The Swing's the Thing
by Irv &
Social dance styles
have a tendency to change greatly from one decade to the next. It
seems as if every new generation expresses itself by making a unique
contribution to ballroom and social dancing. Just by tracing the
evolution of SWING of the 1930s and 1940s one cannot help but be
impressed by the ability of each younger generation to place its
stamp on modern popular dance.
Jitterbug was the
modern expression for a new kind of jazz in the 1930s and was
Afro-American in origin. It went through a fad period of being
eccentric, with its wild aerobatics inspired by the rising popularity
of boogie woogie. The big apple, the shag, and the lindy were all
products of that period. It changed after World War II to a more
syncopated rhythm called "rock and roll," with the double
lindy pattern, and to "swing," as the smooth sophisticated
triple rhythm, which came in a short time later. All during the rock
period, both the double and triple lindy could be seen on the TV
show, American Bandstand. Then jitterbug began to come back. And a
softer sound called boogie -- but no relation to boogie woogie --
began as a result of synthesization of electronic equipment. Both
slow and fast swing are currently IN!
different types of swing are most often determined by the speed of
slowest type of swing is west coast swing. Rock and roll, hustle, and
disco are hybrids of west coast swing. They were developed from west
coast swing slot action with a Latin influence. Because of the way
American music developed, there was a "cross-over" into
swing from the Latin rhythms -- hence, Latin hustle. West coast swing
is composed of walks and double-time and triple-time actions.
coast swing uses music that is somewhat faster and is mostly done
with two triples left and right, followed by a rock and recover. Each
"triple" is timed 1/2, 1/2, 1; a count of 1&2. There is
more separation between partners in this type of swing. Movements are
softer and slower than in jive.
is the fastest of the swing dances. Because of the speed of the
music, partners will stay closer together and make sharper rotations.
The action is more "up and down" in the knees and legs.
Often there is a lot of "picking up" of the legs and feet
in order to predominantly accent beats 2 and 4 of each measure. The
timing of each step in the triples is 3/4, 1/4, 1; a count of 1a2.
The weight is carried well over the balls of the feet and the soft
knees are used to lower. The heel barely touches the floor during
execution of the figures.
are other types of swing less used or not used in round dancing:
(Jitterbug) -- This dance has a smooth, "folksy" quality.
One of its distinguishing features is the continual bending and
straightening of the knees. The solid beat in the music gives this
dance its characteristic lilt and bounce. Many texts list the basic
as "dig, step, dig, step; step, step" as the primary
figure. All the syncopated dances from the South -- charleston, black
bottom, shag -- come under the lindy classification. But the shag,
with its more pronounced hop, was the first actually to be called a
'n' Roll (Discotheque) -- This is one of the most diversified dances
done today. The standard lindy figures are most often used, but the
solid beat of the rhythm and blues music lends itself to dipping in
the knees and a rocking of the torso. The twist set the style for
disco dancing, which permitted dancers to move independently. the
twist was just a fad, but from that dance step came the frug, watusi,
monkey, and many others.
Swing music is written
in 4/4 or cut time. It is extremely adaptable to fast or slow rhythm
or to 4/4 time, from foxtrot to hard rock in quality. The shag was
actually the first dance to be called jitterbug and its "slow,
slow, quick, quick" rhythm set the pattern for all the others.
The single lindy has the same rhythm.
The styles and
positions used in swing are very diversified. It is a matter of taste
for the individual dancers whether they use a dig step, a step hop,
or a kick step. However, the basic rhythm must be maintained by both
man and lady in order to coordinate the pattern together, unlike the
disco in which the step or rhythm pattern of each partner is
Many of these swing
steps tend to cover a small circular or slot space in one area of the
floor. The footwork is at all times small and close together with
rolling and turning on the ball of the foot. The rhythm pattern is
generally the same over and over, but the changes in position and
direction and the constant subtle smooth roll to offbeat rhythm
generates a fabulous excitement for both dancer and observer.
clinic notes prepared for the URDC annual convention, 1996, and reprinted in the DRDC newsletter, February 2015.