Find a party in Harlem in the late 1920s and you were likely to find
people dancing the Lindy Hop there. The new dance evolved from the
Charleston, but it also incorporated moves from earlier dances such
as the Texas Tommy and the Cakewalk. As a highly improvisational dance
style—jazz for the legs and feet—the Lindy Hop invited
individuals to tailor the basic steps to reflect their personalities,
preferences, and cultures.
"Shorty George" Snowden is credited with naming the Lindy
Hop at a New York City dance marathon in 1928. A newspaper reporter
saw Snowden break away from his partner, legend has it, and improvise
a few intricate steps. Asked to identify the move, Snowden replied,
"The Lindy Hop." Some scholars have suggested that the name
honors Charles Lindbergh's history-making solo flight, or "hop,"
across the Atlantic Ocean on May 20-21 of the previous year.
After taking Harlem by storm, the dance craze was introduced to the
masses in the 1937 Marx Brothers movie A Day at the Races.
From there the Lindy Hop (often dubbed "swing" today) exploded
onto the world scene, dominating dance halls and nightclubs around
the globe throughout the 1930s and 1940s.