Review of Margaret Batiuchok’s “The Lindy”

by George Woolley

Although written in fullment of a degree requirement at NYU, the thesis is primarily a work of art. It is a celebration of Lindy and of great Lindy dancers. It is also a work in progress that the reader can participate in by engaging with the questions Margaret raises & the material she provides and by being open to be inspired to dance better.
The written part of the thesis is 104 pages long and addresses such topics as: the characteristics of Lindy, the origins and evolution of Lindy, and characteristics of the dancing of four excellent Lindy dancers. The thesis also includes four video tapes, each over two hours long, and each focusing on an excellent Lindy dancer's dancing, personal history and views about Lindy. The dancers are Frankie Manning, George Lloyd, Charlie Mead, and Tom Lewis. Also included on the tapes are clips of demos and of dancing in social settings in New York City.
Margaret brings forth a vision of Lindy. It is grounded on the one hand in clear intellectual distinctions and on the other hand in the videos of the dancing of excellent Lindy dancers. She sees Lindy as a jazz dance danced to swing music with a certain syncopation and a certain feel. Excellent Lindy dancers express themselves in the moment through their dancing. They improvise within the structure of the dance, have their own personal styles, and have a deep connection with their partners and the music.
In the Chapter on her "Artistic Aim", Margaret describes the dancing of the four dancers. The descriptions are detailed and yet quite moving. If her descriptions have merit, then her view of excellent Lindy dancers is grounded. The videos give concrete validation to Margaret's views. Frankie, George, Charlie and Tom each have their own styles, improvise within the structure of the dance and are connected with the music and with their partners.
It is Margaret's intention that we see the artistry of the four dancers she focuses on and the possibilites that Lindy holds for us of developing our own styling and creativity.
Levels of Abstraction
At one level of abstraction, we could copy the dancing of Frankie Manning down to the exact angle of his back in each move. On a higher level of abstraction, we could be like all four of the dancers that the thesis focuses on by developing our own styles, improvising within the structure of the dance, etc. We cannot do both. It is Margaret's aim that we do the latter, that is, that we learn the structure and feel of Lindy, and then develop our own way of dancing it within the structure of the dance.

© Copyright 1997 George Woolley

From Dance Magic Review, December 1997