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A lindy exchange is a formal gathering of Lindy Hop dancers in a specific city, often over a whole weekend. While some exchanges may attract 400 or more dancers, cities with smaller dance communities may have exchanges with fewer than 50 people.
Traveling for exchanges has contributed to promoting swing dance internationally. Although the focus is traditionally on Lindy Hop, related dances such Balboa, Charleston, Blues, and Collegiate Shag are commonly danced as well. A small number of events choose to focus exclusively on these other dances.
The term 'exchange' is derived from school or university Exchange Programs, where students study in another country to experience its culture. Visitors at lindy exchanges are often housed by local dancers, who open up their homes for the duration of the event.
While many lindy classes existed before exchanges, the first exchanges had absolutely no lessons or contests. They were completely social events with a large amount of dancing. As the Lindy Hop scene grew, many weekend events added workshops and lessons to appeal to new and developing dancers. While some people then started referred to all weekend events as exchanges, most dancers still differentiate between workshop weekends with classes, and exchanges without classes.
During the Lindy Hop craze of the 1990s, many dancers were isolated, unaware of the dancing from other scenes. Therefore, Lindy Hop style and knowledge was largely contained in each city. Sometimes, people from different scenes couldn't even dance with each other due to such different styles.
The first lindy exchange was in reaction to this isolation. It was called 'The Weekend', and occurred on December 4–6, 1998, in California, between the cities of Chicago, Illinois, and San Francisco, CA.  Nineteen dancers traveled from Chicago to dance in San Francisco, attend many of its established venues, and to get to know the San Francisco dancers and style. The Chicago participants included Mary Hamilton, Young-Jin Kim, Nicolle Wood, Riley Wymes, Julie Hamberg, Margot McGraw, Kevin Poulsen, Ray Lavko, Gimi Ramos, Corey Blodgett, Collette Delcase, Peter BetBasoo and Helena Laven. Marc Dolimpio organized the San Francisco side of things for logistics (housing, schedule, transportation), while Mary Hamilton organized the Chicago side.
As the popularity of the lindy exchange increased in the United States, the events changed from a strict city-to-city swapping of dancers, to an open gathering of lindy hoppers in one city on a particular weekend. The first event to use the phrase "lindy exchange" in its title was held in Seattle. Websites started to appear promoting and listing new exchanges around the country.
Today, many cities around the world host annual lindy exchanges, including:
- Knoxville (KLX - Knoxville Lindy Exchange)
- Orlando (ORLX - Orlando Lindy Exchange)
- Ann Arbor (KISSME in Ann Arbor - Keep it Simple and Swing Michigan Exchange in Ann Arbor)
- Washington D.C. (DCLX - D.C. Lindy Exchange)
- Detroit (DetLX - Detroit Lindy Exchange)
- Portland (PDXLX - Portland is often referred to by its airport code, PDX)
- Charleston (CHEX - Charleston Exchange)
- Phoenix (PHXLX - Phoenix Lindy Exchange)
- Denver (DLX - Denver Lindy Exchange)
- New Orleans (Fleur de Lindy)
- Pittsburgh (Pittstop Lindy Hop)
- Cincinnati (CincyHop)
Schedules vary with each exchange, but many share certain features. On each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, there is usually an afternoon dance, evening dance, and late night dance, while some exchanges also have a Thursday or Monday evening dance. Between different dances on the same day, there will often be a break for the participants to eat and freshen up, and the venue may even change between one dance and the next.
Mornings and early afternoons are often left for non-scheduled social activities such as meals, sightseeing, or sleeping in. Some cities also include various activities during the days of the exchange for the visiting dancers to get to know the host city.
The dance venues often highlight the dance culture of the city dance scene. However, some exchanges have a challenge balancing the large capacity of the events with the smaller capacity of the local venues, limiting an accurate depiction of the local social dancing scene. Swing bands based in the host city are often chosen to play live music, particularly for the evening dances.
Introduction of Blues
Starting around 2000, the music in the late night rooms started to slow down significantly until the dance started to change to match the music. Some of the events even started to have a separate "Blues" room with music that better accommodates blues dancing and frequently lasts until — or after — sunrise. The slower tempos of blues music often appeal to dancers tired after a full day of lindy hop. This was the first step in the revival of the contemporary Blues Dancing scene.
- "San Francisco Lindy Exchange". Sflindyexchange.com. Retrieved 2012-01-20.
Savoy Lindy Aixchange, Savoy, French Alps