Lots of folks have already shared what their experience was like at ILHC 2022. But I haven’t heard much talk about why this event was a game-changer: it centered the Black roots of lindy hop.
After two decades of dancing lindy hop, the 2022 International Lindy Hop Championships was the first major lindy hop event I’ve been to where the Black experience took center stage. The only other one I can think of was the Harlem Jazz Dance Festival way back in 2002. Who remembers THAT insane event?
The whole dang thing started out in Harlem at the historic Alhambra Ballroom, where several generations of Black dancers were present. It opened with a panel of Black experts speaking about their experience with lindy hop. The main dance featured a Black-led band (Charles Turner and Uptown Swing) that ended with a jam circle where Black and white dancers joyfully threw down together.
There was a visible Black presence at ILHC: from the organizers to the MCs, performers, judges and musicians. The Black history of lindy hop was on display at the Swing Dance Museum. Folks got to visit Woodlawn Cemetery and honor Black jazz legends interred there.
If I can be honest, the best part of ILHC might be the late night dance parties DJed by Remy. (Yes, Remy is also a talented turntablist. What can he NOT do?) He played an eclectic mix of hip-hop, R&B, house, dancehall and other Afro-Caribbean dance music. Getting to just let go with a roomful of BIPOC, white and Asian dancers felt so freeing and joyful like I haven’t felt in years.
At one point a Soul Train started off. Now we’ve all seen a Soul Train line – it has a structure and a format that goes way back in the Black cultural experience. But from the beginning, our Soul Train line was a hot mess. One bold Black dancer quickly stepped in to remind everyone of the proper way to do it (two lines, the ones at the front pair up and walk / dance down the line together), which we all figured out real quick.
Was it a perfect event? Absolutely not. But is it a big deal that the International Lindy Hop Championships took place in New York City, the birthplace of lindy hop, the Harlem Renaissance, and an ongoing epicenter of Black arts in America? I say, hell yes.