What is the Swing?
An offshoot of the Lindy Hop and the Jitterbug, the Swing is a lively dance that focuses on rhythmic interpretation and, in some cases, improvisation. There are several types of swing styles, including the very popular East Coast Swing and its close cousin the West Coast Swing.
Origins of the Swing
The Swing first began to make waves during the 1920s, when the African-American community stumbled upon such exciting dances as the Charleston and the Lindy Hop. Early Swing dances were performed to Ragtime and Jazz music. The dance experienced a surge in popularity during World War II when American troops introduced the style to their comrades in Great Britain. During this time, Swing was typically associated with Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, and Glen Miller.
The international popularity of the Swing during World War II and in the subsequent post-war era ultimately resulted in several offshoots of the dance. The East Coast Swing was one of the style’s original forms, with West Coast Swing eventually arising due to the need for a ballroom dance style that required less space. Country Western versions of both the East Coast and the West Coast Swing also grew quite popular during the post-war period. Country Western East Coast achieved a significant following in the Arthur Murray studios of the day, while the Country Western version of the West Coast Swing proved most popular in small California blues bars.
Music of the Swing
All swing is danced in 4/4 time, but the speed of the music depends greatly on the type of Swing. The music for the East Coast Swing is typically quick and lively, while West Coast Swing numbers tend to be a bit slower. However, just as the moves used in West Coast Swing tend to vary based on the dancers’ personal preferences, the music is also versatile and may include Rock, Blues or Country Western genres.
Characteristics of the Swing
The original East Coast Swing is a lively style that features a slight bounce effect. A variety of spins, underarm turns and kicks can be used in conjunction with the style’s fast-paced music. Danced in a slot, the West Coast Swing tends to be a bit slower than its East Coast counterpart. Bouncing is minimal for this style, with most of the movement limited to the female. West Coast Swing allows for a great deal of versatility in its spins, turns and overall footwork.
The Swing is presently a popular dance style for everything from casual events to formal competitions and is taught at River Oaks School of Dancing.