Swing dancing has been going strong for nearly 100 years and still maintains an incredible popularity. Our dance studio in Raleigh wanted to highlight the origins of swing dancing and how it’s changed and evolved over the decades plus why people still find it so enjoyable.
The Origins of Swing Dancing
When jazz music became popular in Harlem and around other parts of the United States in the 1920s, swing dancing was a style of dance developed to accompany it. It wasn’t called swing dancing at the time. In fact, it was typically referred to as “jitterbug,” a term coined by jazz musician Cab Calloway who said the dancers looked “like a bunch of jitterbugs out there on the floor” due to the fast, bouncing movements of the dance.
Most of the original types of swing dances were “vernacular African American dances,” meaning they were created organically by people within the African-American communities, as opposed to dances that were created with specific instructions and steps. Over time, they grew in such popularity that the set styles and steps developed, but even today, there’s a lot of intuitive movement and freestyle once the foundation is in place.
Types of Swing Dancing
The first type of recorded swing dancing was the Lindy Hop where it was first noted in 1928 and is based on a blend of jazz, tap, breakaway, and the Charleston. Other styles around the period include Balboa, Collegiate Shag, and the Charleston. Today, swing dancing is divided into a few categories:
- East Coast Swing is the foundation for all swing dancing starting with a rock step back and relying on six and eight-count patterns. Using Lindy Hop as a basis, this method has set styles, steps, and forms to make it easier to teach others.
- West Coast Swing was created in California and is also rooted in the Lindy Hop by six and eight-count patterns but it’s a more fluid, subdued style than its East Coast counterpart. Rockabilly dancing is closely related to West Coast Swing.
- Jive is an upbeat dance style based on Eastern Swing which is very upbeat and uses jumps, kicks, and flicks in the style. U.S. Troops brought jive dancing to England during World War II where it became incredibly popular and is now often a competitive dance.
- Disco or The Hustle are also rooted in swing dancing. Developed in the 1970s, this is a fast, smooth style that’s similar to the West Coast Swing pattern.
What Makes Swing Dancing so Appealing?
From its development in the 1920s, swing dancing has evolved and changed over the decades. As jazz gave way to rock and roll in the 1950s, swing dancing changed to adapt to the new style of music, but the style, energy, and excitement were still there. Every type of music has adopted a type of swing dance, from country and jazz to rock and roll and pop, and swing dance continues to be popular.
So why has it been so popular for nearly 100 years?
- It’s fun! Swing dancing allows you and your partner or a group of friends to let loose and get moving!
- You can be creative! While there are some basic moves to get started, once you have those down, you can groove to the music and do what works for you.
- It’s a cardiovascular activity! If you want to exercise but running and aerobics aren’t your thing, don’t worry, swing dancing will definitely get your heart rate up while you have fun.
- Swing dancing works with all kinds of music! Like we mentioned above, there are types of swing dances for every musical style and preference so you’ll find what works for you.
Sign up for Swing Dance Lessons in Raleigh Today
From the East Coast Swing to Jive, if you’re ready to learn how to swing dance, we have classes in Raleigh that will get you twirling and flipping across the dance floor in no time. Check out our class calendar or give us a call at (919) 872-0111 to learn more about our swing dance lessons.