What is Swing? 


A Definition of Swing      


Swing
is a musical characteristic of a certain type of jazz which rhythmical and melodic presence makes you want to dance!  Technically, the Swing effect is rendered with the help of syncopations, which are non-binary rhythm variations which give to the music a swinging feel.  The triple step is one of the steps in Lindy Hop and other Swing dances that was created to take into account this syncopated rhythm and put it directly into body movement.
 
Swing is also a generic term for all dances that evolved with the musical current Blues, Ragtime, Jazz, Swing, Rock and Roll and even Rhythm and Blues.  In fact, it can encompass all popular dances with improvised component that followed the american popular music from the 1890's to the 1950's.  The extended family of Swing Dances regroup amongst others : Charleston, Lindy Hop, Collegiate Shag, Balboa, West Coast Swing, Boogie Woogie, Blues dancing... The word Jitterbug though was a term apparently used to describe the Lindy Hop dancers more than the dance itself.   Learn more about all swing and jazz dances we teach here at Studio 88 Swing by visiting the Dance Styles page.

Why would YOU Swing dance?


Swing brings people together in a joyful social setting facilitating self-expression through body movement and connection with other dancers, all of which to music and rhythms that bring big smile and energy to all who experience it!  The art of Swing dancing not only will make you exercise, enjoy a social setting and have you meet wonderful people, develop better consciousness of your body, but it will also stimulate your creativity since it's an improvised dance.  It is also highly social, and the swing dance community is very welcoming and warm as a whole.

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Swing Dance History

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In a time of racial segregation in the USA, swing dance succeeded in bringing together human beings around the love of music and dance together, whatever your colour of skin was.  The origins of Lindy hop are various and hard to trace exactly, but it is reasonable to think that african dance influences coming from slaves circle ritual, coupled with the european ballroom dancing traditions combined harmoniously to create a very joyous family of dances : the swing dances!  At the beginning of the 20th century, there were popular dances that were practiced on ragtime music, and those were: Foxtrot, le Two-step, le One-step and then were added the Texas-Tommy, the Turkey Trot, the Cake Walk, the Charleston and then gradually in parallel with the creation and evolution of Jazz music from ragtime and blues, a new style of dance was created : Lindy Hop !

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The Lindy Hop (or Jitterbug) is a street dance that was developed in the black community of Harlem (New York) at the end of the 1920’s.  Swing music and Lindy Hop dance evolved in ballrooms like the famous Savoy in Harlem, which opened in 1926. Based on improvisation, Lindy Hop is a couple dance which has a large diversity of steps, rhythm and style.  The name ‘’Lindy Hop’’ was apparently attributed by Shorty George Snowden, explaining that dancers were flying through the dance floor just like Lindy (nickname for Charles Lindbergh) ‘’hopped’’ the Atlantic, referring to Mr Lindbergh legendary solo-flight from New York to Paris on his plane Spirit of St-Louis in 1927.  Lindy Hop can be recognized easily by its high energy, and can in some occasions include air steps!  We say that dancers look like they are flying because sometimes they extend their bodies by kicking far back and extending their arms forward.  The Savoy was the ‘Home of happy feet’ and hosted the best orchestras at the time:  Bennie Goodman, Count Basie… but the home band was Chick Webb's, accompanied by the fantastic Ella Fitzgerald.  The Savoy could host several thousands of dancers at once, never discriminating with ethnicity, as a time where it was common to do so.  The Savoy closed in July 1958, after 32 years of bringing happiness in the Harlem spirits.



Dean Collins, born Sol Ruddosky,  was an american dancer and choreographer born in New Jersey, but moved in South California in 1936, where he became one of the most recognized dancer and where he contributed greatly to the popularization of ’The Lindy’.  He worked on more than 37 movies and danced live on several occasions.  He also was featured in the film Hellzapoppin', just like the Whitey's Lindy Hoppers from New York. He taught swing dancing in Los Angeles from the 1930’s until his death in 1984.  We attribute him a style called ‘’Smooth Style’’, where the bounce was almost completely eliminated.  He was partner with the fabulous Jewell McGowan for 11 years.

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The Lindy Hop culture started to decline at the end of the 1950’s with the popularization of disco dance and solo dances in general.  But in the 1980’s there was a renewed interest for swing dancing and one of the group who contributed to this rebirth was the ‘Rhythm Hot Shots’ based in Stockholm. This group of dancers created the company in 1985 and became the ''Harlem Hot Shots’' in 2002. They specialize in the interpretation of classic routines seen in films or shows from the 20’s to the 40’s and some of the members are also the founders of the oldest and biggest swing dance camp : «Herrang Dance Camp» in Sweden every summer for more than 30 years. 

Also involved in the rebirth of swing dancing in the United States are Steven Mitchell and Erin Steven, having convinced the great Frankie Manning to come back from retirement in 1986 and travel the world, becoming the modern ambassador of Lindy Hop.  Frankie Manning was a major influence in how swing dancing is practiced and taught today, and mostly how one should feel while dancing: caring about his/her partner, keeping the energy joyful and light, and putting music at the center of the experience.  He passed away at the age of 94 in April 2009.

frankie at swlf 2008 NB
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