Do people clapping on the One and Three drive you crazy? If so, hold on to your horses, because I might be about to ruin Hellzapoppin’ for you. Don’t worry though. I promise I’ll make things right again.
For the benefit of new dancers, if you aren’t familiar with Hellzapoppin’, it’s the most iconic of all the vintage Lindy Hop clips. Choreographed by Frankie Manning, performed by Whitey’s Lindy in the movie Hellzapoppin’ – it is an electrifying, high energy, lightning-fast routine that many of us can never tire of watching. There’s a lot been written about it – I’d recommend reading this article on Yehoodi if you want to know more. If you haven’t read Frankie’s autobiography – Ambassador for Lindy Hop, do read it – it’s a great book, and he gives a fascinating, in-depth account of how the routine came to be filmed.
Still with me? I think this all got started when I tried using Hellzapoppin’ in one of my music talks, to illustrate how dancers could use the musical phrasing to structure their dancing. I realised it didn’t quite seem to fit with the musical structure in the way I’d expected – all the solo sections were the right length, but didn’t seem to begin and end at the expected points in the music.
More recently, in my post-Big-Apple editing frenzy, I started looking again at Hellzapoppin’, debating whether to commit utter heresy try and change the phrasing, when I realised that after her epic between-the-legs slide, when Ann Johnson scoots back again towards Frankie…
She is clapping. On one, three and five. Let that sink in for a second. Ann Johnson. The Ann Johnson. Frankie’s dance partner, Ann Johnson. Clapping on the odd beats. This couldn’t possibly be right.
When I first saw that, something inside me died a little… and a new editing project was born.