What is the Jitterbug?
The jitterbug is an athletic swing dance closely associated with the Lindy hop. It is one of the easiest swing off-shoots to learn, as it features simple single-time movements. However, the dance can also be embellished with a variety of advanced triple steps, dips, spins and other elements.
Origins of the Jitterbug
Cab Calloway is typically credited with coining and popularizing the term jitterbug in his recording Call of the Jitterbug, as well as in the film Cab Calloway’s Jitterbug Party. Many believe, however, that famed trombonist and musical arranger Harry Alexander White was actually responsible for the term.
Earlier on, the moniker jitterbug was used to describe a vigorous dance style often performed by inebriated individuals. These dancers were said to have the same jittery movements as alcoholics. Eventually, the jitterbug expanded to include elements of a variety of swing styles.
The jitterbug quickly took over American clubs during the Great Depression before making its mark internationally during World War II, when it was spread across both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans by military dance enthusiasts. During the 1950s, the jitterbug transitioned from a largely swing-based style to one accompanied primarily by the era’s increasingly popular rock ‘n’ roll music.
Music of the Jitterbug
Like many swing dances, the jitterbug features a 4/4 time signature. A syncopated rhythm is typically used for the jitterbug, with dancers following a slow, slow, quick quick pattern. The jitterbug is generally danced to swing music, although rock ‘n’ roll jitterbug music was common during the 1950s and is still used frequently today.
Characteristics of the Jitterbug
Originally, the club-based jitterbug was a freewheeling dance that featured an array of acrobatic stunts. Today, it remains a fast-paced, exuberant style, but it has been fitted a bit for the traditional ballroom setting. The basis of the dance is a simple step, step, rock step, danced in a slow, slow, quick quick rhythm. Intermediate and advanced dancers often replace the basic step with a faster triple step. Other common jitterbug steps include the sweetheart (sometimes referred to as the cuddle or the wrap), the sugar push, the tuck turn, and the jig kick.
A lively swing style danced to a syncopated beat, the jitterbug is easy for beginners to master as well as fun for advanced dancers with our ballroom dance lessons in Houston at River Oaks School of Dancing!