Lindy CharlestonLindy Charleston
Hi Lindy Hoppers!!!
Lesson #3
Great Exhibition
A Great Demo by Marc and Ellen
The "A Kick"

Prefatory Note

A long time ago, we used to teach Lindy Hop. We don't do this anymore (mainly because of work responsibilities) and we reccommend that you seek out current instructors in the DC Area. This section is included as a historic artifact that demonstrates the difficulty of developing instructions for dancing. If you can't take live lessons, video is the absolute next best thing. The best of the "dance lesson" websites is Unlimited Swing that lets you pick and choose from LOTS of instructors. If you go through our curriculum, you'll probably laugh at our attempts to use clumsy math-like nomenclature to get points across. We experimented with animated GIFs to teach Charleston (Lesson 3) because in 1998, it could take five minutes to download a grainy 20 second video. Times have changed....

So, read along and have a chuckle at our attempts at pedagogy.

Lesson Three: Lindy Charleston

Dance historians have puzzled over the origins of Lindy Hop. Analysis of the dance reveals all sorts of influences. The most popular theory holds that as the new "Swing" music with 8 beats and syncopated fourth began to supplant the older "Two Step" music (Compare "Five Foot Two" with "Flat Foot Floogie"), dancers scrambled for a way to adapt what they knew to what the music was saying. Under this theory, the two most popular uptempo dances in the late 1920s were Fox Trot and Charleston -- - and we can see their influence in Lindy. The Whip probably is the 8-count adaptation of the Foxtrot "corkscrew" (there is also a similar movement in Waltz).

In this lesson, we are going to study the influence of Charleston. We should mention that the Charleston elements of Lindy were among the first to be forgotten as the dance spread westward away from New York. In the Marx Brothers' "A Day at the Races" (1937), Lindy Charleston is featured. The last Lindy Charleston scene on film is a very minor sequence in Olsen and Johnson's "Hellzapoppin" from about 1940. However, we believe that Lindy Charleston is a very important component of the dance, because it both lends itself to huge amounts of variation and is deeply embedded in other Lindy movements. Some movements are almost impossible to teach on their own, but given knowledge of Lindy Charleston the same moves are very easy to grasp.

Lindy Charleston is NOT mirror-symmetric --- Lead and Follow have the same step. This is because Lindy Charleston is done in TANDEM position with the Follower behind the Lead. There are exceptions, of course. The step is deceptively simple; here is the Mantra:

"Rock Step, Kick,Down, Front, Middle, Back, Down"

Here's what it should look like

Charleston Step

Here is the ELEMENTARY version:

  • Beats 1 and 2: Rock Step, just as before
  • Beat 3: Left foot kicks front --- from the knee. If you need a memory device, it should be a small kick, as if you were trying to get something off your shoe. Right foot stationary.
  • Beat 4: Bring left foot together with the right. Weight on both feet.
  • Beat 5: Left foot remains stationary. Right foot kicks front, same small kick.
  • Beat 6: Right foot brought to "Stag" position off the ground knee bent and about equal with the left leg. Left foot stationary.
  • Beat 7: Right leg kicks backward and to the side. Small kick from the knee. Left foot stationary.
  • Beat 8: Right leg brought together with the left. Weight on both feet.

"Rock Step, Kick, Down, Front, Middle, Back, Down"

We will practice this for a while. You will find that after a while, one leg or the other will refuse to do this. This is a left/right handed difficulty that can be overcome with practice. You must practice Charleston at least 15 minutes a day to drive this into your muscles.

You will have learned Charleston when you understand an alternate form of the Mantra:

"Back, Middle, Front, Down, Front, Middle, Back, Down"

In order to effectively dance Lindy Charleston, the elementary version must be modified slightly:


  1. Same steps as in Elementary version
  2. The foot which is not kicking hops. Hop on right on beat 3, hop on Left on beats 5, 6, 7
  3. The posture for your body is bent at the waist, just like Skiing or Tennis


Lead stands behind the follower. The Follower presents hands palms up, behind the body. The Lead grasps the hands with thumb and forefinger (like a pincers). The grip is very light. The Lead moves the hands back and forth with the kicking foot:

  • Beats 1 & 2: "Rock Step" Lead pulls left hand back, pushes right forward.
  • Beat 3: "Kick" - Lead pushes Left hand forward, pulls right back
  • Beat 4: "Down" - both hands in middle position
  • Beat 5: "Front" - Lead pulls Left hand back, pushes Right hand forward
  • Beat 6: "Middle" - both hands in middle position
  • Beat 7: "Back" - Lead pushes Left hand forward, pulls right back
  • Beat 8: "Down" - both hands in middle position

Getting into Tandem Position

The basic movement is the "Tuck Turn" which can be done from open position or side by side position.

The Tuck Turn:

  • Beats 1 & 2: Rock Step
  • Beats 3&4: Triple Step
  • Beat 5: "Tuck" Lead executes HALF of an outside turn, turning the partner to face away from the Lead. Lead places the Right hand on the Follower's Hip. This is the SIGNAL for the Tuck turn
  • Beat 6: "Turn" Lead pulls the Follower into tandem alignment, and changes hands Lead's left holds Follower's left and Lead's right holds follower's right.
  • Beats 7&8: Triple step in place.

On the next sequence, the Rock Step is part of the Lindy Charleston movement.

Note that in Lindy Charleston, your weight is on both feet on counts 4 and 8. And, it is on 4 and 8 that you make moves.

Exiting from Charleston:

  • Beats 1-4 same as Charleston
  • Beat 5: Lead drops Left hand, raises the right hand and turns the partner counter clockwise
  • Beat 6: Turn is completed, change hands, Lead's Left Holds partner's right
  • Beats 7&8 Triple-Step (You are now in basic open position)

Lindy Circle:

This is the same as the whip, but you don't let go after the step around -- the Lead draws the partner to right side. Triple step in place. You end up side by side. This is the starting place for side by side moves like Saint Louis Shag (future lesson). You can also get into tandem Charleston off the whip with a lindy circle:

Tuck Turn from Lindy Circle

  • Beats 1&2: Rock step side by side
  • Beats 3&4: Triple step, Lead moves behind the partner
  • Beat 5: Tuck: Lead grasps right hand of partner and executes a tuck (half an outside turn)
  • Beat 6: Turn: change hands, pull into tandem position Beats 7&8: Triple step in place.

You are ready for tandem charleston

About our Photo: This is a picture of Ellen Engle and Marc Shepanek doing the "A Kick", perhaps the ultimate expression of Lindy Charleston. Marc and Ellen compete widely and teach Lindy Hop --- in fact, we took lessons from them!


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