Swing – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Dance Styles Glossary

What is Swing Dance?

Swing dance is a lively and energetic form of dance that originated in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s. It is characterized by its upbeat tempo, syncopated rhythms, and playful, improvisational style. Swing dance is typically performed to swing music, which is a genre of jazz music that became popular during the same time period. Swing dance is known for its fast-paced footwork, intricate partner patterns, and dynamic movements. It is a social dance that is often performed in groups or at dance events and competitions.

History of Swing Dance

Swing dance has its roots in African American communities in the United States, particularly in Harlem, New York City. It emerged as a popular dance style during the Harlem Renaissance, a cultural and artistic movement that took place in the 1920s and 1930s. Swing dance was influenced by a variety of dance styles, including the Charleston, the Lindy Hop, and the Jitterbug. These dances were performed in ballrooms, clubs, and dance halls, and became popular among both African American and white dancers.

During the 1930s and 1940s, swing dance experienced a surge in popularity, thanks in part to the big band era and the rise of swing music. Bands such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Benny Goodman played swing music that was perfect for dancing, and swing dance became a staple of social gatherings and dance parties. Swing dance continued to evolve and diversify throughout the 20th century, with new styles and variations emerging in different regions of the United States and around the world.

Different Styles of Swing Dance

There are several different styles of swing dance, each with its own unique characteristics and movements. Some of the most popular styles of swing dance include:

– Lindy Hop: The Lindy Hop is one of the original swing dance styles, and is known for its fast footwork, energetic movements, and playful improvisation. It is a partner dance that is typically performed to fast-paced swing music.

– Charleston: The Charleston is a solo dance that originated in the 1920s, and is characterized by its fast-paced footwork, syncopated rhythms, and energetic movements. The Charleston can be performed as a solo dance or as a partner dance.

– Balboa: Balboa is a smooth and elegant style of swing dance that originated in Southern California in the 1930s. It is known for its close embrace, intricate footwork, and subtle movements. Balboa is typically performed to slower tempo swing music.

– East Coast Swing: East Coast Swing is a simplified form of swing dance that is easy to learn and fun to dance. It is characterized by its basic steps, simple patterns, and playful style. East Coast Swing is often performed to medium tempo swing music.

Basic Steps and Techniques in Swing Dance

Swing dance is a partner dance that is typically performed in a closed position, with the leader and follower facing each other and holding hands. The basic steps and techniques in swing dance include:

– Rock step: The rock step is a fundamental movement in swing dance that involves shifting your weight from one foot to the other. It is typically performed on the first two beats of a six-count pattern.

– Triple step: The triple step is a quick and syncopated movement that involves taking three steps in quick succession. It is often used to add energy and momentum to a dance sequence.

– Swing out: The swing out is a classic move in swing dance that involves the leader and follower moving away from each other and then coming back together in a circular motion. It is a dynamic and playful movement that is often used to transition between different patterns and sequences.

– Charleston kick: The Charleston kick is a signature movement in the Charleston style of swing dance. It involves kicking one leg forward and then back in a quick and rhythmic motion. The Charleston kick is often used to add flair and style to a dance routine.

Popular Swing Dance Music

Swing dance is typically performed to swing music, which is a genre of jazz music that became popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Some of the most popular swing dance music artists and bands include:

– Duke Ellington: Duke Ellington was a renowned jazz composer and bandleader who played a key role in popularizing swing music. His band, the Duke Ellington Orchestra, was known for its innovative arrangements and dynamic performances.

– Count Basie: Count Basie was a legendary jazz pianist and bandleader who helped define the sound of swing music in the 1930s and 1940s. His band, the Count Basie Orchestra, was known for its tight arrangements and swinging rhythms.

– Benny Goodman: Benny Goodman was a clarinetist and bandleader who was known as the “King of Swing.” His band, the Benny Goodman Orchestra, was one of the most popular swing bands of the era, and helped bring swing music to a wider audience.

– Ella Fitzgerald: Ella Fitzgerald was a jazz singer known for her smooth vocals and impeccable phrasing. She recorded many swing music standards, including “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).”

Swing Dance Events and Competitions

Swing dance events and competitions are a popular way for dancers to showcase their skills, connect with other dancers, and celebrate the joy of swing dance. Some of the most popular swing dance events and competitions include:

– The International Lindy Hop Championships: The ILHC is one of the largest and most prestigious swing dance competitions in the world. It attracts top dancers from around the globe who compete in a variety of categories, including Lindy Hop, Balboa, and Solo Jazz.

– The American Lindy Hop Championships: The ALHC is an annual swing dance competition held in the United States. It features competitions in Lindy Hop, Balboa, and other swing dance styles, as well as workshops, social dances, and performances.

– The Camp Hollywood Swing Dance Championships: Camp Hollywood is a weekend-long swing dance event held in Los Angeles, California. It features workshops, social dances, live music, and competitions in a variety of swing dance styles.

– The Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown: The ULHS is a unique swing dance competition that focuses on creativity, musicality, and improvisation. Dancers compete in a series of challenges and battles, and are judged on their ability to interpret and respond to the music.

In conclusion, swing dance is a vibrant and dynamic form of dance that has captivated audiences around the world for nearly a century. With its infectious rhythms, playful movements, and rich history, swing dance continues to inspire dancers of all ages and backgrounds to take to the dance floor and let loose. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner just starting out, swing dance offers something for everyone to enjoy and explore. So put on your dancing shoes, grab a partner, and get ready to swing the night away!