Harry Connick Jr
Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra
Films with Swing Dancing:
At The Races
Make Mine Music 1941
A League of Their Own
is Swing Dancing?
Put simply, swing dancing is dancing to swinging jazz music.
The most celebrated of the swing dances is the
1930s partner dance 'The Lindy Hop', also known to many as 'Jitterbug'.
The Lindy Hop
The Lindy Hop is familar to many people because of its acrobatic
'air steps' (aerials) - where the dancers are thrown over their partner's heads, but this is only one aspect of the dance. A
couple dancing the Lindy Hop move with each other in a variety of
combinations, sometimes together (closed) and sometimes apart
(open). When done well, their movements are characterised
by improvisation and rhythm, just like jazz music. The essence of social Lindy Hop is the focus on partner
connection, working the floor, and moving as one
with the music. Exuberance
and craziness are encouraged!
Click below to watch some crazy Lindy
Hop action from the 1940s!
Lindy Hop is thought of as a fast and energetic dance,
but as it is danced socially it ranges through all tempos
- anywhere from fast and explosive, right down to slow, graceful & sexy! It's a joyful dance suitable for all ages,
but most importantly the emphasis is always on fun!
To see some of the best examples of Lindy Hop, check out
the dance sequences from the films 'A Day At The Races'
(1937) and 'Hellzapoppin'' (1941). You can also
find it in modern films such as 'Malcolm X'(1992),
'Swing Kids'(1993) and Outkast's 'Idlewild' (2006).
Named after aviator Charles
Lindbergh's epic first solo flight across the Atlantic,
the Lindy Hop evolved from the Charleston and other dances in late 1920s New
Click below to watch early Lindy Hop (1929
Harlem's popular Savoy
Ballroom was the place to be, attracting the best
big bands of the time and dancers ready to revel. This
along with friendly rivalry between the dancers, helped
birth to the dance. The better dancers invented wilder,
fancier and more spectacular moves in an attempt to out-do
band swing, played by the likes of Duke
Ellington, Cab Calloway, Benny Goodman and Count Basie,
grew in popularity throughout the 1930s and into the 1940s.
Lindy Hop craze spread with it across the US and throughout
Stylistic and regional variations of the dance developed,
and in popular culture it became known as 'The Jitterbug'
- as it was known in Australia. Australia caught the Jitterbug
craze with the influx of American servicemen during the
World War. Aussie Jitterbuggers could pick up the latest
steps by carefully studying American newsreel footage and
at the local theatres.
The Second World War split up many of the swing bands, and
along with shifting music trends it was difficult to maintain
a big band in the post-war era. As a result, the popularity
of Lindy Hop and other swing dances had largely faded by
mid 1950s. Rock 'n' Roll music took over and Jitterbuggers
adapted to what become entirely different styles. ('Rock n Roll' and 'Jive')
Fortunately, the Lindy Hop was kept alive - being slowly
revived during the 1980s independently around the world by
and dedicated dancers. The revival was complete by the mid
1990s, with wide media recognition and a fad for retro swing
bands such as Royal Crown Revue and Big Bad
Voodoo Daddy. Swing dancing was back!
Other Swing Dances
Other more regionalized swing dances developed in the Swing
era, such as 'Balboa and 'Collegiate Shag'.
Balboa for instance, is a more compact and subtle dance
that came from Newport, California. Because the footwork
is kept small, it can be danced to extremely fast tempos.
Shag came out of New Orleans in the 1920s and is distinguished
by hops, kicks, jumps and furiously fast footwork, with very
little movement from the waist up. It was named for it's popularity
amongst college kids.
Not all Swing dances
are partnered. 'The Big Apple' is an group dance
where dancers typically form a circle and respond to a leader
calling out jazz steps. There are also jazz line dances such
popular Shim Sham Shimmy and
An evolution of swing
dancing is the Blues dance. 'Blues dancing' emphasises the partner
of dancing thru typically slower music
range of genres
to jazz or blues). It is often described as a certain feeling to the dance, rather than a particular set of steps or rhythms.
Coast Swing developed in the 1960s. West Coast is a smoother style incorporating
steps from other contemporary dances such as the Cha
Mambo, The Hustle & Lambada. Although based
on the Blues, it is danced to many music genres. The generally slower
tempos used allow all ages to dance all night long without
Community & Exchanges
You can now find an active swing dancing
community in many major cities internationally. Many of
host large annual events (camps
or exchanges) which draw in swing dancers and instructors
from around the world. Perth has its very own annual Exchange
known as Hullabaloo,
usually at the end of April.
For more information about swing dancing,
including where to find classes, visit our links