"VE Day" celebration in London May 8, 1945 ©Imperial War Museums EA 65796 Supplied by English Heritage

Dance for VE Day

English Heritage is calling on the nation to ‘Dance for VE Day’ to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of Second World War in Europe.

This is to celebrate the moment in English history when communities across the country spontaneously came together in joy and reflection following more than five years of conflict.

On 8 May 1945, people took to the streets to celebrate with singing and, of course, dancing. Melody Maker’s account of the revels said “From one end of the country to the other, people, relaxing after nearly six years of the most terrible anxieties wanted to dance”.

Kate Mavor, English Heritage chief executive, said:

“VE Day was a unique moment in our history, uniting people in spontaneous celebration as they awoke to the new dawn of peace in Europe.

“At English Heritage, we bring the past to life, so now, 75 years on, what better way to celebrate this anniversary than by offering people the chance to dance like it’s 1945.”

What is a Lindy Hop?

Swing dance is the umbrella term for dances that are done to the jazz, tap, Charleston and the swing music of the Big Band era. Originally a performance dance, the Lindy Hop is a mix of various swing dances.

Sandy Bennett, director of Swing Dance MK, said:

“The Lindy Hop became a social dance in the dance halls of Harlem. It was introduced to the UK by the American soldiers stationed here during the Second World War.

“It’s not the easiest of social dances due to the nature of jazz music, but it’s probably the most rewarding.”

Over the VE Day Bank Holiday weekend, 8th-10th May 2020, English Heritage will send dance experts out to community events across the country. One event in each county will be selected to receive an English Heritage Lindy Hop dance package. This includes taster lessons with experienced dancers, demonstrations, and the chance to join in with a community performance.

The deadline for applications from event organisers and individuals (anyone can apply) is 8 March 2020. English Heritage is especially interested to hear from those planning to get the whole community involved in celebrations, regardless of age and ability.

The application form and further details on the dance experience can be found at www.english-heritage.org.uk/VE-Day.

Lindy-Hoppers limber up in London as English Heritage pledges to send swing dancers to community celebrations in every English county for the 75th anniversary of VE Day.  VE_Day2020_EH_125_JH ©English Heritage

Add an authentic forties feel to your VE Day party

Swing Dance MK is also involved over the VE Day weekend by covering six events. It is also offering six weeks of Lindy Hop classes for the price of five in the weeks leading up to the event. Sandy said:

“We teach the basics in a very simple way so that people can pick it up quickly. There is the choice of joining casual drop-in class or join one of our five to six week courses in centre MK.”

More information can be found on the Swing Dance MK website and its Facebook page.

For those planning their own VE Day events, English Heritage’s team of experts has also produced some useful resources with recipes, dance steps, and sheet music and lyrics.

English Heritage said that these have all been designed to add an authentic forties feel to the parties.