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Monday
Feb172014

The first generation Lindy Hoppers 1920-1930's Shorty George Snowden

"SHORTY" GEORGE SNOWDEN

Parts from Kansas City Lindy Hop Society and Savoy Style

Of the three first generation lindy hoppers, the most noted, and certainly most written about, was Shorty George Snowden. Shorty George was the top dancer at the Savoy from its opening in 1926 to the early 1930s. Barely five feet tall, he was recognized as a comic dance genius. When paired with his most well known partner Big Bea (who towered over him), what resulted were dance steps and patterns that were both wildly entertaining and technically brilliant. While some accounts credit Shorty George with introducing the first break-away pattern, he is most remembered for two things: his signature move, aptly named the Shorty George and giving Lindy Hop its name.
Here is "Shorty" dancing in After Seben in 1929 (3rd Couple) See the transition from the Charleston to the Break Away, the early look and transition into the Lindy Hop.

The Shorty George dance step was a self parody of his already very short stature. This step involved forward motion with acutely bent knees swinging from side to side. This move, or one very similar, is said to have been originally done under the name boogie walks and the Baltimore buzz.

The Dance Style Acquires a Name
While no one disputes Shorty George’s claim to popularizing the Shorty George dance step, the initial naming of Lindy Hop is another matter. Charles Lindbergh completed his non-stop flight from the United States to Europe on May 21, 1927. This was at a time when this dance style was becoming all the rage in Harlem, throughout New York, and up and down the entire East Coast. Now consider two things:

The terms hop and hopping were common vernacular for dance and dancing during that time.

The worldwide reporting of Lindbergh’s feat (akin to the first Moon landing) undoubtedly included some accounts that regarded his flight over the Atlantic Ocean as a hop.

    Snowden is often given credit for giving Lindy Hop its name. As the story goes, there was a charity dance-marathon in New York City in 1928, shortly after Charles Lindbergh's (known as "Lucky  Lindy") triumphant "hop" across the Atlantic. A reporter saw Snowden break away from his partner and improvise a few steps in a style that was popular in Harlem. "What was that!?" he asked. Snowden thought for a few seconds and replied, "I'm doin' the Hop...the Lindy Hop". The name stuck.

Perhaps the final word on this matter should be left to Frankie Manning himself who on this subject is quoted as saying,

" All I can say is that I heard the story from Shorty George himself. The other fellas from that time were standing around listening and they didn’t say ‘Aw, come on Shorty, quit the BS,’ which they would have said if it wasn’t true"

Here is Shorty George Snowden dancing in this rare clip with Big Bea in 1937 in "Ask Uncle Sol"

So ends the first generation of Lindy Hop and the dancers that gave it its original style and name. Throughout the 1930s, a new generation of lindy hoppers emerged. This second generation would go on to introduce Lindy Hop to a worldwide audience during the Golden Era of Lindy Hop Swing.

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