whole world up until that day.
This August from the 3rd to the 11th, the Lindy hop and its music will be celebrated to the delight of the dancers and jazz aficionados at the Arctic Lindy Exchange with hundreds of Lindy hoppers coming from all the corners of the world with the finest swinging music.
All the concerts will feature swing music with the DJs from Sweden, Australia, England, Turkey and Iceland. At concert events, the house opens at 19:00 and the shows starts at 21:00. This is a travelling festival, and will be at Ólafsfjörður on the 7th and 8th of August.
Monday, August 3
15:00 – Beach swing party at Nauthólsvík
21:00-00:00 – Pre-party at Kaffi Rót
Tuesday, August 4
17:00-18:00 – Swing Parade in downtown starting at Austurvöllur
19:00-03:00 – Swing band Jóhannes Þórleiksson and the Acapella swing band Three Voices at the National Theatre Basement Þjóðleikhúskjallaranum
Wednesday, August 5
16:00-17:30 – Blues with DJ music at Iðnó
19:00-04:00 – Lester Young Tribute Band with Haukur Gröndal at Iðnó
Thursday, August 6
16:00-17:00 – Happy feet with DJ music (really fast swing tunes)
19:00-04:00 – Big Band Svansins
Friday, August 7
09:00-17:00 – The festival travelling up north and doing some surprise events in the towns on the way
19:00-03:00 – The Cangelosi Cards from the USA at Ólafsfjörður
Saturday, August 8
19:00-03:00 – Lester Young Tribute Band with Haukur Gröndal at Ólafsfjörður
Sunday, August 9
19:00-04:00 – The Cangelosi Cards from the USA and acapella swing band Three Voices at Iðnó
Monday, August 10
19:00-03:00 – Swing band Jóhannes Þórleiksson at Rúbín
Tuesday, August 11
19:00-01:00 – Swing band Ragnar Árna at Óliver