A retro American dance craze is taking off in the Thai capital

Seven minutes’ walk from Chong Nonsi Skytrain station, near Indian temple Wat Khaek, next door to a typical Thai tailor shop and up three flights of stairs, you’ll find Bangkok’s The Hop dance studio.

The school gets its name from the lindy hop, a unique dance style that originated in Harlem in the late 1920s to accompany the crazy, kinetic jazz craze of the time.

A mix of European and African influences, it’s a gymnastic frenzy for dance partners, often improvised and thrilling to watch

If you thought the same era’s swing dancing was cool, just wait till you witness expert lindy hoppers. A great place to start is to look up the frenetic scene from the 1941 movie Hellzapoppin’ on Youtube, which features the famous Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers troupe. Filmed at New York’s Savoy Ballroom, it is without doubt the best lindy-hop sequence ever filmed.

It’s footage such as this, as well as being exposed to the vintage dance scene during his college years in Pennsylvania, that inspired The Hop’s owner, Chayapong “Oat” Naviroj, to open his dance school in Bangkok in 2012. Now, Oat has dedicated his life to teaching others how to perform the lindy hop’s tandem six-beat moves, complete with triple steps, side passes, hand holds, tuck turns, slides and aerial manoeuvres.

Chayapong “Oat” Naviroj and Bangkok Hop manager Young Ji Kim take the lindy hop to the streets. Photo credit: David Terrazas; www.davidterrazasphotography.com
Chayapong “Oat” Naviroj and Bangkok Hop manager Young Ji Kim take the lindy hop to the streets. Photo credit: David Terrazas; www.davidterrazasphotography.com

The school also teaches beginner to advanced swing dance, blues moves and kids’ musical theatre. Participants get swept up in the atmosphere of the studio, wearing vintage clothes to go with retro tunes by the Count Basie Orchestra, Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington.

In a city of over 14 million people, Oat has created a small but growing American swing community.

About the photos

In this photo shoot by local fashion photographer David Terrazas for Jetstar Australia’s inflight magazine, The Hop’s owner, Chayapong “Oat” Naviroj, and manager, Young Ji Kim, took to the streets to perform the lindy hop at the outdoor market at Silom soi 20, to the bemusement of some onlookers. Others didn’t even seem to notice!

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About the style

Fancy footwork is a must; cool shoes are optional but appreciated. The perfect musical accompaniment for the lindy hop is fast jazz from the 1920s-’40s, like swing jazz and hot jazz, such as Dixieland. bebop, rockabilly and ragtime tunes also make great soundtracks thanks to their quick beats

While the lindy hop dates back to the 1920s, many aficionados dress in a 1940s-’50s style to correspond with swing’s heyday.

Get the look

If you want to dress up and visit The Hop next time you are in Bangkok, pay a visit to a fun retro store such as (un)FASHION Vintage Collection at Sukhumvit 63 soi 10.

Do it yourself

The Hop is located at 252/7 Silom Rd, Suriya Wong, Bang Rak, Bangkok; thehopbangkok.com

Note: This story originally appeared in Jetstar Australia’s inflight magazine

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