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Swing dance

Like swing music the dance also comes in many different forms that evolved in different parts of the world at different time eras. Today the most popular swing dance is Lindy Hop. The older dancers like Frankie Manning that were dancing in the golden era of lindy hop passed their knowledge to youngsters when the swing revival began in the late 1990s. Balboa is the name of the slick dance that is also very popular.

There are many other dances that were widely danced in the past and are still with us today. Such dances are Collegiate Shag and Charleston. Popular dances in Slovenija is also single step 6 count East coast swing. We must not forget the european swing dance Boogie Woogie and West coast swing, but there are many more that are almost forgotten. Luckily there are still some swing dancers who dance them and are keeping them alive for next generations.

Bellow I have described some of the swing dance styles and their history in brief.

Short history and swing dance styles

The beginning of swing dancing

The first type of dancing, that was different than any other dance known before emerged in the United States around the beginning of the Twentieth century, some even earlier. Most of the new dances of the time had funny names like Turkey Trot, Bunny Hug, Grizzly Bear, Kangaroo Dip, Chicken Scratch, Apache and Texas Tommy.

Ples grizzly bear
grizzly bear (source: http://jcfancenter.tripod.com/dreams/ragtime_and_dance.htm)

Some historians believe that Apache and Texas tommy are the first dance styles, that could be called swing dances. The reason for that is the new move called the ''break away''. With this revolutionary move dancers went from closed to open position. The music artists of the time were seeking inspiration in these dances and named their song titles after them or even described them in their lyrics. The history of the dancing at this early years is not very well known, but from them evolved other more sofisticated styles of swing dancing.

Ples imenovan cakewalk
dancing the cake walk dance (source:http://xroads.virginia.edu/~1930s/RADIO/amos/why/why.html)

The Twenties and the Charleston

It was the time of the roaring Twenties and the dance called the Charleston was really popular. Dancers would dance the charleston alone or together. At the time it was considered somewhat immoral and provocative. This is probably the main reason, apart from the fact that it is very amuzing dance full of energy, that it gained such a big level of popularity.

Charleston ples v ZDA
dancing the Charleston (source:http://artandhistory.house.gov/highlights.aspx?action=view&intID=248)

Another popular dance of the time was also a dance called the Black Bottom. This dance, like charleston, can be danced solo. From these dances a new form of dancing called the Lindy hop evolved in the late Twenties, which in time replaced them on the dance floor. Well, people in the Twenties danced to the Blues music too, but this style never really spread out of the afro american population and thus never reached the popularity of some other dances. In the last years however younger dancers discovered this type of dancing too and dancing to bluer, rhythm and blues and jazz music is alive again.

ples black bottom
Black Bottom (source: http://vintagevivant.com/2009/11/18/the-black-bottom-stomp-dance/)

Collegiate Shag

Collegiate Shag was popular in the 1920s and 1930s. The main purpose of the dance was probably to dance wild and free, which was the opposite of some other more smooth dances like waltz, that the older generations danced to. It was rebellious in a way. Some sources state that this dance got its name after young college students, that really liked dancing it. While the dance could be wild, it could also be danced more smoothly. It is mostly danced as a 6-cout dance and has many similarities to East coast swing. Unfortunately it is popular with small numbers of modern swing dancers today.

ples collegiate shag
Collegiate Shag (source:http://jassdancer.blogspot.com/2009/03/collegiate-shag.html)

Lindy Hop

Dancers started dancing Lindy hop in the late Twenties, but it reached its big popularity during Thirties and Forties. The dance includes footwork borrowed from the dances like Charleston and Tap. It could be danced elegantly to slower music or faster to faster music. The dance itself consists mainly of 8 and 6 count steps. In the time lindy hop was also known under the name Jitterbug, but later, when lindy was losing its popularity the name changed the owner and was related to the East coast swing.

lindy hop
lindy hop (source: http://jacquioakley.com/lindy-hop)

Lindy hop walked hand in hand with the swing jazz music. This is the reason that in the Fifties it was replaced with other dance styles, when the music had changed. In the swing revival era, however, younger dancers started dancing it again and spreading it around the world. This is the reason that now people are dancing it in many countries around the Globe.

Balboa and Bal-swing

The dance that is different from all others in the way it is danced is called the Balboa. It is danced in closed position, dancers are in fact romantically hugging each other when dancing. Like some other dances it can be danced to slower or faster music, but faster tempos give the dance a true feeling. The dance has two main forms, it could be danced exlusively in closed position (Balboa) or the balboa steps and sometimes styles can be integrated into "swing" dancing (Bal Swing). Today, Bal Swing is quite popular with the swing dance community all over the world.

ples balboa
Steve and Heidi dancing balboa (source:http://www.balboaswing.com/)

East coast swing and West coast swing

In the forties a new style of dancing was created and it was called the East coast swing. This is a 6-count dance that evolved from Lindy hop and other swing dances. East coast and Lindy hop do share a lot of similarities, espacially the moves and turns, but the body posture is quite different, as the dance is quite simple to dance and to learn. It was very popular in the Fifties when some people simply named it Rock&roll dance, since it was danced to that music, while it was also known under the names "jitterbug" or just simply "Swing".

east coast
Sajles Šinkovec, founder of swing in Slovenija performing with Martina (source:http://swingordie.weebly.com/teachers.html)

Nowadays it isn't as popular as it once was, but is still being danced today. West coast swing also evolved out of lindy hop but it developed somewhat differently. It is still popular in the swing and country scene today. Its main advantage is that it can be danced to modern music, but I thin it has lost the swing feeling to it.

west coast swing
west coast swing (source: http://www.imdb.com/media/rm945462528/nm0540224l)

Other swing dances

With the evolution of swing music (Jazz, Swing, Bop, Rock 'n' Roll, Rhythm in Blues, Disco, Country) many different forms of swing dancing evolved from dances like Lindy Hop, East coast and West coast. Some of this dances are Houston push, Dallas whip, Carolina shag, Imperial Swing, St. Louis shag, Cajun swing...


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