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Lindy at the Savoy

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596 Lenox Ave New York NY 10037 USA

The Savoy Ballroom in Harlem opened on May 12th, 1926, staying open seven nights a week for dancers—it is said to have held 5,000 dancers on its floor. Actress Lana Turner visited it and called it the “Home of the Happy Feet” and that became an unofficial nickname of the dance hall. The Savoy remained an exception in that during a time when many dance halls were segregated Blacks and Whites danced together. The Savoy stayed open until 1958 and the site where it once was now is home to commercial space and apartments. The history of the Savoy and the dance called the Lindy Hop are entwined. The Savoy was where the dance originated and where one could see the best dancers of this genre. In 1927 following Charles Lindbergh’s first solo transatlantic flight the pilot was adored in the public eye. After a reference to a “Lindy’s Hop” at a dance marathon, it is no wonder the name stuck. The Jitterbug is an adaptation to the Lindy Hop except that it is danced to faster swing music. Sometimes the names of the dances are used interchangeably but the Lindy Hop is an “eight count syncopated smooth basic step” (Ralph Giordano, Social Dancing in America, Volume II, Lindy Hop to Hip Hop, 1901-2000, Greenwood Press, 2007, pg. 92).

Credits: Produced by Dave Isay and Steve Zeilin for the "American Talkers" series. First broadcast on Weekend All Things Considered, 1996. Photos by Hazel Hankin. (3:57)