Many dancers are familiar with the obsession involved in learning a partner dance; spending hours and days travelling to dances, taking lessons, watching videos, discussing partners, and just plain dancing. Writing a book like this also involves a certain amount of obsession, but of a slightly different and more solitary kind.
I first started partner dancing in 1993, beginning with Modern Jive. This was a perfect style to start with—easy to learn, impressive to watch—but it didn't take long before I felt that I was beginning to exhaust its possibilities, and so I moved on to learning Lindy Hop.
I was completely confused and bewildered by the first workshop I attended, but after a little while things started to make more sense. At the time, there was no Lindy Hop nearby, so the small group of us who learned at the same time pooled our experiences from workshops and video tapes, and learnt what worked and what didn't from each other.
Because proper Lindy Hop lessons were so few and far between, I started keeping extensive notes on everything that I learned—if I couldn't ask the teachers questions later, I could at least consult my notes from the lesson. By 1995, I'd moved to London and so had much more access to regular classes and dances, and my summer vacation started to include an annual pilgrimage to Herräng. Throughout all this, my Lindy Hop notes continued to grow.
Both in Herräng and on business trips to the US, I was always stunned by the fact that I could make an immediate connection with a complete stranger, dancing on a social dance floor. I've danced with followers from Sweden, France, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, America, Singapore, Finland, the Netherlands, Germany, and could communicate through Lindy Hop even when my partner and I couldn't speak a language in common.
I'd often thought that all of the information encoded in my notes might be useful to someone else, but it wasn't until 2006 that I started on the project to organize it all and make it accessible. Partly, I was inspired by Marc Tedeschi's "Hapkido"; although I have little interest in martial arts, I was mesmerized by the book—here was an attractive, comprehensive reference to a physical discipline, and I wondered what could be done along the same lines for partner dance forms.
I know that a book like this would have helped me enormously when I was learning Lindy Hop; hopefully, writing this will help someone else in future.
No-one learns to dance a partner dance on their own. I'd firstly like to thank the people with whom I learned to dance: Rob Tarrant, Jenny Welstand, Mark Salisbury, Bela Gor and most of all Sarah Smith. I'm also very grateful to the teachers from whom I learned so much: David Dalmo, Ryan Francois, Rob van Haaren, Eddie Jansson, Eva Lagerqvist, Steven Mitchell, Simon Selmon, Ewa Staremo-Burak, Louise Thwaite, Lennart Westerlund, and of course the inimitable Frankie Manning.