The history of swing dates back to the 1920’s, where the Afro-American community, while dancing to contemporary jazz music, developed the Charleston and the Lindy Hop.
On March 26, 1926, the Savoy Ballroom opened in New York’s Harlem district. It was an immediate success with its block-long dance floor and raised double bandstand. Nightly dancing attracted most of the best dancers in the New York area. The music at the Savoy was largely Swinging Jazz.
One evening in 1927, a local dance enthusiast named “Shorty George” Snowden had just walked off the dance floor and was watching some of the other dancing couples. A newspaper reporter, on assignment to do a story on the new nightclub, asked George what dance those on the dance floor were doing. The dance had not been named as yet, but George happened to glance down on the bench beside him where a newspaper caption read, “Lindy Hops the Atlantic”. Reading that, George quipped, “Lindy Hop” and the name stuck.
In the mid1930s, a bouncy six-beat variant was named the jitterbug by band leader Cab Calloway when he introduced a tune in 1934 entitled “Jitterbug”. Contemporary jazz and swing music were evolving with Benny Goodman leading the way. Dancers soon incorporated tap and jazz steps into their dancing.
Swing was a very dynamic and athletic dance and became popular among the young in the 1930s. During World War II, American soldiers carried it to Europe.
In the early 1940s, Lindy Hop was tamed and simplified by dance schools to become a ballroom dance called Eastern Swing. In the late 1970s, the name was changed to East Coast Swing to match another variation of Swing, the West Coast Swing.
Presently, the Lindy Hop is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. It is a smooth Swing (not a lot of bounce) and patterns are usually 8 counts instead of the 6 used in East and West Coast Swing basic steps.
Today, there are many different styles of Swing, depending on what part of the country you visit. Each geographic area has put its own particular mark or twist on swing to come up with a wide variety of ways to dance this dance; and it’s all good!
Swing is a very fun, upbeat dance.
Swing is distinguished by its bounce, back break (also called “rock step”), and Swing-hip Motion.
Swing also uses Cuban Motion on the back breaks.
Bounce is created by flexing and straightening the knees.
It is a non progressive dance, staying in one area of the dance floor and not moving around the room in a counter-clockwise direction (line-of-dance).
East Coast Swing can be danced in a slot or in a circular direction. West Coast Swing is primarily danced in a slot.
Swing is a very versatile dance with lots of patterns and room for variations.
The footwork is generally “Ball Flat” throughout the dance. (Ball Flat is a term indicating that the ball of the foot is the first part of the foot to come in contact with the floor and will receive the pressure from the weight change before the rest of the foot. As the weight change is completed, the weight is then transferred to the Flat of the foot.)
East Coast Swing is a happy, fun, upbeat dance. Distinguished by its bounce, rock step (back break), Swing hip motion and triple steps, East Coast Swing is also a non-progressive dance. The Swing frame is typically in Closed Promenade position with the leader’s left hand at the waist level and the right hand is on the follower’s left shoulder blade.
Time signature: 4/4
Tempo: 34-36 measures per minute
Timing: 1, 2, 3&4, 5&6 (& is equal to 1/2 of a beat of music)
Beat value: 1-1, ½-½-1, ½-½-1