Lindy hopping on the Rock

Meet the people taking dance lessons – not to pop music, but likely their pop’s music.

Ken Meeker
Kicker

As you step into the dance classes happening at the Elks Club Lodge near St. John’s city centre on Tuesday evenings, you are transported back in time.

At these dance lessons, there’s something a wee bit different.

They’ve swapped the Beastie Boys for Old Blue Eyes – Frank Sinatra.

Matthew Melay is the mover behind Lindy Hop on the Rock, the group orchestrating the lessons.

Matthew Melay started Lindy Hop on the Rock to keep the dance alive. Melay aims to teach history of the dance by dancing it. Ken Meeker/Kicker

“Lindy hop has a really rich history and through the dance and the music we play – going back to the 1930s to the 1950s – we help people to learn the (history of) dance,” Melay said.

He explained lindy hop originated in Harlem, a neighborhood in New York City, in the 1930s. It evolved alongside swing jazz, an athletic and fast-paced dance.

While the lindy hop at first looks jovial and carefree, it has deep historical roots in terms of racial integration.

“This was around the time where you had integrated ballrooms. Where people from different cultures would get together and for the first time, be dancing in the same ballroom at the same time,” Melay said.

Melay was first drawn to lindy hop through the movie It’s A Wonderful Life.

“I just fell in love with it and continue to do it.”

Matthew Melay

“It’s really through this amazing dance sequence in an old film that I was introduced to that era of dancing. I just thought it looked like a fun dance to try. I just fell in love with it and continue to do it,” said Melay.

Doug Boyce is one of the older members of Lindy Hop on the Rock.

Boyce says he isn’t the greatest dancer, but has loved the music for a long time.

His moves, however, have improved.

“One of my goals was to be able to sing and dance the Straycat Strut at the same time, and I did achieve that goal,” said Boyce.

“I tend to get winded after a certain amount of time,” Boyce said with a laugh.

Boyce says he is possibly the longest surviving member of the club. He has been part of it for most of the six years Lindy Hop on the Rock has been operating. Ken Meeker/Kicker

He always boogies back because of the relaxed environment and, of course, the music.

“I’m not the most confident dancer, but the atmosphere here is pretty civilized,” Boyce said. “I haven’t ever reached the point where I’ve gotten too frustrated and was going to leave.”

Despite the age behind the music being played, it’s largely a youthful group. There are more university students and young people in attendance than retirees.

Melay attributes that youthful interest to the realities of modern life.

“I think today is such a disconnected world,” said Melay.

The world, he said, spends too much time connecting through social media and believes people want a more human touch. The lindy and the music, he said, is one way to create that connection.

“You hear the music and you want to get jumping.”

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