Encyclopedia of Dance: Swing


Jive and Charleston, rock and roll and boogie-woogie — these and many other dances are the «children» of swing, the melodies and rhythms of which will enchant, envelop with their passion and sensuality

Swing dance developed in parallel with music in the 20s — 40s of the 20th century. The term «swing» covers several dances of the corresponding direction, as well as music, in this style. In today’s world, many «swing» dances are performed to modern music that matches the tempo and rhythm.

History of occurrence dance

The first forms of swing appeared in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the southern United States. The racial laws of Jim Crow led many African Americans from the southern United States to move to the north, where the treatment of Africans was more tolerant. Together with them they brought their dance and musical culture. The art of the white and African American population of America was mutually enriched, and, as a result, new styles and genres appeared. Thus, each city could have its own version of swing compositions, for example, Black Bottom or Rhythm Tap dance (tep).

The term «swing» was first used in 1911 to characterize the Texas Tommy dance, during which the partner «spun» the partner, which was reflected in the name «swing».

Since the 20s of the 20th century, the dance has spread in America and Europe, actively absorbing the national characteristics of the country in which it was performed. Therefore, in the modern world of dance, there are many varieties of swing — from slow jazz compositions to fast ones.

What is swing?

The term «swing» combines several swing dances:

  • lindy hop
  • joke
  • Charleston
  • balboa
  • the blues
  • rock and roll
  • jive
  • boogie-woogie
  • West Coast Swing and many other dances.

Swing is based on African American folklore, with a characteristic syncopated rhythm in the music. Since there are a lot of types and forms of swing, and all of them have characteristic differences, this also affected the music to which these dances are performed. So, Charleston is traditionally danced to ragtime, lindy hop to swing (jazz), country swing to country music, hip-hop swing to hip-hop. Swing actively absorbed and continues to absorb local features, even various clubs, DJs and coaches brought their own vision of dance compositions to the dance.

Swing dances are usually paired. There is close contact between partner and partner, although in some events individual space is allowed to demonstrate one’s skill. Many types of swing, such as rock and roll, are replete with acrobatics.


Types of swing and their features

The forerunner of swing is Texas Tommy. After analyzing the movements of this dance and the movements of the Lindy Hop, the first dance in the swing style, their complete identity was noticed, with the exception of a few steps. Later, Texas Tommy incorporated many elements from the dances of the Grizzly Bear, Turkey Trot, Bunny Hop and others, in which the dance steps parodied animal movements.

In the 10-20s of the 20th century, the Charleston, a dance that emerged from the African American environment, gained popularity. This dance was performed both on stage and in clubs. In the late 1920s, another dance originated from the Charleston — Breakaway, which included elements of Texas Tommy and Lindy Hop. Lindy hop peaked in popularity in the late 1930s and early 1940s. This dance is considered the most developed and complex form of swing. A feature of Lindy Hop is the possibility of improvisation and rhythmic flexibility, as well as the ability to perform under any jazz or blues music.

Balboa is an 8 part swing dance. The peculiarity of this dance is fast foot movements and close contact between partners. The dance is performed to fast jazz music, tempo from 180 to 320 beats per minute.

Among the swing varieties of the 30s and 40s, one can note the Carolina shag, Collegiate shag, St. Louis Shag and others.

The forties and fifties also brought their own forms and styles of swing. Boogie-woogie is still popular in Europe. This dance is very similar to East Coast Swing and is performed to boogie-woogie and jump-n-jive.

Jive has won popularity among young people since the 1930s. This word in translation means «talk, nonsense.» Now jive is part of the Latin American ballroom dance program and is very different from swing in terms of performance, although it uses the same dance combinations.

Swing is traditionally divided into «ballroom» and «street». In ballroom swing there is a certain set of figures that must be performed on stage or in competitions. Street swing is performed in clubs, at parties, on the streets. It has great freedom in the choice of movements and a tendency to develop and modify.

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