East Coast Swing
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"Swing dance" is a group of dance that developed concurrently with the
style of jazz music in the
1920s, '30s '40s and '50s, although the earliest of these dance forms predate
swing jazz music. The best known of these dances is the
Lindy Hop, a popular
partner dance that originated in Harlem and is still danced today. While the
majority of swing dances began in
African American dances, a number of forms (Balboa,
for example) developed within
Anglo-American or other ethnic group communities.
Swing jazz features the
syncopated timing associated with African American and
West African music and dance — a combination of crotchets and quavers (quarter
notes) that many swing dancers interpret as 'triple steps' and 'steps' — yet
also introduces changes in the way these rhythms were played — a distinct
delay or 'relaxed' approach to timing.
Today there are swing dance scenes in many countries throughout the world.
Lindy Hop is often the most
popular, though each city and country prefers various dances in different
degrees. Each local swing dance community has a distinct local culture and
defines "swing dance" and the "appropriate" music to accompany it in different
Forms of Swing
In many scenes outside the
United States the term
"Swing dancing" is used to refer generically to one or all of the following
swing era dances: Lindy Hop,
Balboa. This group is often extended to include
West Coast Swing,
East Coast Swing,
Rock and Roll, Modern
Jive, and other dances developing in the 1940s and later. A strong tradition
of social and competitive
boogie woogie and
rock'n'roll in Europe add these dances to their local swing dance cultures.
forms from the 1930s and 1940s
- Lindy Hop evolved
in the late 1920s and early 1930s out of Partnered Charleston. It is
characterized by an 8-count circular basic or "swing out" and has an
emphasis on improvisation and the ability to easily adapt to include other
steps in 8-count and 6-count rhythms. It has been danced to almost every
conceivable style of music with
blues or jazz rhythm
(with the exception of jazz waltzes), as well as non-traditional styles of
music such as hip hop.
Balboa is an 8-count dance that emphasizes a strong partner connection
and quick footwork. A product of Southern California's crowded ballrooms,
Balboa (or "Bal") is primarily danced in
close embrace. A
library of open figures, called Bal-Swing, evolved from LA Swing, which was
another Southern California dance that was a contemporary of Balboa. While
most dancers differentiate between pure Balboa and Bal-Swing, both are
considered to be part of the dance. Balboa is frequently danced to fast
jazz (usually anything from
180 to 320 bpm
beats per minute), though many like to Balboa to slower (170-190 bpm)
Collegiate Shag typically refers to a kind of double shag that is
believed to have originated in New York during the 1930s. To call the dance
"collegiate shag" would not have been common during the swing era; the
addition of the word "collegiate" was supposedly a marketing ploy to attract
college-age dancers to certain studios and dance halls. The name Collegiate
Shag later became somewhat standard in the latter part of the 20th century
(see swing revival), to help distinguish it from other later contemporary
dances that shared the "shag" designation (e.g., the Carolina Shag).
Collegiate Shag was accompanied by music that emphasized a 2-beat rhythm and
was danced in the varieties of single, double, and triple shag. The variety
of names describe the amount of slow (step, hop) steps executed before being
followed by a single quick, quick rhythm. The most common form recognized as
Collegiate Shag is double-shag rhythm.
St. Louis Shag done in the "Sang That Rhyme" Charleston position. The
steps are: two step, rock step, kick forward, step down, kick forward (other
leg), stag, step, stomp (repeat). The "stag" is bringing the leg up with the
knee bent. As a variation, when repeating, one can do two forward kicks (or
"switch, switch", referring to switching feet) in place of the rock step.
Jitterbug dancers in 1938
- Jitterbug is often
associated with one form of swing dance, but is not in fact a general term
for all swing dances and is more appropriately used to describe a swing
dancer rather than a specific swing dance (i.e. a jitterbug can dance Lindy
Hop, Shag, or another swing dance). The term was famously associated with
swing era dancers by band leader
because, as he put it, "They look like a bunch of jitterbugs out there on
needed] due to their fast, often bouncy movements.
Later forms from the 1940s, 1950s and later
- Lindy Hop continued
into the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s and is featured in many movies of the era
Whitey's Lindy Hoppers with
Dean Collins (whose
style would lead to the creation of West Coast Swing), and Hal Takier and
the Ray Rand Dancers.
Lindy Charleston is essentially 1930s and '40s partner Charleston woven
in and out of Lindy Hop moves. Lindy Charleston involves a number of
positions, including side-by-side, hand-to-hand, and tandem Charleston. In
"jockey position", the closed position is opened out so that both partners
may face forward, without breaking apart. In side-by-side Charleston,
partners open the closed position entirely, so that their only points of
connection are at their touching hips and arm contact, wherein the leader's
right hand and arm touch the follower's back and the follower's left hand
and arm touch the leader's shoulder and arm. Both partners then swing their
free arms as they would in solo Charleston. In both jockey and side-by-side
Charleston, the leader steps back onto his left foot, while the follower
steps back onto her right. In tandem Charleston, one partner stands in front
of the other (usually the follower, though the arrangement may vary), both
face in the same direction to start, and both begin by stepping back onto
the left foot. The partner behind holds the front partner's hands at the
latter's hip height, and their joined arms swing backwards and forwards, as
in the basic step.
Eastern Swing is an evolution of
- East Coast Swing
is a simpler 6-count variation of
Lindy Hop that evolved
with swing band music of the 1940s and the work of the
Arthur Murray dance
studios in the 1940s.
It is also known as 6-count Swing, Triple-Step Swing, or Single-Time Swing.
East Coast Swing has very simple structure and footwork along with basic
moves and styling. It is popular for its simple nature and is often danced
to slow, medium, or fast tempo
jazz, blues, or rock and roll. Occasionally, Rockabilly, aka Rock-a-billy,
is mistaken for East Coast Swing, but Rockabilly is more closely related to
- West Coast Swing
was developed in the 1950s as a stylistic variation on Lindy Hop. It is a
slotted dance which is danced to a wide variety of music including:
rock and roll,
smooth and cool jazz.
It is popular throughout the
United States and
Canada but is uncommon in
Europe and much of Asia.
West coast swing communities are growing in
New Zealand and the
Western Swing, also called Country Swing or Country/Western Swing (C/W
Swing) is a form with a distinct culture. It resembles East Coast Swing, but
adds variations from other country dances. It is danced to
country and western music.
Boogie-woogie developed originally in the 1940s with the rise of
boogie woogie music. It is popular today in Europe, and was considered
by some to be the European counterpart to
East Coast Swing,
a Six count dance standardized for the American ballroom industry. It is
danced to rock music of various kinds, blues or boogie woogie music but
usually not to jazz. As the dance has developed it has also taken to 8-count
variations and swing outs similar to Lindy Hop, while keeping the original
boogie woogie footwork.
Carolina Shag was danced along the strands between Myrtle Beach, South
Carolina, and Wilmington, North Carolina, during the 1940s. It is most often
associated with beach music, which refers to songs that are rhythm and blues
based and, according to Bo Bryan, a noted shag historian and resident of
Beaufort County, is a term that was coined at Carolina Beach, North
Imperial Swing is a cross between East Coast and West Coast Swing as it
is done in slot and in the round. It started at the
Club Imperial in St Louis. George Edick, who owned the club, let
teenagers dance on the lower level and the swing dancers of the time taught
them what was learned from their trips to the east coast. As people traveled
around they added parts of west coast, bop and Carolina shag to complement
the dance and make it distinctive. People can tell the difference between
St. Louis dancers and dancers from other parts of the country. "The
Imperial" has elements of "East Coast", "West Coast", "Carolina Shag", and
Jive is a dance of International Style Ballroom dancing. It initially
was based on Eastern swing brought to England by Americans Troops in World
War II and evolved before becoming the now standardized form of today.
- Skip Jive A British
variant, popular in the 1950s and 1960s danced to
- Modern Jive -
also known as LeRoc and
Ceroc - developed in the
1980s, reputedly from a French form of Jive. Modern Jive is not technically
of the Jive family which typically use a 6 count pattern of various
combinations of walking and triple steps (Ballroom Jive - back/replace
triple-triple; Swing Jive - triple-triple back/replace) etc. It is pared
down to a simple box step and concentrating on the simpler forms of couple
dance styling gauged to provide a social atmosphere rather than technical
aptitude. There are debates about whether it is a form of swing dancing due
to lack of syncopations, rhythmic footwork variations, a static partner
dynamic, and lack of swinging music, amongst the swing community at large,
but they do consider themselves a style of swing.
Rock and Roll - Developing in the 1950s in response to
rock and roll music, rock and roll is very popular in
Australia and danced
socially as well as competitively and in performances. The style has a long
association with Lindy Hop in that country, as many of the earliest lindy
hoppers in the early 1990s moved to Lindy Hop from a rock and roll
tradition. There are ongoing debates about whether rock and roll constitutes
swing dancing, particularly in reference to the music to which it is danced:
there is some debate as to whether or not it
Despite these discussions, many of the older Lindy Hoppers are also keen
rock and roll dancers, with rock and roll characterized by an older dancer
(30s and older) than Lindy Hop (25 and under).
Acrobatic Rock'n'Roll Popular in Europe, acrobatic rock and roll is
popularly associated with Russian gymnasts who took up the dance, though it
is popular throughout Europe today. It is a performance dance and sport
rather than a social dance, though there are people who remove the acrobatic
stunts to dance it on a social level.
Washington Hand Dancing originated in the Washington, DC, Area in the
mid-1950s D.C.’s own adaption of the Lindy Hop once the music changed and a
new generation of dancers started innovating to Soul Music and R&B. From its
very beginning, DC Hand-dance was referred to and called “DC
Hand-Dance/Hand-Dancing”, “DC Swing”, “DC Style” (swing) and “fast dance”
(meaning DC Hand-Dance). This is the first time a version of “swing” dance
was termed “hand-dance/hand-dancing”. DC Hand-Dance is characterized by very
smooth footwork and movements, and close-in and intricate hand-turns, danced
to a 6-beat, 6- to 8-count dance rhythm. The more modern footwork consists
of smooth and continuous floor contact, sliding and gliding-type steps
versus hopping and jumping-type steps of the older style which was
stylistically still held elements of its Jitterbug/Lindy Hop roots, and
there are no aerials.
Whip are Texas forms of
swing dance developed in the 1940s and 1950s. They are slotted swing dances,
danced to a wide variety of music including blues, pop, jazz, and rock and
roll. Similar to West Coast Swing, they emphasize the closed position,
double resistance/rock step, and lead-follow. Slow Whip is a variation on
Whip/Push that is danced to slow blues music, typically 60 bpm or less.
Modern Swing brings a modern update to traditional Lindy Hop from the
1940s and 1950s. Among its influential figures are dancers Yuval Hod and
Nathalie Gomez (world champions in several occasions) who are known for
incorporating Salsa and ballroom moves into Lindy Hop, using a variety of
modern clean "swing outs" and wearing modern outfits in competitions.
Despite the popularity of modern swing technique in Lindy Hop circles in the
US and worldwide, many dancers in Lindy Hop communities prefer to stick to
the old tradition. As opposed to modern swing technique, followers of
old-style traditional Lindy Hop prefer not to use moves and technique that
cannot be found in movies from the 1950s, 1940s, 1930s and 1920s.
Traditional Lindy Hop in its purest form is found in many US locations and
Sweeden. Sweedish Lindy Hoppers preserve much of the old-style technique
which was passed on to them by Frankie Manning through various visits in the
1980s and 1990s. Overall, old-style Lindy Hop technique is more popular that
modern technique in swing communities around the world.
Traditionally, distinctions are made between "Ballroom Swing" and "Jazz Dance
Swing" styles. East
Coast Swing is a standardized dance in "American Style"
Ballroom dancing, while Jive is a standardized dance in "International
Style"; however both of these falls under the "Ballroom Swing" umbrella.
Jazz Dance forms (evolved in dance halls) vs. ballroom forms (created for
ballroom competition format) are different in appearance. Jazz Dance forms
include Lindy Hop,
Collegiate Shag, and
Types of Competition
Dance competitions specify which forms are to be judged, and are generally
available in four different formats:
- Strictly: One couple competing together in various heats, to randomly
selected music, where no pre-choreographed steps are allowed.
Jack and Jill: Where leaders and followers are randomly matched for the
competition. In initial rounds leaders and followers usually compete
individually, but in final rounds, scoring depends on the ability of the
partner you draw and your ability to work with that partner. Some
competitions hold a Jill and Jack division where leaders must be women and
followers must be men.
- Showcase: One couple competing together for a single song which has been
- Classic: Similar to Showcase but with restrictions on lifts, drops,
moves where one partner supports the weight of the other partner, and moves
where the partners are not in physical contact.
Each form of Swing Dance and each organization within those forms will have
various rules, but those most often used are pulled and adapted from Ballroom
Judging for competition is based on the three "T's" as well as showmanship
(unless the contest in question designates the audience as the deciding factor).
The three "T's" consist of:
- Timing - Related to tempo & rhythm of the music.
- Teamwork - How well a leader and follower dance together and lead/follow
- Technique - How clean and precise the cooperative dancing is executed.
Showmanship consists of presentation, creativity, costumes, and difficulty.
It should be noted that Lindy Hop's most prestigious events have never used
these criteria, usually having the simple judging value of who was the best/most
impressive Lindy Hop couple. The Harvest Moon Ball competition in New York City,
The American Vernacular Jazz Institute's Hellzapoppin' Competition and the
Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown all fall into these category.
Additionally a "Team Formation" division may also be specified at a
competition. Under this category a minimum of 3 to 5 couples (depending on
individual competition rules) perform a prechoreographed routine to a song of
their choosing, where the group dances in syncronation and into different
formations. This division is also judged using the three "T's" and showmanship;
however this criteria now applies to the team as a whole.
Social swing dancing
Many, if not most, of the swing dances listed above are popular as
dances, with vibrant local communities that hold dances with
and live bands that play music most appropriate for the preferred dance style.
There are frequently active local clubs and associations, classes with
independent or studio-/school-affiliated teachers and workshops with visiting or
local teachers. Most of these dance styles — as with many other styles — also
feature special events such as camps or
The historical development of particular swing dance styles was often in
response to trends in popular music. For example, 1920s and solo Charleston was
- and is - usually danced to 2/4
ragtime music or traditional jazz,
Lindy Hop was danced to
swing music (a kind of swinging
jazz), and Lindy Charleston to either traditional or swing jazz. West Coast
Swing is usually danced to Pop, R&B, Blues, or Funk. Western Swing and Push/Whip
are usually danced to
country and western or Blues
music. There are local variations on these musical associations in each dance
scene, often informed by local
dance teachers and bands.
Modern swing dance bands active in the U.S. during the 1990s and 2000s
include many contemporary jazz
big bands, swing revival bands with a national presence such as Lavay Smith
and Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers (based in San Francisco), and local/regional
jazz bands that specialize in 1930s-1940s swing/Lindy dance music, such as
The Swingout Big Band,
White Heat Swing Orchestra, and
Jazz Band (Pittsburgh), the
Southside Aces (Minneapolis), Jonathan Stout and His Campus Five (Los
Angeles) and The Jonathan Stout Orchestra featuring Hilary Alexander (Los
Angeles), The Flat Cats (Chicago), The Gina Knight Orchestra (Chicago and
Joliet, IL), the
Solomon Douglas Swingtet and the
Tom Cunningham Orchestra (Washington, D.C.), Sonoran Swing (Arizona), and
The Bill Elliott Swing Orchestra (Los Angeles).