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The Diversity of Swing Dance The Diversity of Swing Dance

The Diversity of Swing Dance

story by Vladimir Shifrin for DanceUs.org

Swing dance was born in the 1920’s originating from Harlem, New York with Afro-American Roots. The initial Swing dances were the Charleston and the Lindy Hop, which are still quite popular today. Swing has made a huge impact on American culture, but it really hit a growth spurt once the Savoy Ballroom was opened in New York City. 

It was 1926 and this amazing place had the very best Jazz musicians and an open dance floor on a nightly basis. This alone drew the very best dancers in town. The combination of excellent dancers and fantastic music solidified Swing dance’s place in culture and history. 

Swing from the Start 

The 1920’s to the 1950’s saw an uprising of Swing dance. It developed right along with Swing music, which is actually a specific style of Jazz. Swing is very diverse, and the variety of styles that have sprung from it are very much tied to the communities that they came from. 

Some swing dances, such as the Lindy Hop, developed in lower income, African American communities and then reached out to other diverse people over the years. However, there are also several specific swing dances which developed in upper class, white communities such as the Balboa and the Foxtrot. 

Although Swing was hugely popular on a common level, professional dance teachers did not really embrace the Swing movement until the 1940’s. At this point Arthur Murray instructed all of his teachers to look at what local people were dancing and to teach that at their schools. As a result, different Swing dances were taught in dance schools throughout the largest cities of America. 

Recognizing Swing 

Swing encompasses such a huge realm of dance styles that it may seem difficult to really characterize it simply. However, Swing surely is one of the most fun dances around. It often has a swift pace, and involves tons of spinning, flipping and swinging of partners. 

The Many Styles of Swing 

There are many different variants of Swing dance. Following is just a glimpse at the different kinds of Swing that are prevalent in different areas across the nation. Although some of the dances were developed decades ago, many of them are still enjoyed. 

  • Jive – This is the type of Swing dance that comes to mind when thinking of worldwide Swing dance competition. 
  • Lindy Hop – This is the style that started them all, and is likely still the most popular form of Swing dance today. 
  • Jitterbug – This is an all-encompassing term that embraces all kinds of Swing dance. 
  • Carolina Shag – Well-known in both North and South Carolina, this dance is widely recognized for the nimbleness of the dancer’s feet. 
  • Cajun Swing – This is more or less a Lindy dance that is performed to Cajun music in Louisiana. 
  • Boogie–woogie – This is Swing dance typically performed to the Blues, or possibly to Rock and Roll. 
  • Ballroom West Coast Swing – Voted California’s official dance in 1989, this particular type of Swing became prevalent there in clubs throughout the 1930’s and 1940’s. 
  • East Coast Swing – This dance is a Lindy style of Swing that is popular with professional dancers and schools. 
  • Savoy Swing – The original Swing danced in the Savoy Ballroom, this one is very fast-paced, energetic and fun. 
  • Whip – This particular Swing style is popular in the Houston area. 

The Dancers who made Swing Famous 

"Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers" were a very well-known troupe of Swing dancers that originated at the Savoy. Frankie Mannie was one of the stars of their show. This particular group of Swingers was showcased on the big screen no less than four times. 

Not long after, Dean Collins went to Hollywood. He had learned to dance at the Savoy and in Harlem. Over a span of about 20 years, he helped to choreograph and danced in more than 100 movies. 

The Music of Swing 

Swing music is just as differentiated as Swing dance. However, it all began with Jazz. Now, Swing music can be found in R&B, Blues, Hip-Hop, Ragtime and Pop. 

Swing Competitions 

American Style Ballroom is typically referring to the East Coast Swing. On the other hand, the International Style of Swing is Jive. Both of these are considered to be Ballroom Swing, and offer numerous competitions both across the United States and on a worldwide level.

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