History of Swing Dance

history of swing danceThanks for visiting us, this is a very brief history of swing dance.

The history begins with the original Swing era in 1920s and 30s America, when Big Bands took over pop culture. Swing music has lived on ever since, influencing each new generation of music. Swing dance is a broad term to describe a variety of partner dances evolving from the 1920s to the present day.

An exciting evolution in jazz music broke out of New Yorks Harlem district in the late 1920s. With this new sound, a new dance was created, called the lindy hop. Lindy hop developed from dancers mimicking other dance crazes of the time, including the Charleston and the foxtrot.

The term lindy hop was coined by dancers in New York. In 1927, pilot Charles Lindbergh made history by “hopping” over the Atlantic. Myth has it that one of the influential dancers of this time described his dance as the lindy hop inspired by Lindbergh’s feat.

Lindy hop was fast and intricate, to match the music being produced by the big bands. But over time the bands got smaller and the dancing evolved with the music. Over the following 30 years, the dance was re-branded (amongst other names) jitterbug, boogie-woogie and rock’n’roll. The term “jive” was originally used as a derogatory term by afro-american dancers, referring to less talented white contempories who were dancing lindy hop very badly! The term stuck when GIs brought jitterbug to Europe during WW2.
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The term swing dancing can also includes solo jazz routines such as the Shim Sham, which is thought to have originated as a warm-up for tap dancers of the jazz era, and other dance styles that were crazes from the jazz era such as Balboa and Collegiate Shag.

With the new dance crazes of the 60s, partner dancing went out of fashion, until the 1980s when it re-emerged in French discotheques, and was labelled French jive or modern jive. This dance was brought to the UK in the early 90s. Danced to contemporary chart music, there is still a strong Modern Jive scene across the UK.
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Separately in the 1980s, several groups of dancers from across the globe decided to revive lindy hop, learning from the stars of the original era, such as Frankie Mannings. They have recreated a fashion for dancing to swing music. This led to an increase in exposure for lindy hop worldwide; most notably there was a huge revival in the USA during the 1990s, spawning breakthrough neo-swing pop acts such as Indigo Swing, Swingerhead and The Brian Setzer Orchestra (Brian first came to prominence as front man of the Stray Cats!).

Swing Dance isn’t Just History – it’s still evolving!

A beginners swing dance class may take many different formats around the world, but we hope to provide an easily accessible introduction to partner dancing, which will enable you to boogie to some great music. We can also offer plenty of challenging moves for those with the desire to advance!

If you are in our area and wish to try out our classes, we recommend starting with our Absolute Beginners Swing Jive Courses, or for our friends further afield you may consider our popular course DVD.

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