What is Swing Dancing?
Swing dancing comprises a number of different dance styles, all done to swing music. Both the music and styles originated in the African-American community in the USA between roughly the 1920s and 1940s. The most common swing dance styles are charleston, lindy hop, balboa, blues and shag. Usually “swing dancing” classes teach a combination of charleston and lindy hop. The other styles are often taught in separate classes. Below you will find a short description and example of each style. Check out our Youtube page for more of our favourite clips, especially the historical examples.
Lindy Hop came about in the 1930s, and is typically characterised by an 8-count footwork pattern, triple steps and the ‘swing out’. It allows for a large amount of creativity by both partners, and is easily adaptable to any tempo. It’s honestly a little hard to describe, so click on the video to the right and check it out for yourself.
The charleston gained worldwide popularity in the 1920s, and is a style most people associate with the female “flappers” from the era, usually danced solo in this case. A secondary version of the charleston developed with the onset of lindy hop in the 1930s. All types of charleston are characterised by an up-tempo hopping and kicking style. Most modern swing dancing you see is a mixture of charleston and lindy hop.
Collegiate Shag is one of a couple of different types of “Shag”, which is a term that originally was a generic description for whatever energetic dance young people were into at the time. Collegiate shag consists of a basic 6-count footwork pattern and involved a high energy hopping style. Take this up as a hobby and you can get rid of that gym membership without hesitation.
Balboa is one of the few swing dance styles invented by caucasion Americans, and is defined by very small bouncy steps done to high tempo music. Although the music is high tempo, the small movements make it considerably less energetic than any other swing style done at the same speed.
Right at the other end of the energy scale is blues, which is a highly personalized and expressive dance style done to slower but still very typically African-American music from the 1900s onwards. The music can vary dramatically between a driving bass and a melodic sweetness, and so the dance can also change to match this.