My first exposure to Lindy Hop was through The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which I read for a course in college in America. My second exposure to Lindy Hop came from some seriously hip young Greeks in downtown Thessaloniki.
Yes, that’s right. I know it’s hard to believe (especially once you’ve read about my dance-tastrophe in France), but I actually decided to take a dance class. And I wasn’t even being threatened by people with sharp objects or chased by any predators when I signed up.
My history with dancing is a long, tragic and freakin’ awkward story. When I was a kid, I grew tremendously quickly. In fact, by the time fifth grade was over, I was wearing size 10 shoes (that’s about a 41 for you Greeks!). I never minded being tall (or having freakishly large feet), but that physical awkwardness that came with growing so quickly never really went away. The sports I like (mostly running and skiing) are more about throwing your body forward than anything else, and I tend to drop and break things.
I’m also not very good at revolving doors, and not walking into low-lying branches, screen doors of all shapes and sizes, or the big metal columns inside the Gallatin Valley Mall movie theater in Bozeman, Montana (not that I’ve ever done that). And when you can’t even really walk right, how the heck are you supposed to learn to dance?
However, I’m an actress and a singer. People who can act, sing, and dance are called “triple threats.” But I’m just a double threat, which is like being a Mediocre Slam instead of a grand one, or an Average-Sized Cheese instead of the big one. Who wants to be an Average-Sized Cheese?
But recently, I got a chance to give dancing another go when Lindy Hop Greece came to the American Farm School, where I am teaching for the year. The awesomely chic young lady who would be the teacher for my class, as well as a seriously cute male teacher (αυτό είναι για σένα, Αλεξανδρος!) came to our school and led a class for whoever wanted to join in. I had such a blast I decided to sign up for a full course! (And the cute teacher was only part of my decision, I swear!)
So, what is Lindy Hop? Well, I’ll show you.
BAM! That’s Lindy Hop! Today, it’s a much tamer dance than what you see in this video. But the wild energy of it really appeals to me; you can get away with being awkward in Lindy Hop because it still looks cool! Yesss! As long as you throw yourself into it, let go and relax, you can do the Lindy Hop in whatever style your flailin’ little arms and legs fancy.
The atmosphere of the class was immediately friendly, safe and fun. Even as someone with about as much innate dancing talent as a loaf of bread, I never felt self-conscious in class. This was partly because of our rockin’ teacher and the awesome people in my class, but I also think it also speaks to cultural differences. We Americans can be so painfully uptight, and often put our judge-y faces on when it comes to “scary” things like dance classes with new people. Greek cultural norms offer a chance to be much more relaxed and genuine from the start. It’s one of my favorite things about living here!
We learned lots of new moves during the six-week class, such as…
…A move you can add to the Charleston called “Kick the Dog”:
…And the basic Lindy Hop swing out (though what is in the video is way more complicated than what we were doing!):
These moves and more were taught to us by two Greek teachers, and the official language for the class was Grenglish. In fact, the ratio of Greek-English was just perfect for me–there was enough English to keep me in the loop, and enough Greek to teach me! I learned lots of new vocabulary words in class, like κύκλος (circle) and μπρος και πίσω (forward and back). On top of all this, our teachers were totally cool. I’m pretty sure Christina is about my age, and I still want to grow up to be her.
In the photo above, Christina is doing 1920s style Charleston, like in this video:
When I studied abroad in Marseille during college, my program required each student to join a club somewhere in the city. At the time, I thought it was stupid, mostly because I didn’t have the guts to really take advantage of it. But now, I really think everyone living abroad should join a club where they are. It’s such a great way to make new friends, learn more about your host country’s culture, and have fun!
For those of you in Thessaloniki, Lindy Hop Greece is located in the city center, on Valaoritou Street. You can find them on the web here, and they offer classes for all different levels!
Thanks Lindy Hop Greece! It was a blast!
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