Swing dance styles, history and information | Swingland

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.

Authentic/vernacular Jazz dance

The roots of improvisation

The authentic "vernacular" jazz and tap dance steps from the 1930s and before are the basis of improvisation in Lindy hop and are therefore essential knowledge for accomplished Lindy hoppers. The following dances are all based on vernacular jazz and/or tap dance:

Shim Sham

The Shim Sham is a fun routine made up of simple jazz steps, generally done in a line, but often also in a circle. Originally the Shim Sham (Shimmy) was a tap routine choreographed by Leonard Reed - which was adopted universally by stage performers so that they could do a whole company encore at the end of a show rather than each act do individual encores. The Lindy hoppers of the 1930s and 40s took the dance and changed it subtly - nowadays most people can learn it without any experience of tap, although many dancers do put in some or all of the original tap elements as they become more proficient. It is done as a soft-shoe in clubs though - you can see it done with taps but generally only on stage or in cabaret. We teach the Shim Sham regularly because it is considered essential knowledge around the world in swing dance clubs, and is an excellent way to learn and improve jazz steps which are in many ways the foundation of good Lindy hop.

Big Apple

The Big Apple is a circular dance made up of more complicated and syncopated jazz steps, often called by a dancer in the centre of the circle. The dancers perform the steps called (or as choreographed), some of which require interaction with the other dancers. It was very popular in the dancehalls of the late 1930s - such as the Savoy Ballroom - but was also taken to the stage and in film, where it was more usually choreographed and therefore performed without a caller. We teach many of the Big Apple steps as the basis of improvisation in our Lindy hop classes and we also regularly teach the version choreographed by Frankie Manning and danced by Whitey's Lindy Hoppers in the film Keep Punching.

Tranky Doo

The Tranky Doo is a another fun jazz dance made up of more complicated and syncopated jazz steps, similar to the Big Apple but done in lines rather than a circle. We teach the Tranky Doo regularly as it is fast becoming essential knowledge for swing dancers!

Swingland Jazz routines

Over the years we've created many of our own routines for both classes and performances. "The Swingland Stomp" is a fun routine made up of simple jazz steps (with a couple of trickier steps thrown in!), generally done in a line. Choreographed by Swingland's Martin Ellis & Liza Patoux to the song Opus One. "Barrelhouse Boogie" is another of Martin & Liza's choreographies - you can see them performing it here. The second video shows Martin with Charlie Carter performing "It Ain't Right".