Born on the streets of Harlem and associated with the Savoy Ballroom in the late 1920s, the Lindy Hop is known as the original swing dance and would probably be best described as “partnered jazz dancing”. The dance has no “hop” in it, on the contrary, it is smooth and solid with a constant rhythmic 8-count pulse that you “feel in your bones”. As a performance art, Lindy Hop may involve ensemble dancing, choreographed routines, and acrobatic air steps.
The name “Lindy Hop” was inspired by Charles Lindbergh’s trans-Atlantic solo airplane hop in 1927. Over the years the dance evolved into different forms and styles in different regions of the country. In the 1980’s it was given new life as young dancers connected with and learned from the original dancers.
The core of Lindy Hop is improvisation – you play, you improvise, you syncopate. Still, the dance does have a structure with some basic steps, patterns and moves, which serve as the basis for innovation. It is mostly characterized by a breakaway move, known as the “Swing-Out”, where the lead sends the follow out of closed position and allows both of them to improvise solo steps. Unlike most ballroom dances, where the dancers float or glide on the floor, Lindy Hop is danced “into the floor” – it uses a “pulse” that drives and connects the dancers. Depending on the music, Lindy Hop can be fast and energetic or smooth and groovy.
Lindy Hop is mostly danced to swing, blues, and jazz music, but is not limited to these styles. Although Lindy Hop is a partnered dance it offers a lot of room for individual expression within the partnership. Both lead and follow constantly communicate with each other through connection, movement, timing, harmony, and musicality. It is said that good Lindy Hop dancing is a perfect balance between structure and freedom.
Originated in 1935 at the Pavilion at Balboa Island in Southern California, when crowded ballrooms forced dancers to shorten their steps. Balboa is a fast, 8-count dance where partners are basically glued together and perform fast footwork but not much whole-body movement. Can be comfortably danced to very fast music.
Another popular variation of this dance is known as Bal-Swing (or Swing-Bal), which includes different variations, moves and patterns.
A swing style which has its roots in the European 6-count style and is comparable to the US East Coast style. Boogie Woogie is famous for its fast, smooth and tricky footwork. In Competitions Boogie Woogie is danced to original music of the late 40ies and 50ies with emphasis on an improvised interpretation of the music without a fixed choreography.
East Coast Swing
A descendant of Lindy Hop/Jitterbug swing. Mostly 6 count rhythms.
West Coast Swing (also known as Whip or Push)
A slower swing dance done to rhythm and blues music which can also be danced to disco, house, rock, and country and western. This dance stays in a “slot” which means that the follower travels back and forth on a straight line. The steps usually have 6, 8, 10, or 12 counts and offer a great deal of customization and stylistic variation. In Texas, there is a version of West Coast Swing called Whip (it’s called Push in Dallas) that is popular.
Native to St. Louis. So called because it was nurtured in the Imperial Dance Club on Florissant Street in St. Louis. It is a variant of East Coast Swing with a six-count step which includes eight-count steps similar to the Lindy. A mix of East Coast and West Coast Swing.
Originated in the South and has been known as the “Flea Hop” at times, the Shag was popular in the early 1920’s with the college students. Shag has three main categories: single, double, and triple. These are determined by the amount of kicks or hops in the dance (for example, Balboa can be considered as Single Time Shag). All the existing styles (St. Louis Shag, Collegiate Shag, Carolina Shag, etc.) fall under the single, double or triple categories. Shag can be six-count or eight count and is usually danced in closed position to fast swing music primarily fast Ragtime-Jazz.