Here in Southern California, I believe we have one of the best Swing dance scenes in the world. We have tons of great dancers, awesome venues, and incredible bands. We have it all, right? But, after living on the East Coast for three and a half years, I believe that our scene is sorely lacking in one important area: Lindy Exchanges.
What is a Lindy Exchange?
Basically, a Lindy Exchange is when the Swing dancers in a city will host dancers from out of town in their homes for a weekend of dancing and activities in their city. I had never been to one before I moved to the East Coast (except for the dismal L.A. Lindy Exchange, which doesn’t really count). Having gone to a few exchanges on the East Coast (Boston twice, Providence twice, Baltimore), I can testify that they are awesome.
You go to a new city. You live with a new group of Swing dancers you’ve never met before for a weekend. You see the sights during the day. You dance at night. You blues-dance till 4 AM. Then you repeat. Or, if you are a host, you host people from out of town at your home, show them the sights, and make great new friends. It’s friggin’ awesome.
The story goes that the Lindy Exchange concept started when a group of Swing dancers from Chicago visited San Francisco. It was so much fun that San Francisco Swing dancers reciprocated and went to Chicago to dance. And thus the first exchange was born.
The L.A. Lindy Exchange
After looking online, I wasn’t able to find evidence of a Los Angeles Lindy Exchange until I went back to 2006. Apparently it was so pathetic that one attendee referred to it as
“the so-called Los Angeles Lindy Exchange“. Enough said.
Similarly, the last Orange County Lindy Exchange I could find was in 2008. San Diego used to have a Lindy Exchange, but I don’t see any evidence of it this year. (Please correct me if I’m wrong on any of these). The closest active Lindy exchange I could find was in San Louis Obisbo.
Compare this with the northern part of the East Coast, where the following cities have active annual Lindy Exchanges: New York, Boston, D.C., Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Columbus, and Cleveland. Heck, even Providence, RI, which is a tiny fraction of the size of Los Angeles has an exchange!!
Take a look at the Northwest, where Seattle and Portland have Lindy Exchanges. Other parts of the country have active exchanges as well.
So what gives? Why doesn’t L.A., which arguably is a Mecca of Swing dancing, have a Lindy Exchange? Do we in Southern California just lack the hospitality to host people we don’t know? I don’t think that is it. I think we have plenty of hospitality.
I think one factor is that we are a victim of our own success. Our Swing scene is so good that there is no real reason to pump it up with a bunch of out-of-towners. In other medium-sized cities, the scene is not so big, so it’s really exciting to double or triple or quadruple the size of your Swing scene for one weekend. But here, our scene is so big there’s no need. I mean, who would care or even notice if an extra hundred people showed up to Lindy Groove one week? It wouldn’t be nearly as big a deal as fifty Swing dancers showing up in Baltimore, for example.
The other thing is that there are tons of decent-sized cities in the Northeast that are within driving distance of each other, so they can get a really diverse and large group of dancers to go to their exchanges. Other than Las Vegas and San Diego, L.A./O.C. is pretty isolated. People have to fly, which makes it expensive.
Finally, there are the logistics. The L.A./O.C. area is so vast that it makes it difficult to find good, central locations for the events which are big enough and not insanely expensive. The hosts would be scattered across a wide area, which means long drives to the events. It’s just a big pain. The other cities I’ve mentioned are geographically smaller which makes everything convenient and cozy by comparison.
I’m not going to start a rallying cry for a new L.A. Lindy Exchange. I have the utmost respect for the folks who tried it, and it didn’t work, through no fault of their own.
Instead, the closest thing we have to a LA Lindy Exchange is Camp Hollywood coming up later this month, so definitely check that out! Say ‘hi’ to an out-of-towner who you’ve never seen before and dance with them.
I also urge you to check out one of the the Lindy Exchanges around the country and around the world the next time you travel, and see what we are missing. I guarantee it will be an amazing experience that you will remember for a long time!
Who knows? Maybe we will be able to pull off an L.A. Lindy Exchange someday. In the meantime, see you at Camp Hollywood!
Have you ever been to a Lindy Exchange? What was your experience like? Do you think L.A. should have an exchange? – Brian