RUMEYSA – Istanbul rediscovers 1920s American dance Lindy Hop

Istanbul rediscovers 1920s American dance Lindy HopBeing a top travel destination in 2014, Istanbul is offering many thrilling and energizing experiences, both to residents and visitors. Beginning in the 2000s with the efforts of a number of enthusiastic young people, the swing music and dance scene is one of the most relaxed and joyous in the city, welcoming anyone interested in having fun.

Originating as a style of jazz music between the 1920s and 1950s among African American communities in the US, swing dance is an umbrella term used for many dances including Lindy Hop, Balboa, the Charleston and Shag. Although it was quite widespread in many European cities following World War II, jazz music evolved into something more sophisticated in which the audience was supposed to sit and listen rather than dance.

Swing gave way to other, often solo dances such as rock and roll in the popular dance culture.With a rekindling of interest among several groups in the US and Europe, swing dance became popular once again and quickly spread to many cities after the 1980s.

Currently, there are many dance studios, festivals and competitions worldwide and many swing dancers travel just to be able to dance with their fellow dancers in other countries and get better at it.Banu Birecikligil fell in love with Lindy Hop, the most famous and widespread form of swing, when she went to a party in Berlin in 2005, bringing it back home with her to sow the seeds of swing dance in Istanbul.

andldquoI asked every single dance school in the city and emailed many people, but couldnand#39t find anyone who knew Lindy Hop at the time. It was a very challenging process to gather the first core group.

Actually this is how it goes in many places. Nobody comes to your city and says andlsquoOh Iand#39m a Lindy Hop teacher and will open a dance school here.

and#39 First some people become interested in it, show a few steps to their friends, eventually it becomes 10 people and it goes from there,andrdquo she says, summarizing how things evolved in Istanbul.andldquoI invited teachers and dancers from other countries and we held classes in other dance studios and we used to go to bars and ask them whether we can listen to our music and dance with it following the classes.

andrdquo Birecikligil further notes that the increasing worldwide popularity of Lindy Hop stems from the need of people wanting to listen to acoustic music after the heyday of the electronic music in the 1980s. andldquoWhen I first saw a Lindy Hop party, it wasnand#39t this widespread.

However, currently there are at least three Lindy Hop parties every night in Berlin for instance,andrdquo she says.Energetic and happy rhythms of swingMurat zturk, a dance teacher at Istanbul Lindy Hoppers who has been dancing for the last six years, says that swing is a very special dance for him and he especially enjoys the African rhythms of the music.

andldquoJazz music was the entertainment of the and#3920s and and#3930s, and the vibrant aspect of it has been preserved until the present. Thatand#39s the reason why it is so appealing to me.

Both the lively and joyous nature of the music, also the fact that the dance has open positions which allow the dancers to be free, unlike other couplesand#39 dances, is quite alluring. Whenever you hear the music, you want to dance, which is a huge aantage.

I believe this is why itand#39s different than other dances,andrdquo he says, adding that he listen to other kinds of music too, but he can only go on for doing it for a limited amount of time whereas he can listen to swing from morning till night.Although people dance Lindy Hop at ballrooms as well, it is actually a street dance, points out Bahar MuratoIlu, one of the dance teachers at Swing Istanbul.

andldquoIt is a quite relaxed and free style of dance. People smile and even laugh while dancing Lindy Hop.

We laugh if we fall or if anything else goes wrong. Having fun is very central to it,andrdquo she further explains.

Another dancer, zge Orhan, who has been dancing Tango for seven years, also emphasizes the joyous nature of Lindy Hop. andldquoTango, for example, addresses the feeling of melancholy of the dancer while with swing dances the feelings of happiness and joy are pivotal,andrdquo Orhan underlines.

Unique aspects of Lindy Hoppers sceneCompared to other couplesand#39 dance scenes in Istanbul — such as the Tango and Salsa communities — it would be accurate to say that sexual tension among the dancers is quite low while dancing Lindy Hop. andldquoThere are some couples who join our courses and events here, but everybody dances with everybody and there is a collective energy in this dance rather than energy concentrated on a couple,andrdquo another dance teacher, BaIak Alma, notes that this is because of the rituals of swing dance.

People who are interested in Lindy Hop either love the music first and then develop a passion for the dance or see the dance at some point and would specifically want to learn it. andldquoDancers of Lindy Hop are more conscious and knowledgeable about it while they are starting to learn it, whereas many people start salsa or tango because they want to have a new hobby or would like to develop a closer and more comfortable relationship with the other sex,andrdquo Orhan also adds.

Turkeyand#39s first and only swing festivalThere are many swing dance festivals around the world and Orient Lindy Express is the first one established in Turkey. andldquoWorld-famous teachers come here and give various workshops during the course of the festival.

Not only the local dancers, but also a lot of dancers from all around the world come to join these classes. Apart from the classes we also have parties in various locations during the evenings,andrdquo MuratoIlu states.

The only problem of this rather new but lively dance scene in Istanbul is the lack of lead dancers in the city compared to the numbers of followers. (Traditionally lead dancers are men, and followers are women, but of course anyone willing to learn the moves can do either) So any leader living in or visiting Istanbul is more than welcome to the swing parties in the city.

Places to learn swing dance in IstanbulFounded in 2009 by Hakan Durak, Swing Istanbul is the first studio teaching swing dance and schedules events such as practice hours, weekly parties featuring live music and various workshops. andldquoWhen Hakan opened this studio there were 50 of us.

This was a big number for us at the time. Now, many more people know it and itand#39s quite exciting.

I used to be surprised even two years ago when somebody said, andlsquoOh I know Lindy Hop, a friend of mine does itand#39,andrdquo Birecikligil says.Last year, when the number of swing dancers increased, a group of people including Birecikligil founded Istanbul Lindy Hoppers.

Both Swing Istanbul and Istanbul Lindy Hoppers mainly offer Lindy Hop classes for various levels, stretching into a two-year period for a beginner to learn it. Also, they try to invite established teachers from all around the world to stay in Istanbul for periods of time and conduct workshops with local dancers.

Furthermore, since the practice and party nights do not generally clash, one dancer can find a swing dance event almost every night of the week in Istanbul.To follow the new class schedules and various events of the swing world in Istanbul, visit the Facebook pages of Istanbul Lindy Hoppers and Swing Istanbul.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman