Lindy Hop Challenge

Hmm, the whole Should I Learn to Lindy Hop thing has gotten bigger than Ben Hur. There’s more than two hundred comments thus far. And not all of them are from minions of Maureen Johnson and John Green. I’m kind of amazed.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about: I asked if it was really necessary for me to learn to lindy hop as research for my 1930s novel. Yes, there is dancing in the novel. But I figured looking at youtube clips would be enough.

John Green instantly responded that he and Sarah Green would donate a thousand dollars to a charity of my choice if I learned the EXTREMELY DANGEROUS DANCE and continues to beat the drum of my destruction. I suspect this is revenge for my instigating John having to overcome his fear of heights. Which he didn’t. Not really. He’s on that table for like .05 of a second!

A number of other commenters have said they will also give money to a charity of my choice if I learn this dance. So, if I do this thing AND I HAVEN’T SAID I WILL YET then that money will go to the following:

Save Queens Library

Brooklyn Public Library: Support Our Shelves

Support the NYPL

Brooklyn Vanguard

Read this extremely moving letter from a NYC librarian for some of the many reasons they’re such a worthy cause. Basically, the city is cutting funding to the NYPL system right at a time when libraries are being stretched to breaking point because the downturn in the economy means more and more people are using libraries.

Almost every book I’ve ever written has involved large chunks of time spent researching in libraries. I love them. The NYPL system is proving invaluable for my lindy hopping 1930s novel. I love libraries and l love New York City. So if I have to damage myself learn the lindy hop it would be fabulous for NYPL to get something out of it.

You can vote and/or pledge money to the NYPL over there or here.

For those who don’t know what the lindy hop looks like:

Frankie Manning who was one of the lindy hops pioneers is featured. He died just last month.


  1. Emily H. on #

    As a BPL librarian who’s probably on the chopping block, thank you for this! You’re awesome. Also, I wish I knew how to lindy hop, but I’ve broken three of my limbs in the last few years, so I need you to go first so I know how dangerous it is.

  2. Malcolm Tredinnick on #

    That summary left out a few of the good bits. Here, I’ll fix it for you…

    You spend years carefully cultivating a discerning audience of blog readers and commenters, asking questions and clearly reading the answers that are given. You’ve used this blog for research before and seemed pleased by the response (e.g. an early request for info about lying for what I guess turned into Liar). We, the readers, are, after all, only here to help. Well, there’s a little bit of sniggering that should be beneath us at time, but that’s usually when you poke fun at somebody else.

    This time, you asked another reasonable research question. The regular readers commented. Even some of the more irregular ones did. Some of them went out and brought in more survey respondents via their own famous blogs and discerning readers. More people voted. Arbitrary rules like “one person, (only) one vote” were brought in to try and sway the result at the last minute, but to no avail. A disturbingly feminine-looking Abraham Lincoln even came out of hiding to vote (good old honest Abe — would he not tell you the truth?).

    Now, you also tell us that if you don’t learn to dance, the library gets it, so to speak. How is this still an open question? Think of the homeless books. Some of them probably even have pictures of cute kittens in them.

    I’ll add $400 to the pot. US dollars, too, as the Australian coconut don’t seem to buy as much as it used to these days.

  3. Justine on #

    Emily: Hey, I haven’t said I’d do it yet! (Here’s hoping the axe does not descend.)

    Malcolm: Wow. What a generous offer! That’s a most amusing summary. There was some extremely dodgy voting on the original thread.

  4. Kristin on #

    It does look like awesome exercise. I’m sure you could choose one of the simpler flips–think of the video you’ll have to post!

  5. caitlin on #

    Here’s an idea since John was on the table for about 5 seconds then you need only perform a partial lindy hop. I’m sure John would agree right John?

  6. Justine on #


    caitlin: If I do this thing I will do it properly. I’m not going to cheat like that certain somebody.

  7. TansyRR on #

    There’s one vital detail missing here – who ELSE is going to participate in this madness? Looking at the footage, I’m pretty sure you need a partner to play…

    Someone with BIG ARMS.

  8. Julia Rios on #

    I don’t think I voted before, because I understand fear of injury, etc. However, it really sounds like you want to do it. Maybe it’s envy of the adrenaline rush you know Maureen Johnson will get from her trapeze school adventure, or maybe it’s because you just want to be one of the cool kids who can say, “Yeah I know how to Lindy Hop.” Whatever the reason, I don’t believe you would keep posting about it, and upping the stakes if you didn’t want to do it. So. Um, I guess I’m another yes vote. Why no video, though? Clearly a video is in order with a challenge like this!

  9. Justine on #

    Julia: Hey, Green upped the stakes not me! I feel like I should learn all the thirties steps for my book. But, trust me, I REALLY don’t want to. I know I’ll get injured. I always am and I’m already carrying an injury from my last attempt at a sport. Stupid plantar fasciitis.

    As for video. Over my dead body. I have an atavistic horror of being filmed. HATE IT. WON’T DO IT.

  10. Julia Rios on #

    You posted about which charities would receive the funds and urged people to look at those charities, which encourages people to pledge money so you’ll feel guilted into Lindy Hopping. That seems like you upping the stakes to me.

    Didn’t you post video of you tying a Windsor? You could always block out your face… I suppose if the idea of your body on film freaks you out though, well one horror at a time. Still, I’m guessing your pledgers will want some sort of juicy proof.

  11. Justine on #

    There was no video of my tying a Windsor. I took a photo of the resulting tie. There will be no video of the lindy hopping either. Presuming I do it. John Green has agreed that three eye witnesses will satisfy him. I hope that will satisfy everyone else who’s pledged money. If it doesn’t then I guess they won’t donate it. If I do this thing.

    If I don’t do it then I’ll cover the amount pledged myself. The NYPL won’t lose out.

  12. Q on #

    But notice that he didn’t die in 1941 as you claim he could have. Of course, he is a professional. But you should still learn. Drag Scott along with you and see if you can’t get John Green to donate another thousand dollars to the NYPL system.

  13. Camille on #

    Yikes — Queens Library was MY library growing up and I didn’t realize it was in trouble once I defaulted to NYPublic. I must pledge.

    (Please dance slowly! We don’t want you hurt!)

  14. Janine on #

    Random passer-by says:

    Usually when learning the Lindy, you don’t start with aerials, unless you can convince somebody with a gym mat and few scruples to throw you around. Generally speaking, you can have a fun and totally period dance without them. In my humble, humble, random-person opinion, getting thrown into the air in an empty studio is much less daunting than going out to a social dance where there are (lots of)Other People.

    My two cents are tossed, have fun, and good luck with your book.

  15. Christina on #

    Please email me.

    I am a Lindy Hopper in NY and can introduce you to a number of people who have avidly studied the history behind the dance and can help you with the process of starting to learn the dance.

    Some of us found your website while checking out and searching “Lindy Hop”

    I also happen to be a book blogger and recently did a fundraiser on my blog to raise money for BPL’s Save Our Shelves, so I’m thrilled to see someone combining both my loves for charity!

  16. Brynzapoppin on #

    I teach/perform/coach lindy hop for part of my living, and I guarantee you it is not the dangerous dance you’re making it out to be. The dancing in the video clip you’re referring to is extreme and was performed by some of the best lindy hoppers who ever lived. Once you get to their level, the crazy stuff they’re doing isn’t dangerous anymore because you know how to do it properly.

    My question is, how do you define having “learned” lindy hop. You can pick up a couple basic steps within a lesson or two — enough to get through the night with some semblance of familiarity with the dance. But it can take months or even years to get to the point where you’re dancing it reasonably competently, many more years before you reach an advanced level, and you can easily spend the rest of your life trying to actually master it. So I’d be more concerned with the time commitment than with the possibility of injury if I were you. But once you start, you might not mind that part. Don’t be surprised if you catch the bug!

    As for whether or not I think you need to learn lindy hop in order to write about it: yes. Not only that, but you need to get to know the people and the culture. Now, I realize that you’re writing about the 1930s and not the contemporary lindy hop scene, but by getting to know today’s dancers, you can avoid many of the disastrous stereotypes we usually see plastered all over the media. We can also be a wealthy source of information about the way things were back in the day.

  17. Brynzapoppin on #

    By the way, I’m glad to hear you know about Frankie Manning. If you haven’t already, you should definitely read his book Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop.

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