Whip VariationsWhip Variations
Hi Lindy Hoppers!!!
Lesson #4 -- scroll to the bottom to exit this page
Umbrella Dance
Umbrella Dance
From The Powers Girl

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 Four: Whip Variations

In this Lesson, we are going to get more practice with the Lindy Whip and to make basic movement "Fly". That is, you are going to learn how to adapt or vary the whip in a fashion that is especially suited for very fast music.

From a historical and analytic point of view, we are also going to make a "bridge" between the whip and Lindy Charleston while learning more about how to vary Lindy steps to improvise with the music.

Whip Variation

The "Mantra" for Lindy is:
"Rock Step, Triple Step, Step, Step, Triple Step"

We modified this for the Whip to indicate that the Triple Steps involve forward motion toward and away from the partner and that the "Steps" on beats 5 and 6 are in a circular "whipping" motion.

Thus, the "Mantra" for the Whip became:
"Rock Step, Step Up Now, Step Around, Step Back Now"

We are going to vary the whip by replacing the component parts with new steps. The first variation is called the "Hitch Whip", which we have hinted at before. We will be replacing the triple steps with "hitches".

The "Mantra" for the Hitch Whip is:
"Rock Step, Hitch In, Step Around, Hitch Out"

Hitch In:

"Hitch In" is really "Hitch Together", but that has four syllables and can't be used as part of a "mantra". The best way to look at the "Hitch IN" is to consider the first four beats of Lindy Charleston:
"Rock step, Kick, Down"

From the Lead's point of view, this is very close to the "Hitch In", with one exception: in Charleston, the right foot stays where it is and the left foot comes back to meet it. In the Hitch, the left foot is planted about fifteen inches in front and the right foot comes forward with about fifteen inches between the feet.

Alas, the Whip is a Mirror Symmetric movement and the Follower must learn something new. The follower's part is:

  • Beat 1: Rock Back on Right foot
  • Beat 2: Step on Right (Traditional Open Position Rock step)
  • Beat 3: Kick Right foot forward
  • Beat 4: Plant Right foot forward fifteen inches and bring left up, with about fifteen inches between the feet

As in all Lindy Movements at the end of Beat 4, your weight is on both feet so you can move anywhere you want. Both partners are facing each other with their feet spread.

Step Around

At this point, you execute the "step around" movement on Beats 5 and 6 just as before in the whip.

Hitch Out:

"Hitch Out" really means "Hitch Apart", but again the syllables preclude that use in a Mantra. From the lead's point of view, the "Hitch Out" is similar to beats 7 and 8 of Lindy Charleston. Kick the right foot back and plant it fifteen inches behind you. Bring the Left foot back together with the right.

Since the movement is mirrror symmetric, the Follower must do the reverse: Kick the Left foot back and plant it fifteen inches behind you. Bring the Right foot back together with the right.

Tempo for Hitch Whip

It is difficult to do the hitch whip slowly, because it really gets you "Flying". This is a move that is ideally suited for very fast music. It is similarly difficult to "deconstruct" this piece into its individual movements for practice. It is something that you have to get a feel for as a whole. While you are flying on one foot during the hitches, you pull against your partner for support.

Leading the Hitch Whip

This movement is difficult to lead with absolute certainty. The Leadr can give a stronget than normal tug on the Follower's hand, something that can develop over time as a unique lead for couples who dance together frequently. However, for general social dancing, the lead generally signals the onset of the Hitch Whip by doing the "Hitch In" The follower will probably not be able to mirror this the first time around, but will just do the "Triple In." However, the Follower can respond with the "Hitch Out" and know from then on that the Hitch whip is being led. So, don't stop dancing just because you partner shows you a "Hitch In" --- just pick it up and go with it.

Rock Step Variations

For the rest of this lesson, we will assume that we are doing Hitch Whips and we are going to play around with improvisations on the Rock Step. All of these are TWO BEAT steps that come before the "Hitch In"

Mule Kicks

You may vary the rock step by kicking your foot back without putting it down. Kick back so that someone behind you can see the sole of your shoe. It is JUST like a mule would kick. Those of you with non-farm backgrounds may rent the original "Francis the Talking Mule" picture (which incidentally has a pretty good Lindy scene in it.) The Lead kicks back with the Left foot and the Follower kicks back with the Right foot. You go DIRECTLY from the mule kick into the hitch without putting the kicking foot down.

Cross Kick

You don't have to put the kicking foot behind you. You can also kick front and across. (The only way you can't kick is directly forward, simply because you will kick each other!) For the Cross kicks, you must support yourself with the weight of your partner. That is, you must lean back a little so that you can pull on your partner while you are kicking.

The Lead kicks the Left foot across and to the right and returns it while it is still in the air to the left in preparation for "Hitch In" all the weight is on the right and balance is achieved by holding on to the partner.

The Follower kicks the right foot across and to the left and returns it while it is still in the air to the right in preparation for "Hitch In" all the weight is on the left and balance is achieved by holding on to the partner.

This is a dramatic movement that gets a lot of crowd attention. It is difficult to lead unambiguously, but the follower can catch it and pick it up on the next go-round.

Long Legs

This is an EXTREME version of the Mule Kick. You extend the kicking leg very far back so that the knee is almost touching the ground. Both parners must pull fairly hard to launch into the "Hitch In"

The Lead extends the Left foot back until the knee nearly touches the ground --- the lead must crouch low to do this and that is the signal for the follower to do the mirror movement.

The Follower extends the Right foot until the knee nearly touches the ground --- and must also crouch low to do this.

Both partners must give a good "yank" to pull themselves into the "Hitch In" This pull is absolutely mandatory.

"Long Legs" is not reccommended for persons with knee trouble. It is a dramatic movement but can be hard on the knees and thigh muscles. Be very careful as you practice it. Try to work at leg extension gradually.


This is a cute movement that can be used almost anywhere in Lindy. The partners simply replace the rock step by rocking back on their heels. The butt is thrown back and the partners move their faces toward each other. Pulling against each other's weight is an important component of this move.

Swivels and Switches

In general, the Follower may elect to replace the Rock Step with a Swivel. Ladies often find this movement interesting. (Well, some ladies may do this because Men find it interesting) This is certainly a historical movement -- check out the Lindy scene at the end of the Abbott and Costello film "Buck Privates". You will be able to see Jewel McGowan executing the most perfect swivel ever put on film.

A good first simple approximation of the Swivel may be done by the follower by standing on the balls of the feet (i.e. heels up) and rotating the feet so that the toe of the left is pointing at the heel of the right on Beat 1 and reversing this on Beat 2. You lean back, put your hips into it and raise your left hand and wave.

There are as many swivels as there are lady Lindy Hoppers. This is one area where the Follower has complete freedom! In the whip, once the follower has let go on beat 5, the follower is generally expected to improvise and has complete freedom of choice. Now you understand those Tee Shirts that you may see which read "Real Men Let Go on 5".

Mix and Match

With the exception of Long Legs, you have complete freedom to mix and match Rock Step variations. For example, one partner can Mule Kick while the other Cross Kicks. The Lead can Mule Kick while the follower swivels. If you think that synchronized moves look best, work out a way of signalling your partner, but the Rock Step has a whole lot of individual choice associated with it.

About the Photo: This is a section of a still from the 1942 film, The Powers Girl which features the Benny Goodman Band. This is the legendary "Umbrella Dance", where couples do Lindy Hop in the rain. Dean and Jewel manage to hang onto an umbrella and keep it twirling as they execute all sorts of incredible variations on the Whip. Alas, this film is hard to come by. Photo courtesy of Maxie Dorf


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