Dance for VE Day! English Heritage want to hear from you…

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.  Over the May Bank Holiday the charity will lend some swing-time spirit to the nation’s celebrations by sending hundreds of expert lindy-hoppers to join community events and street parties in all 48 counties of England. Whether it’s a party in a park, a tea dance in a Town Hall, or even a knees-up in a Nissen hut, historic dance experts will lead lessons and performances at regional celebrations to help communities Lindy Hop ‘til they drop in true 1940s style. 

Applications are invited from event organisers and individuals throughout the land from today (12 February) until 8 March. Anyone can apply, and English Heritage is especially interested to hear from those planning to get the whole community involved in celebrations, regardless of age and ability. After the closing date, one application from each county in England will be selected to get dancing for the VE Day Bank Holiday weekend (8-10 May).

To apply, go to https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/forms/dance-for-ve-day-form/

‘Dance for VE Day’ is part of the national VE Day 75 celebrations to mark the unique moment in English history when communities across the country spontaneously came together in joy and reflection following more than five years of conflict. In towns, cities and villages throughout England, people marked the victory on 8 May 1945 by taking to the streets to celebrate with singing and, of course, dancing. As recalled in Melody Maker’s account of the revels “From one end of the country to the other, people, relaxing after nearly six years of the most terrible anxieties wanted to dance” – and the Lindy Hop was the dance craze of the day.

Kate Mavor, English Heritage Chief Executive, comments: “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!  Whether you are in a school, nursing home, or planning a street party with all the neighbours, we want to hear from you – the more involved the community, the better.”

English Heritage’s ‘Dance for VE Day’ is in partnership with Bruno Peek LVO OBE OPR, Pageantmaster – VE Day 75, and forms part of the wider three-day programme. Bruno Peek comments:

‘The involvement of English Heritage, one of our nation’s most respected organisations, will provide this important anniversary with a unique, added opportunity for local communities. I applaud their initiative, very much welcome their involvement in VE Day 75, and encourage communities to take up their special offer.’

As well as inviting the nation to ‘Dance for VE Day’ English Heritage will also be organising a range of other activities over the Bank Holiday weekend as part of the national VE Day 75 celebrations – including many of the charity’s historic sites and members taking part in the Nation’s Toast to the Heroes of WW2 at 3pm on Friday 8 May. For those planning their own VE Day events, English Heritage’s team of experts has also produced some useful resources [www.english-heritage.org.uk/VE-Day], with recipes, dance steps, and sheet music and lyrics – all designed to add an authentic forties feel to your party.

Inspired by jazz, tap and the Charleston, Lindy Hop was introduced to the UK by the American soldiers stationed here during the Second World War and, as the perfect mood enhancer during difficult times, quickly became a firm favourite in the dance halls of Britain. On this VE Day anniversary weekend, English Heritage, the experts in historical performance, aims to bring this feel-good dance to community events across the country.

Nancy Hitzig, Dance for VE Day Creative Director said: 

‘The “Lindy Hop” is a dance that originated in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s in Harlem, New York City and gained popularity with the arrival of travelling soldiers during the Second World War. It is a joyful, social dance, with elements of Charleston, jazz and tap.  But its most important feature is that you dance to swing music – whether alone or with a partner, it doesn’t matter.  Images and accounts from the forties show the uplifting effect of music and dance on wartime morale and if we can evoke even some of this spirit when we send our lindy-hoppers out to join celebrations in every county of England, we’re sure everyone will have a ball.’

Be Part of ‘Dance for VE Day’

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 a lindy hop dance package – including taster lessons with experienced dancers, demonstrations, and the chance to join in with a community performance.

Anyone planning to host a VE Day 75 celebration can apply from today, up until 5pm on 8 March 2020. The application form and further details on the dance experience can be found at www.english-heritage.org.uk/VE-Day