The Lindyhoppers are slowly returning to the dance floor after the pandemic

One evening, Mark Fletcher’s wife came home from the Thursday Farmer’s Market, grabbed him by the collar and said, “We were born for Lindy Hop!”

She met dancers from the Cal Poly Swing Club at the market, and the couple soon began learning to dance at the club.

It was 15 years ago. Fletcher is now an organizer and member of the local swing dance club, SLO Rugcutters, and teaches beginner Lindy. His wife is a dance teacher at an elementary school in Paso Robles.

“It became an addiction,” Fletcher said.

Lindy Hop is a type of swing dance that originated in Harlem, New York in the 1920s, according to Rugcutter’s official website. Social dancing is accompanied by jazz music. There are different types of swing dancing but the SLO Rugcutters mainly dance Lindy Hop.

Video by Lauren Boyer and Tessa Hughes

Every Monday, Fletcher, his wife and the Rugcutters meet at the Madonna Inn to do Lindy Hop in the ballroom.

“A recipe for dancing is just great flooring, great people and great music,” said fellow Madonna Inn regular Robbie Hughes.

Swing dancing is how Robbie met his wife, Bridget Hughes.

“The nice thing is you don’t even have to speak the same language as long as you know how to dance,” Bridget said.

The Fletchers and the Hughes are part of a small, tight-knit community of swing dancers who travel the world and communicate with each other through the language of dance.

“We don’t speak English, but we speak Lindy. We have this fantastic dance with people from South Korea, Sweden, France and Spain,” Fletcher said. “I’m going to ask somebody if they’d like to dance and they talk to me in a different language and we’re all like, ‘yeah.’ It’s just super fun and we don’t miss a thing.

Like many other communities around the world, the swing dance community has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID really put a damper on things, especially for a while we couldn’t come here [to the Madonna Inn]said Cal Poly Swing Club Advisor Len Kawamoto.

The community is slowly getting back on the dance floor, but not to pre-pandemic numbers.

“Before COVID, it was really hard to find a spot on the floor,” Fletcher said.

The San Luis Obispo Rugcutters resumed their weekly dance parties at the Madonna Inn in July, after canceling them for nearly 16 months, according to their Facebook page.

Even after indoor gathering restrictions were lifted, some dancers are still reluctant to return to the dance floor due to masking policies.

“Obviously we don’t discourage people from masking up indoors,” Kawamoto said. “If you feel comfortable with the mask on, we totally respect that, but it’s really hard to do physical activity with a mask on.”

Fletcher is one of those who cannot wear a mask while dancing.

“I have asthma so I can’t dance with a mask on,” Fletcher said. “If I put on a mask, I have a kind of asthma attack.”

Fletcher hopes people will slowly return to the dance floor.

“People have crashed in different places along the coast and they’re just coming back,” Fletcher said. “The scene pushes back again.”

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