Swing dance doesn’t only refer to one kind of dance — it has become an umbrella term to refer to all swing dance genres that began in the 1920s. Many different types of swing dance has developed since. This is the era of jazz, and this is where the Lindy hop started to evolve into different dance variations like West Coast Swing, Rodeo Swing, Hand Dancing, Shag, Balboa, Jive, East Coast Swing, and Jitterbug.
Swing dance undeniably became a widespread dance craze all over the United States. Amazingly, every country that came across with this dance created their own regional style effectively changing the steps to better mesh with the music they enjoy listening to. Jazz, on the other hand, started to use the swing beat, easily curating the perfect rhythm for any swing dance.
Here are the most popular types of swing dance styles still danced today!
Lindy hop is one of the most popular types of swing dance still danced today. When you’re looking for where all other forms of swing dance styles originate, it’s the Lindy hop. Considered the grandaddy of swing, the Lindy hop was developed in the 1920s and 30s as a dance done by partners. It was first shown at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, New York. Later on, partner Charleston was incorporated into the traditional Lindy hop, giving birth to the Lindy Charleston and the Balboa dancing styles.
Lindy hop uses six and eight count swing dance patterns. Because of this, many people in the past associated the dance with early video clips of the infamous Whiteys Lindy Hoppers. Among the hoppers in the group, the most popular one was Frankie Manning. Manning was frequently seen doing aerials and flips. Fast forward to a few years later, Lindy hop, fortunately, evolved into a social form of swing dance fit for a larger group of swing dancers.
Since it was first performed in the Savoy Ballroom, in the 1940s, Dean Collins, along with the countless Hollywood films during this time, referred to the Lindy Hop as the Savoy style. These new LA swing dance styles promoted by Dean Collins were later on referred to as Smooth or Hollywood Lindy hop. Lindy hop eventually started fading as West and East Coast swing became popular.
Luckily, in the 80s, Slyvia Sykes and Jonathan Bixby rediscovered the Smooth Lindy hop. In the 90s, Frankie Manning came out of retirement and helped revive the Neo-Swing. And this started a whole new generation of Lindy Hoppers.
Balboa is a kind of swing dance genre that started in the 1920s and 1930s. This dance genre is one of the contemporaries of Lindy hop, Collegiate Shag, and Charleston. Then again, unlike other dances in the same era, Balboa originated in Newport Beach’s Balboa Peninsula in Southern California. It was first danced at the 1905-built structure called the Balboa Pavilion. This specific dance has more upright dance steps compared to other swing dances. Aside from that, it also uses a close embrace and intricate footwork to 100 BPM to 300 BPM beats. Other variations of this dance genre include Bal-swing, a dance that uses open dance movements.
East Coast Swing
East Coast Swing is an evolution of the Lindy hop that came to be in the 1940s with Arthur Murray’s dance studio codification all over the United States. The name of the dance speaks volumes of its regional context. However, the East Coast Swing was able to spread all over the country. Later on, other names for this dance emerged and these include Jitterbug, Triple Swing, and American Swing.
East Coast Swing is a collective term for the types of swing dance that require a social partner and uses six-count patterns. This is also a spot dance with moves in circular fashion and patterns usually ending in a rock step. It also used three various rhythm structures like triple, double, and single rhythms.
Just like East Coast Swing, Jitterbug is also an umbrella term to refer to different swing dance forms and styles. Also included here are swing dancers of the swing era. At times, jitterbug also refers to the dancers who dance as if they have jitters. In the present time, however, this term refers to the East Coast swing, specifically those single-rhythm types of dances.
In the late 1930s, Cab Calloway popularized this term when he recorded a track entitled Call of the Jitterbug. Later on, he also released a film entitled Cab Calloway’s Jitterbug Party. This dance, along with all other forms of swing dances continued to gain massive popularity until the second world war was over. After the war, the dance reached the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. In modern times, Jitterbug now becomes an interchangeable term with the swing.
West Coast Swing
This is a type of partner swing dance that developed and evolved from Lindy hop and other genres of swing dance of the 50s. It was originally called Western Swing or California Swing until it finally got its own name in the latter part of the 60s. Dean Collins and other California swing dancers helped in the evolution of this dance as they derived a smoother version of Lindy hop known as Hollywood swing. West Coast Swing is the most sensual types of swing dance styles.
To add to the dance’s popularity, there were plenty of Hollywood movies at that time that included swing dancing. The camera angle back then was highly optimized since swing dancing was danced in slots instead of within a circular formation. Some theorize that it was because of this that West Coast Swing also became well-known as a slot dance.
Now, West Coast Swing is highly danceable to a plethora of music such as C&W, ballad, pop, rock, soul, blues, R&B, and other forms of contemporary music. Because of this, West Coast Swing evolved continually and became a dance that fitted the most favored local music of the day. Its tempo would range somewhere between 100 BPM to 140 BPM. The best tempo would be somewhere within the mid-range.
It’s true that there were countless variations or types of swing dance, but some dancers still preferred to dance to blues music and others to contemporary music. Aside from that, this dance was also codified by the past swing dance contests and other rules and regulations on what should be called West Coast Swing.
Jive was first seen and performed by the American swing dancers who went to showcase the dance in Europe. From there, the dance slowly evolved to become the Jive swing dance we know today. Now, Jive is part of the five dance styles and genres that form the International Latin dance style competitions. It is usually danced to the tune of fast swing music, those with the same tempo as Jitterbug and East Coast Swing music. In terms of beats per minute, the ideal BPM for Jive is somewhere within 140 BPM to 175 BPM.
The dance pattern of Jive is quite similar to that of the East Coast Swing. It is also usually performed within a circular area and with lots of kicks, spins, and underarm turns. The dancers intently exaggerated the dance steps, hand movements, and appearance to bring more appeal to the dance and impress competition judges and audiences.
The term Jive is also used to mean East Coast Swing, Lindy hop, and the International Latin form. However, there are also newer terms such as Modern Jive that refers to the highly popular club dances you’ll see in the UK like Boogie Woogie, Rock and Roll, French Jive, Le Roc, and Ceroc. When it comes to dancing patterns, Jive usually uses a six-count dance pattern. There are other Jive dances that also use eight and four-count patterns, too. In the world of dance competition, Jive is also referred to as Ballroom Jive.
This is a term to refer to the European form of swing dance. Aside from that, Boogie Woogie is also referred to as the swing dance style that is similar to the Jitterbug, Lindy hop, and East Coast Swing. It’s also called rock and roll by European swing dancers. It uses a fast tempo and upbeat music. Lastly, Boogie Woogie is also linked to the acrobatic-like moves that are still considered as social dance forms.
Ceroc or Modern Jive
Modern Jive is a type or genre of partner social dance that’s a hybrid between Salsa and Jive. It has simple footwork and it is historically related to other popular dances such as Lindy hop, swing, and French Jive. This dance is so simple that even newbies find it elementary. The name Ceros means modern jive’s brand name. Finally, this dance is also performed to different types of dance music. You can dance it to the tune of 60s music to present-day soul, rock, or pop music.
Swing, fortunately, continued to grow and develop from its basic 1920s form. Now, it’s being danced to the tune of contemporary music. Many swing dance fanatics and enthusiasts all across the globe still find joy in dancing to this original dance steps to the tune of swing-era music.
In recent years, there is a new breed of swing dancers that even revolutionized the 1920s swing. They were also able to incorporate some 90s swing music to swing dance’s revival. As a result, a vintage dance society full of people who love and enjoy the attire and music of the 20s and 40s emerged. This group made the latest forms of West Coast swing, reviving steps popularized in the 50s and 60s. Now, these dances were accompanied by contemporary music and spread as far as the UK, France, Russia, and Australia.
It’s always pleasurable to look back and trace how dances, music, and cultures came to be. As you learn more about these social practices, you also appreciate the people behind it. It also gives people living in the present time a deeper appreciation of what their predecessors value the most during their time. This time, with a deeper look into the types of swing dance and dance culture of the past, people in the present can look for better ways to revive and innovate the gems and heritage passed on by their ancestors.
Comment below to let us know which type of swing dance you love the most!