Traditionally, lindy hop is a street / vernacular dance. It evolved and developed outside of a formal studio setting, largely in public or semi-public spaces (dance clubs, jazz clubs, house parties, etc). It is improvisional in nature and values creativity, personal expression over lock-step technique and rigid choreography.
The reality is that lindy for the most part does not fit the true definition of a vernacular dance anymore. And it hasn't for a long time. Most lindy hop knowledge originates in formal studio / class structure.
That said, there are many ways that lindy hop knowledge can be spread, even outside of the class structure. Some examples:
- People who learn within their family, from their parents or other mentors
- Kids who learn in gym or after school programs
- Learning online or via taped footage that is emulated
- Observation and mimickry of others you see out social dancing
- Peer-to-peer knowledge sharing via friendship networks and informal exchanges of information
- Instruction books and guides
Many of these we might think of as sub-optimal for learning lindy, which we believe is best learned through a guided, facilitated process from a teacher with a certain measure of expertise. So we encourage newbies to take lessons from a professional teacher or a formal studio environment, at least to get the foundation of knowledge you need to begin "properly" lindy hopping.
For many of us, these classes need to be accompanied by implicit knowledge you gain about the dancing from dancing socially, ideally with a wide variety of people of various skill levels. And after a certain point, we stop taking classes and gain most new information and skills from ocassional workshops and camps, and from more social dancing.
While this might make sense for lindy hop today, there is no law that this is the only way or even the best way that dance knowledge and skill is disseminated.
In b-boy culture, learning to break typically comes from being a member of a particular "crew," practicing and sharing knowledge together, and most importantly competing against other crews. It's the "cypher" dance circle and the battles that form the basis of what practitioners would say is true b-boy knowledge and skill. Preparing to battle, analyzing your opponent, being in the circle, and analyzing the results later are integral to being a b-boy.
Authenticity is preserved by being evaluated by your peers and elders in the field, who routinely judge competitions from the local to international levels.
Salsa dance culture, as I understand it, has strong tensions between formal dance studio instruction and knowledge gained "culturally" through family and on the dance floor. There is a wide diversity of styles, that come from different localities and influences from New York style, LA style, Cuban, Colombian and many more. This diversity is to the degree that practitioners will not / can not dance with other dancers unless they know the roots of where they learned (particularly on 1 versus on 2?)
Authenticity is complicated by salsa's connection to enthnicity and different Latin cultures. Thus a Latino salsa practitioner who learned from his or her family and within a latino community might be deemed more "authentic" than someone who learned exclusively from a dance studio, ability and experience notwithstanding. Contrast this with b-boy culture, which has Puerto Rican / African-american roots, but whose contemporary and accepted dominating innovators come from all over the world.
So going back to my initial question: How do we most effectively propagate knowledge about lindy hop in the digital era? I don't pretend to have the answers. But I think it helps to think out-of-the-box and creatively about we keep this dance form alive and growing for succeeding generations.
[Crossposted on Yehoodi.com]