— Just three days after Charles Lindbergh touched his airplane onto a Paris runway completing his first solo hop across the Atlantic, a professional dancer in Harlem, Shorty George Snowden, was asked what step he was performing.
“It’s the Lindy Hop,” Shorty said.
Dance historians consider that incident and the Lindy Hop the birth of “Swing Dance.”
On Sept. 20, the Susquehanna University’s swing dance club, “SU Swings,” will perform at the SUN Area Red Cross-sponsored “A Step Back In Time Hangar Dance” World War II tribute at the Penn Valley Airport in Selinsgrove.
Graydon Dunkelberger, a junior at the university and one of SU Swings directors, explained the dance style called swing really has many different styles that gather under one umbrella.
“Swing” describes the tempo of the music where a three-beat rhythm takes the middle beat and swings — or pairs — it together with the first or third beat. When this beat was orchestrated and danced to, it became known as “Swing Dancing.”
There is East Coast, West Coast and Lindy Hop styles of swing dancing. The traditional Lindy Hop is fast and the style most identified with the Big Band Era of the 1930s and 1940s. East Coast Swing is slower (think music of the 1950s) while West Coast Swing is “bluesy” (think R&B and up to the sounds of today).
Some of the swing dances that are better known are the Fox Trot and the Balboa, which Dunkelberger described as “white man swing” and the Lindy Hop, which has African-American roots.
But what about Jitterbug?
“Jitterbug is not a dance. It’s a loose term that describes a dancer who has mastered all swing dance styles,” Dunkelburger explained.
Dunkelberger and SU Swings not only will perform at the Red Cross fundraiser but will also offer swing dance lessons for those who come a half-hour before the dance begins.
“Even for those who come later on, our members will help them learn the basic steps,” Dunkelberger said.
Those attending the WW II tribute will be swinging to the Will Fisher Orchestra.
The dance begins at 7 p.m. in Hangar 1 at the Penn Valley Airport, 100 Airport Road, Selinsgrove. Military uniforms or costumes are encouraged. Tickets are $35. For tickets or more information, call (570) 524-0400, ext. 1602.