Swing dancing is a popular social dance that is often characterized by lifts, spins and flips. It’s generally upbeat, lively and a lot of fun to watch—and to dance! Like most dance styles, there are variations of the dance. It includes some basic steps and then dancers have creative freedom to make it their own.
History of Swing
Swing dancing developed in the 1920s and 30s in America. In the midst of the great depression dance halls were packed and Jazz music was booming, lifting people’s spirits and providing them with an escape. Originally “Swing” referred to the style of Jazz music, which inspired the dance. As Big Bands such as Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, and Paul Whiteman became popular, so did Swing dancing.
Different ways to Swing
The dance has evolved into different forms and now there are several types of Swing dancing. Some of the most common include:
The most well-known of the Swing dances, it began in Harlem in the 1930s and is characterized by a basic 8-count circular move with a “swing out”. Lindy hoppers are also known to improv and adapt the dance to include other 8-count and 6-count steps, which makes this dance fun and playful.
This partner dance has simple steps and started in California in the 1920s. Where the Lindy Hop has a big swing out and larger moves, partners dancing Balboa keep a close embrace and take up little space, fitting in a crowded dance floor. See it in action here.
Similar to Balboa with a close partner embrace but with fancier footwork and a hopping basic step, the Collegiate Shag is danced to an upbeat tempo. This dance originated in the South in the 1930s.
Named after the city where it originated (Charleston, South Carolina), this dance is a basic 8-step using the balls of your feet. The Charleston can be danced with a partner or alone and became a hit in the roaring twenties. The fairly short and simple steps make it easy to learn. See it here.
One of the more popular social dances today, East Coast Swing evolved from the Lindy Hop. It can be danced to a variety of music including Rock and Roll and Boogie-Woogie. Unlike the Balboa, East Coast Swing dancers take up a large amount of space on the dance floor as they move around in a circular pattern incorporating lots of twists and turns.
Compared to East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing is a slower and more formal dance. Instead of following a circular motion, dancers stay in a rectangular shape. It’s often danced to Country, Pop and Blues music and can be a very sensual partner dance.
Swing to these songs
Swing dancing lends itself to many styles of music. Songs with a slower tempo are good for practicing while contemporary songs can work well for West Coast Swing. Many modern pop songs work well for East Coast Swing and musicians like Ella Fitzgerald are great for Lindy and Charleston dancing.
Where to get your swing on
Now that you know how fun it is, get out there and swing! Our private lessons are a great way to get started and we offer different events to practice swinging. There are Facebook Swing groups and meetup groups to find like-minded dancers as well!