I responded with the following, which — although it contains the names of some local (San Francisco) talent — should still serve as an interesting view into what I perceive as Lindy Hop ‘greatness.’
Greatest Lindy Hoppers… damn, that’s a toughie.
For starters, it’s very hard and controversial to define “great.”
There are those who just LOOK amazing no matter what they’re dancing to or who they’re dancing with.
Example: Jennifer Balderama. With her ballet background, broad smile, and super styling, she’s great fun to watch.
Some folks may look less flashy, but have the most incredibly solid and comfortable lead in the world.
Example: Chad Kubo. Every follow I know that has danced with him raves about his lead. And I’ve seen him lead the most absolute-beginners and make them totally shine.
There are those who make you feel like a million bucks when you’re dancing with them. A combination of natural warmth, well-placed and sincere compliments, and general friendliness does the trick.
Example: Brandee Selck. Any leads that haven’t danced with her… you’re missing out. One other guy I know that took private lessons lessons with her marveled, “It’s like therapy. I go in depressed and I come out feeling good.”
Musicality. Some folks have it, some don’t. The folks that REALLY have it are able to play with both their partners and their own bodies in a way that complements the music without being a boring ‘slave’ to the breaks.
Example: The Donnelly Brothers, Elliot and Owen. These two make Lindy fun by entertaining their partners (and onlookers) with creative yet leadable interpretations of the music.
So, given all this, Randy, I find it hard if not impossible to pin a label of All Time Great(s) on folks, given the diverse aspects of ‘greatness.’ In particular, I think it’d be disingenuous to give such praise to someone my friends and I have never danced with. After all, I think we’ve all experienced “amazing” dancers who look fab on the dance floor but can’t lead/follow worth a damn. Or who can’t seem to smile. Or who are so arrogant that they make dancing with them a DISpleasure.
Greatness is subjective and complex. Personally, I think all of us must find ‘greatness’ within ourselves and those we connect most tightly with. 🙂