This book focuses on social Lindy Hop, but many dancers are also interested in performance Lindy Hop. Many aspects of the dance overlap between the two, but this section explores the parts that differ between the two approaches.
The most obvious aspect where performance dancing differs from social dancing is the use of pre-arranged choreography. This reduces the emphasis on leading and following, because the dancers are working to a memorized sequence of moves.
Although lead and follow is reduced, the overall musical interpretation becomes more important. On a social dance floor, it is a pleasant bonus if the dancers to sync up with key parts of the music—hitting breaks in the music, lining up with the musical phrasing. For a performance sequence, this musical synchronization is essential—a choreographed sequence that rides roughshod over the musical structure looks very odd indeed. This increased emphasis on musical interpretation involves an analysis of the song structure and a wide vocabulary of potential moves to match up with the music.
Because the movements are pre-choreographed, performance dancing also emphasizes the precision of the movements involved. On a social dance floor it doesn't matter if a Lindy Turn doesn't rotate exactly 360°; for a performance, the movements have to be more repeatable and precise—particularly in group performances.
The choreographed nature of performance dance, and the fact that it is a performance, also change the emphasis on the moves being performed. In a social dance, moves that can be reliably led and followed are key, and it is normal to repeat the same moves during a song. For a performance dance, moves that are impressive to the audience are key. This means that repetition of the same moves during a performance is a careful balance: repeat the same move too often and the audience gets bored, never repeat a single move and the audience gets bamboozled (and the dancers get exhausted).
The emphasis on more impressive moves means that performance Lindy Hop involves more jazz steps and breaks than are common in social Lindy Hop. It also provides the ideal opportunity to add airsteps to the dance, as the exhortations against airsteps covered in the Social Dancing section don't apply: the dancers work with a familiar partner who has explicitly agreed to perform the airsteps, the dancers know when they are coming and there is more space to allow a safe landing. However, other warnings about airsteps still apply: they need to be learnt carefully and safely, with spotters and an experienced teacher, and with an explicit acceptance of the probability of injury.
Performance dancing also involve a fascinating extra component for the dance: dancing with more than one partner. In a performance group, each of the dancers is implicitly dancing with the rest of the group, even if they never have any direct contact with them. This adds a whole new range of skills to learn: organizing positions on the floor, coordination of movements across the floor, synchronization of movements around the floor. This last is vital: a group of dancers performing simple steps with every single dancer in perfect synchronization looks much better than a group doing harder moves, but with variations in style and timing across the group.