Swing dance styles, history and information | Swingland Dance co.

About Swing

"Swing" describes both a genre and a way of playing music, as well as a group of dance styles generally danced to that music.

At Swingland we concentrate primarily on the swing dance styles from the 1920s to 1950s; from Charleston to rock 'n' roll, but especially Lindy hop.

Lindy hop

The original Swing Dance

Also known variously as "jitterbug", "boogie-woogie" and "jive", Lindy hop was born in the dance halls of late 1920s Harlem, New York City, at the height of the Harlem Renaissance. Lindy hop grew from a fusion of partnered Charleston, jazz, breakaway and Texas Tommy along with more formal European styles. Although Lindy hop eventually spread worldwide and is now danced by people of all nations and cultures, it was created by black people and is at its heart, an African-American dance form.

As hot jazz music gave way to big band swing in the 1930s, Lindy hop evolved rapidly, especially at the legendary Savoy Ballroom, where the opportunity for the best dancers to entertain the tourists contributed to it becoming both a social dance craze and an exciting performance style!

Lindy hop is well-known for its amazing air-steps, where one or other partner (usually the follow) flies through the air over or around her (or his!) partner. Air-steps are done rhythmically in Lindy hop - rhythm is the essence of the dance.

This film clip from the 1941 film "Hellzapoppin'" shows Lindy hop at its height as a performance style - crazy, incredibly fast but still rhythmic (the dancing starts around half-way through the clip). Here's a modern Lindy hop competition too, and one of Swingland's previous performance groups in action at a display in Borough Market.

Lindy hop is also characterised by breakaway jazz steps where each partner executes his/her own improvised steps as an interpretation of the music. It is a very free, informal dance style.

Air-steps are generally reserved for competitions, performances and "jams" - most people prefer to dance socially, enjoying the opportunity to interact with different people. The music is happy and the dance is immense fun - a chance to relax and forget about other things in life!

Here are Swingland's Martin & Ruth Ellis dancing at their wedding (despite the comments on the audio, this is freestyle dancing, not choreography). The second video is a clip of two of today's best dancers (Skye Humphries and Frida Segerdahl) showing that you don't need air-steps if you don't want them!

Lindy hop is incredibly versatile and can be danced in one way or another to anything from late 1920s hot jazz to old-school rhythm 'n' blues, jump-jive, boogie-woogie, rock 'n' roll, lounge swing and more. A stylised form of Lindy hop can be danced to hip hop and swing-influenced remixes ("Electro swing") - but most Lindy hoppers prefer the original music, whether original recordings from the 1930s, 40s and 50s or good modern bands, especially live.

As with partnered dance in general, Lindy hop is currently enjoying a worldwide resurgence and is a living, evolving dance form as relevant today as ever - and most of all it's great fun!! It is a fantastic way to stay in shape too.

Lindy hop is featured in countless films, videos and stage shows - a wild and crazy, smooth and cool swinging style, we'll show you how to do it!