Swing by Cambridge for Annual Lindy Hop Exchange

Dirty Water Lindy ExchangeA photo from the Dirty Water Lindy Exchange. Photo by Tom Hagar.

The name of the Dirty Water Lindy Exchange might sound familiar to sports fans, who hear The Standells’ ode to the Charles River’s dirty water at Bruins and Sox games, but the event itself is unlike any other.

Boston Swing Central (BSC), a Cambridge-based dance organization, has been hosting the three-day festival devoted to the celebration of the lindy hop for almost a decade.

“The Dirty Water Lindy Exchange is about social dancing and celebrating the camaraderie of lindy hoppers across the world,” says BSC Vice President Mike Hibarger.

The event welcomes dancers with any level of experience, from local beginners dropping by for a free dance to experienced professionals traveling from across the world. While the majority of dancers tend to be from New England—Hibarger anticipates roughly 150 to 200 locals—at least 50 out-of-towners will be attending the event and staying with host dancers in Greater Boston. This year, there is even a pair coming from Germany.

Hibarger says that the idea of “needing a partner is one of the great myths” of swing dancing, which he calls a “very social” dance. The majority of people arrive alone, some come in pairs, and few attend the exchange in large groups, according to Hibarger.

“Even if you come with a partner, you may only dance with them one time that night,” he explains. Because of the inherently social nature of swing dancing, he adds, it’s common to be constantly switching partners throughout the night—another reason why the event is ideal for making new friends.

The Dirty Water Lindy Exchange will kick off Friday night with an opening dance at Q Ballroom, the headquarters of BSC. Longtime BSC musicians Rocco & the Stompers will be joined by the sought-after lindy hop musician Gordon Webster to provide music for the evening, and an hour-long swing lesson at the beginning of the event is included in the price of admission.

The Friday night dance will bleed into the early hours of Saturday morning, with a late-night “Any Swing Goes” contest that dares experienced dancers to swing to specifically non-swing music. Hibarger says that although it is a “silly competition” and “just about having fun and dancing to some fun songs, it takes some skill to do it.”

Not even 12 hours later, the dancers will reconvene again for the “Lindy Bomb,” a spontaneous outdoor dance similar to a flash mob. Saturday night will wrap up with a night dance that Hibarger says is the highlight of the weekend for him.

“People come out for Gordon Webster, who plays all over the world,” he says. “You can feel the excitement when his band is playing.”

The community is what makes swing dancing so special for Hibarger and the other dancers running Boston Swing Central, he explains.

“I love the dancing because of so many things,” he says. “It’s very creative, it involves music, it’s exciting, you get your exercise for free. You don’t think about the exercise component, but after, your legs are sore and you feel the endorphins rushing.”

In addition to hosting special events like the Dirty Water Lindy Exchange, Boston Swing Central hosts a weekly Friday night dance for dancers of all skill levels at Q Ballroom.

The Dirty Water Lindy Exchange will begin at Q Ballroom at 26 New St. Ste 3., and will be held across various locations from Sept. 21-23. Ticket prices vary. To learn more, visit bostonswingcentral.org.

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