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Swing / Lindy, Savoy Swing, West Coast Swing & Jive


Swing swept across the United States in the early ’30s and was very poplar through the ‘40s (remember “Swing Kids," the recent movie about World War II times?). Characterized by a carefree, relaxed style, swing soon came to represent a whole generation and time, when big band music was popular and musicians were judged by how well their music could “swing.” Single step, double step and triple step versions make swing a dance easily adaptable to a variety of tempos of music, from moderately slow to very fast. Swing is a highly adaptable dance, going equally well with big band-type music, rock-and-roll music and many Motown songs. Swing music is generally up-tempo and bouncy (the same music style, at a slower tempo, is danced as a Foxtrot).

The Savoy style of swing is a very fast, jumpy, casual-looking style of dancing, associated with the great dancers of Harlem in the ‘40s. The Lindy is a smoother-looking dance. When it hit the laid-back West Coast, the steps and rhythms of swing were rearranged again to make it adapt to rhythm-and-blues type music, and West Coast Swing developed.

West Coast Swing has certain similarities to swing, but also has some distinct differences. West Coast Swing is a slotted form of swing dance typically done to blues, country, funk and contemporary music. This type of swing is known for its smoothness and ability to “hit the breaks” (dancing to the accents in the music). In Europe, especially France, swing has been popularized under the name “Rock’n’Roll," which combines gymnastics with dancing.

The International Style version of the dance is called “Jive,” and it is danced competitively in the U.S. and all over the world (see explanation for International Style).