There are a whole lot of different types of swing dance out there, and the truth is that we have no clue what used to be out there. Because it was almost 100 years ago, there’s actually very few different styles of swing dance that are still around and still popular. What we have may seem like a lot of options, but when you consider the fact that there used to be likely hundreds of options it seems a whole lot smaller again. Still, there’s a whole lot that we can figure out and many different styles that you should at least take a closer look at as well.
Begun back in the 1930s with African American youth, the Lindy Hop is considered one of the first types of swing dance. It’s actually an 8 count swing, but what makes it different from most styles of dance is that you get to improvise along the way. You get to choose your moves a little more and you’re going to get to choose your song too because it can be danced to almost anything. If you want to switch it up even to a 6 count swing you absolutely can. Though most people seem to differ on just where the name originated, this style of dance is one of the most popular in the United States and it definitely became popular throughout Europe as well.
When we start looking at the Balboa we see a dance that uses an 8 count swing and a closed position. Closed means that the two partners are going to be very close together and upright the entire time that they dance, rather than some other styles of swing that use wider movements or postures. It’s a conservative dance as well, bringing the partners extremely close together so that they are always touching. You’ll find a few less variables here and definitely different ways that you can express yourself because it doesn’t even include turns or spins. Instead, it uses footwork to make sure that you’re getting a little more upbeat and fun.
Here we’re getting into wilder and faster tempos, though when it was first created they didn’t actually consider to be swing music. Instead, they considered it standard jazz music and since it came out before swing really started in the first place, it was one that had some other dancing styles. But once it started being associated with swing dance it definitely too a new life throughout the Carolina’s where it was made popular. It was a little bit slower moving than some of the other styles, however, and it actually took about a decade to start reaching the rest of the United States. Once it managed that, however, there was no stopping it.
When you mix the Charleston with the Lindy Hop you’re bound to get something unique and this is what you end up with. It’s a combination of two popular dances to create something that gives you a lot of positions and a lot of different fun options. You’ll go side-by-side, hand-in-hand and tandem throughout this dance. That means it’s definitely going to keep you moving and give you enough variety to keep you interested, especially with the variance from open to closed positions throughout.
St. Louis Shag
Slightly more modern than some of the other versions, the St. Louis Shag came about from St. Louis, Missouri (which may not seem like too much of a surprise). It’s actually from around the 1930s or 1940s and it uses a slight basis from the Charleston. Still, it has its own features and abilities as well because it’s a fast dance that keeps you and your partner close together. This closed style dance keeps your feet jumping and moving all the way through so you won’t have time to slow down.
Whether you’re looking for a circle dance or a partner dance you’re going to find it with this one. It’s great for large groups and it definitely makes sure you get to know the people you’re dancing with. According to the story it started at the Big Apple Club with some of the African American kids that used to dance there. Since it was the 1930’s there’s little information to know for sure, but we do know that it was named for the region and that the style of dance started to spread across the United States quite quickly.
In case you didn’t quite guess, this one is based on the Big Apple but it’s a slightly less adventurous one. It’s going to give you a little less of the vibrancy that you would find in the older style. Instead of having circled at all you’re only going to have partners, for example. What you’ll find about this one though is that it’s still quick and it’s still going to keep you moving. It also originated in the Carolina’s, like a number of other styles of swing.
East Coast Swing
Moving forward in time a little bit we get to the East Coast Swing, which was one of the early dances of the 1940s and 1950s. This 6 count dance is also based on the traditional Lindy Hop, but it used music that was popular in this era, rather than the older style music the Lindy Hop was based on. And then it continued to change and edit even from there, creating moves and styles that came from the Arthur Murray Dance Studios. Whether you’re looking for a song for fast music or slow music, different styles or just about anything, this is going to be the type of dance that you want. Even better, it’s not going to be too difficult to learn because of the simple footwork.
West Coast Swing
You’re probably not going to be surprised to know that the West Coast Swing was also based off the Lindy Hop, but it came out of Los Angeles back in the 1940s. Instead of the standard styles that we’ve talked about this one is actually a slotted dance and it gives people who want to try it out a whole lot of options. It actually applies to everything from blues, jazz, and funk to country and hip hop. That means absolutely anyone is going to be able to have some fun with it, which is likely why it became so popular not only throughout the United States and Canada but throughout the entire world.
The thought here is that Western Swing is what actually inspired a number of additional dances that are more modern, like two-step and line dancing. Though it’s not a positive thing, it is definitely something that seems to have a pretty good bearing. What’s really great is that it’s bold and fun and that it’s going to get you moving a whole lot. You’ll have everything in this dance, including flips, lifts, and dips. All you need to do is find the right music and while that’s usually going to be a country song, it’s going to be entirely up to you to find the right fit.
Over in Europe they definitely needed to come up with a version of swing dancing, especially when it was going so crazy wild. That’s where the Boogie-Woogie came from. It’s slightly based on East Coast Swing but it also has some of its own style and features. It works with rock music but you can actually choose whether you prefer 6 counts or 8 counts for yourself. If you’re looking for a lot of footwork you’ll want to bump it to the 8 count version but for a slightly more classic style from the Lindy Hop, you’ll want to look at the 8 count version. What’s really great is this is actually a popular dance style even in modern Europe.
Created in the 1940s, this dance started out just like a number of other ones, in the Carolina’s. Of course, you probably would have guessed that simply based on the name that it was given. It’s also considered a type of beach music, which makes it pretty fun all on its own. It took a while for it to start creating its own following, but it’s definitely one that was influenced by other music, especially rhythm and blues.
When East Coast Swing and West Coast Swing mix you end up with Imperial Swing. It’s a super fun method that offers slotted dancing and round. Based out so St. Louis, it’s going to give you a mix of a whole lot of things and that’s what makes it really fun, especially for younger people who are looking to get into swing dance. The story that was often told here is that people used to come back to Club Imperial after learning swing at other places and they would piece together what they learned to create something new.
Ballroom style Jive was definitely a fun style of dance, but when it was evolved to an Eastern Swing it definitely amped up the game. It took a while for this one to come around in the 1980s, but once it did it definitely took off fast. While some people debate whether it’s actually swinging at all because of the lack of footwork, there’s still plenty that loves the simplicity. It uses a box step and some other simple moves and it’s a great dance for any kind of social event.
Rock and Roll
Around the 1950s is where you’re going to find rock and roll though it took a whole lot longer for this style of music to really start taking off into other countries and even other parts of the country. Swing had already ventured out, but at the same time, rock and roll struggled. After all, a lot of people wonder if it’s even considered swing music.
Washington Hand Dancing
This style of dance is all about the handwork, but it’s not just about that. There’s also a whole lot of footwork involved and since it came out in the 1950’s it’s been gaining in popularity. It uses a 6 count and at the time the footwork was more modern than what’s seen today. Instead, there’s no jumping but sliding and staying right in contact with the floor.
With both of these styles of dance being created in Texas in approximately the same time, they’re great for just about any style of music you want to dance to. Whether you’re a lover of blues, rock, and roll, jazz, pop or just about anything else, this closed position dance is going to make it super easy for you to get moving and really make the most of it. The Push works great for fast music while you’ll find that the Whip is actually better when you’re working with slow music.
Swing dance has most definitely changed and evolved over time. Even though it was created over a hundred years ago that doesn’t mean that it’s something old-fashioned or that you should ignore. And not only that but it’s influenced some of our other favorite styles of music. In fact, everything from modern rock and roll to hip hop and even country has been influenced in some ways by swing music and the dancing that goes along with it.
No matter what kind of swing dancing you think is the best or what might be interesting to you, there are plenty of different ways that you can enjoy yourself and that you can really get yourself a workout as well. After all, swing dancing is going to require you to move quite a bit. It’s something that gets you freestyling in many ways because even though the masters have already set a number of styles, there’s no reason that you can’t still be a little bit wild and crazy on your own.