Swing Dance History

Have you ever swing danced? Learn the swing dance history in America.

Swing dancing is a favorite American past time, and it recently experienced a resurgence in popularity throughout America. Its origins, however, are widely unknown. Where did it come from? What makes it so popular? Read this article to learn of the history of swing dancing.

The origins of swing are relatively unclear. This is not for a lack of possible origins, but rather for an overwhelming amount. Swing can be a natural descendent of Lindy hop, the Fox Trot, the Charleston, and even the Waltz and the Tango! This is because with the rise of each of these dances, another chip fell into place for the rise of Swing itself.

The Waltz and the Tango moved into America in the early 1900's. Both were, in their time, considered scandalous dances because they allowed partners to touch each other during the dance. However, once these crazes took off in Paris, and were showcased by a few younger talents, the public immediately took on. Close dancing became a social norm. In the 1920's and 30's, a dance named the Lindy hop began to emerge in the Savoy nightclub in Harlem. This dance was one of the few dances in the world to evolve almost completely in one contained space. The Lindy hop developed and grew through a series on competition, where partners would make up new steps to defeat each other. Within a short amount of time, the Lindy hop was an incredibly energetic, improvisational dance incorporating Big Band sound, jazz harmonies and jumping steps.

Other dances that may have served as the precursors to swing were the Black Bottom, the Shim Shammy and Truckin', popular dance sequences of the time that appeared in popular nightclubs and in several Broadway musicals. The Lindy Hop, named for the pilot Charles Lindburgh's first solo flight, was the first dance to include swinging the partner into the air, as well as jumping in sequence. Upon careful consideration, many American experts are now proclaiming this dance the true "grandfather" of Swing.

Once swing was established, it went on to take many forms. Two of the most notable forms are the east Coast Swing and the West Coast Swing, so-named after the developments that each part of the U.S. gave to the dance. Other dances that sprung from swing were the Jitterbug, Push, Whip, Shag and Imperial styles.

There are some characteristic steps that can distinguish the original swing style from its many variations. True West Coast Swing uses a 6-beat pattern, and can be danced to almost any kind of music. It stays within a contained area, due to its steps. East Coast Swing is really another version of the Lindy hop. It also works in a pattern of 6 beats, and basically consists of stepping side to side, with a step back on every third beat. Because of its similarity to Lindy hop, this form of Swing is actually not executed in a contained area. Dancers can move from one side of the room to the other in a single move.

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