Swing dancing has a long and colorful history in the United States, from the 1910's Texas Tommy to the currently popular 1980's Country Swing. We are at the forefront of eight decades of Swing dancing in the United States. Each Swing-dancing generation developed its own style of Swing for dancing to the rhythm and blues, swing, rock 'n' roll, and hustle music popular in its time.
The styles of Swing dancing which developed through the generations and across the country are
(alphabetically) the Balboa, Bop, Carolina Shag (South Carolina state dance), Country Swing,
DC Swing (Washington, DC), East Coast Swing, Hustle, Imperial Swing (St. Louis), Jitterbug,
Jive (England), Lindy Hop (New York City), New York Hustle, Push (Dallas), Rock 'n' Roll,
Shag, Sling Hustle, Supreme Swing (Tulsa), Swing, West Coast Swing (California State Dance),
and Whip (Houston).
You have to be on your toes when talking Swing with Swing dancers. For example, Baltimore
dancers call Balboa, Shag. Washington D.C. dancers call Balboa, Varsity Shag, and West Coast
Swing, Hand dancing. New Orleans dancers call West Coast Swing, Alcatraz. Carolinians call
West Coast Swing, Carolina Shag.
THE MUSIC AND ROMANCE OF SWING
Let's get to the heart of Swing. Music is the pulse and romance is the blood.
THE PULSE: You can write and talk about Swing dancing all you want, but the music sets the
tempo and tickles the nerves to move. "Albis Boogie," "Alva's Baby Blues," "American Patrol,"
"Blue Finger Loo," "Blue Suede Shoes," "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," "Great Balls of Fire,"
"Honky Tonk," "Green Onions," "Heard It Through the Grapevine," "I am Just a Gigolo/I Ain't
got Nobody," "In The Mood," "Jail House Rock," "Johnny B. Good," "Jo Jo Boogie," "Kansas
City," "Long Cool Woman in A Black Dress," "Love & Happiness," "Memphis Stroll," "One
O'Clock Jump," "Pennsylvania 6-5000," "Rock Around the Clock," "Rockin At Midnight,"
"Shaggers Delight," "Slow Freight," "St. Louis Blues March," "Stagger Lee," "String of Pearls,"
"Superstition," "Sweet Home Chicago," "The Wanderer," "Tuxedo Junction," "Two O'Clock
Jump," "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go," "Whole Lotta of Shakin Goin' On," "Woodchoppers
Ball," etc.! The music speaks for itself!
THE BLOOD: The name of the game is boy wants girl and girl wants boy. When the Swing
music begins, it is time to move and the boys and girls with the best moves can have their choice
of partners on the local dance floor. The idea is to develop your own set of moves and not
noticeably copy one another. Some will sneak off to another dance floor in another state or
country and find a new move and refine or vary it, if not outright copy (steal) it, bring it back to
their local floor, and be king of the hill until someone comes along with a more ingenious move.
It is a delight to watch the Swing dancers break on riffs, tags, and vamps without missing a beat
as they strut their moves to embellish the music. The competition to outdo each other on the
dance floor and catch the eye of the object of one's affections, however, can lead to sprained
ankles, pulled ligaments, torn tendons, and twisted backs.
This scenario is played over and over again by the attractive, young, and lithe street dancers. (A
street dancer is a dancer who would not be caught dead as a student or teacher in a dance school.
For them dancing is romance [euphemism for sex], and it is learned on the street or by watching
"American Bandstand" or "Soul Train," and not from a book or in a dance class.) In the 1910s
their dance was the Texas Tommy, in the 1920s the Lindy Hop, in the 1930s the Jitterbug, in the
1940s Swing, in the 1950s Rock 'n' Roll, in the 1960s animal caricatures, in the 1970s the Hustle,
and in the 1980s Break dancing and Country Swing.
John Travolta portrayed this scenario to a captivated audience in "Saturday Night Fever," which
spread enthusiasm across the country for the Hustle dancing in the late 1970s, and in "Urban
Cowboy," which spread enthusiasm across the country for Country Western dancing in the early 1980s.
Swing dancers love to talk about what Swing dancing is, how Swing should be danced, and who
is doing what in Swing dancing. Each has his favorite competitive dancer and teacher (who he
thinks is the best). But trying to get Swing dancers to agree on what Swing is and how it is
danced is difficult, if not impossible, because Swing music tickles your sense of life, which
determines how you move on the wood. There are at least 459 duodecillion West Coast Swing
figures and 17 decillion West Coast Swing rhythm breaks to keep the most ardent Swing dancer
happy for his tenure on this planet alone. Thus Swing dance clubs and styles proliferate across
Everyone has his Swing guru and thinks he knows who started the dance and who developed and
performed which moves first. Swing dancing has been around since the 1910s, and everyone has
been copying, refining, varying and rediscovering what Swing dancers have been doing for 80
years. One idea leads to another, and all the street dancers, dance schools, movie choreographers,
and television dance shows have influenced the development of Swing. The same or similar
moves were developed concurrently and repeatedly across the U.S. Dean Collins was the most
prolific choreographer and performer of the swing dancing portrayed by the Hollywood movie
industry and probably was the most copied of all.
Swing dancers are out there strutting their moves to look good and each has developed his own
special moves. Once a man has developed his moves, he can tantalize and tease his partner with
ease. Women, however, face a continual challenge trying to follow the men. Imagine a group of
20 women and 20 men, where each of the 20 men know 20 different moves. In this group each of
the women has to dance 400 moves with 20 men, while each man only leads each woman
through the same 20 moves.
Single, Delayed Single, and Triple East Coast Swing are dance-school Swing dance styles
designed to get the average client off the street to dance. Jive today is the upper class English
version of the American East Coast Swing brought over to Europe during WWII. It is currently
setting the standard for international Swing competitions. (Jive is great for competing at the
tempo the English want to dance to, and establishing an international judgeable Swing dance
standard. However, there are other Swing music melodies and tempos as well as Swing dance
styles, and you will not find street Swing dancers, or Swing dance club dancers, dancing Jive in
the U.S.) Buddy Schwimmer from California took the West Coast Swing all the way to
Blackpool, England in May 1986, but the English are ignoring it as they did the Hustle. The
English are still selling back to the U.S. the Jive and its attendant moves and style which they
continually borrow from the Americans. Look for some of Buddy`s moves in their Jive during
the next few years.
Will the Swing dancers ever agree on what Swing is and how it should be danced and judged? It
is doubtful. Swing movement is a sense-of-life value judgement for each and every individual
who interprets the music. Let the many styles of Swing proliferate and compete with each other
for dancers to enjoy as the music writers keep filling the air waves with the rhythms. Each and
every style can reign supreme in its local region with its indigenous characteristic style and allow
the regional dancers to enjoy their style of moving to the music.
Even a 1000-page "Who's Who" would be far from complete to give credit for developing and
spreading Swing. We are nearing the end of a Swing generation as many who grew up in the 20's,
30's, and 40's (Ray Fox, Gene Mills, Dean Collins, Jean Veloz, Al Minns, Jeannette Phelps, and
so on) have already gone to the land of Swing dance in the sky. If you get into the Swing dance
clubs and are lucky enough to see some of the remaining Swing greats (Jack Carey, Annie
Hirsch, George Kristaferson, and Kenny Wetzel in Los Angeles, Jack Zeigler in San Diego,
Carter Lovisoni and Ray Bacca in Denver, Dewey Burton in Dallas, Al Neel in Tulsa, Frank
Manning in New York, and so on) you will find Swing as it is "not" danced at the US Ballroom
Championships, and you will discover where the British go for ideas to jive up their Jive. A
younger generation is now carrying the Swing banner for future Swing dance generations. You
know who you are out there, and Swing dancers salute you for moving on the wood to the Swing
music's beckoning call and giving others the opportunity to watch and learn from you.
Swing is the one dance that is all American. Let's take a brief stroll through its evolution.
TENS TEXAS TOMMY
Swing dancing originated with the Texas Tommy dancers in the 1910s. The Texas Tommy was
an acrobatic dance performed by members of the "Darktown Follies," one of the first all-black
revues. The dance incorporated the breakaway--the temporary and energetic separating of
partners, a distinctly unwaltzlike and non-European maneuver.
TWENTIES LINDY HOP
For mainstream America, Swing dancing originated with Jazz and Rhythm-and-Blues music
during the late 1920's as an outgrowth of the Charleston. Initially, Swing dancing was a wild
combination of rocking and turning movements with a Charleston foundation that black dancers
performed in New York's Harlem. The dance consisted of improvised steps and figures generally
using eight beats of music. This style of Swing was named Lindy Hop after the first
trans-Atlantic flight by Charles Lindbergh.
During the early 1930's, the Lindy Hop spread throughout the country via dance contests. With
the inclusion of elaborate twirls, acrobatic moves (aerial or adagio flips, jumps, etc.), and
breaking away from your partner with exotic jazz steps (Black Bottom, Fishtail, Shimmy, Snake
Hips, Squat, etc.), the character of the dance changed. A bouncy six-beat variant was named the
Jitterbug by the band leader Cab Calloway when he introduced a tune in 1934 entitled
"Jitterbug." Music played by Calloway's orchestra was popular in such hot spots as Harlem's
Savoy Ballroom. The Jitterbug's style of violent and frenzied athleticism was hazardous for
performers and other dancers, and a Jitterbugger with fast feet was called a flash dancer at the
black dance clubs. In 1936, the Jitterbug became popular with the whites when Benny Goodman
brought swing music to New York's Paramount Theater. The desire to perform the Jitterbug
while dancing around the radio and juke box spread from coast to coast. It could be danced on a
spot or take up the entire floor. It was a dance for attractive, young, and lithe beings who enjoyed
flaunting their bodies. Kids hooked on Jitterbug were called "jive addicts." One faster version,
called Shag, had a characteristic kick backwards and forward stomp. Movies which popularized
Jitterbug included "A Day at the Races," "Swing, Sister, Swing," "The Prisoner of Swing," and a
cartoon called "I'm Just a Jitterbug." Herbert White, head Savoy bouncer, formed Lindy Hop
troupes such as The Savoy Hoppers and Whitey's Lindy Hoppers. The 1941 movie,
"Hellzapoppin'," provided a glimpse of the Lindy Hop with Whitey's Lindy Hoppers (including
Albert Minns and Frankie Manning) performing the dance. An electrifying exhibition of couples
jitterbugged at the 1939 World's Fair to top the 30's off.
Another dance, The Big Apple, was born in the thirties in a small abandoned chruch in South
Carolina. The blacks converted the church into a night club and called it The Big Apple. The
dancers developed a group circular dance and it was named The Big Apple. The dancers danced
in a circle performing such figures as the Charleston, Suzi-Q, Spank the Baby, Boogie Back,
Shorty George, Dusty Dusty, etc. An individual or couple would solo in the center of the circle
performing their own unique moves. You can see the dance in acton in MGM's 1938 movie
"Thrill of a Life Time."
The Swing sound appeared in the 1940s when bands substituted bass and guitar for tuba and
banjo in their rhythm sections. The smoother style was given the surname Swing and the
christian name Savoy in the Savoy Ballroom where it was conceived, born, baptized, and bread.
The term "hepcat" was used to describe a Swing addict. (Check the Swing Dancer movie list for
a review of the movies that were produced.) The American GI's took the Swing dance to Europe
where it became known as Jive.
Swing dancing was finally recognized by the organized dance associations in the early 1940s. In
1943, the New York Society of Teachers of Dancing was one of the first associations to
recognize the Lindy Hop and Jitterbug as formal dances. The Lindy Hop and Jitterbug had been
essentially street dancer phenomena and were not allowed in many dance halls. In the early
forties the dance school's refinement for upper-class social and competitive dancing eliminated
the bumps, squats, grinds, and acrobatics so clients could dance with each other without getting
hurt or offended. They called the dances Jitterbug and Lindy Hop, however, the name Swing
came to be popular in the streets. (Note: It is part of the dance school's task to translate what
clients have seen performed on the street, into teachable, leadable, and sociable dancing.)
As a result of the music, movies, refinement in the dance studios, outlawing of Jitterbug in social
clubs, and creativity of individual dancers, a straight tracked (slotted) form, today called West
Coast Swing, evolved from the circular Lindy Hop form, today called East Coast Swing. No one
individual can be credited with discovering the West Coast Swing tracked form. With the
dancing public clamoring for instruction and filling the dance halls to capacity, the tracked West
Coast Swing developed simultaneously in different regions throughout the United States. The
ease of teaching many couples at once, dancing on crowded dance floors, and the appeal of the
Swing music played a role in developing dancing on a straight track.
In the forties the soldiers, sailors, and movies carried the latest Swing moves across the country
and around the planet. Dean Collins brought the Savoy Lindy to the West Coast and Hollywood
movie industry, and was the backbone of all the swing dancing performed by whites in
Hollywood movies. It was a contest between the dry, unruffled, and smooth Swinging cool cats
and the sweaty, ruffled, and rough Jitterbugging jivers. Swing flourished in such areas as
Norfolk, San Diego, San Francisco, etc., where the U.S. had military installations. In the wake of
its popularity, the West Coast Swing style became the "Swing Dancer's" dance. (In the 1980s, the
forties generation, moving into retirement, is still dancing its West Coast Swing heart out to the
Jazz, Rhythm & Blues, Swing, and Rock 'n' Roll music it loves in Swing clubs across the U.S.)
FIFTIES ROCK 'N' ROLL
Bill Haley's record, "Rock Around the Clock," brought the black Rock-and-Roll music to whites
in the 1950's, while movies, such as "Rock Around The Clock" in 1956, which featured Bill
Haley, popularized the dance. Rock'n Roll dancing (named by Bill Haley) took off, like Jitterbug
did 20 years earlier, with the music of Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Fats Domino,
Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, etc. Rock'n Roll became as popular as Jitterbug had been 20 years
earlier, and history repeated itself. The desire of the young to dance Rock'n Roll spread from
coast to coast. The music was a combination of black Rhythm-and-Blues and hillbilly Country
and Western. The blacks had given birth to Jazz and Rhythm-and-Blues and Elvis packaged it all
in white skin with a bow of sex appeal, i.e. Elvis was a white boy singing black music. The
strongest influence for spreading the dance, however, was "The American Bandstand" television
program which started in 1957. Adults claimed that Rock'n Roll was ruining American youth and
banned the music and dancing in public places. The dancing was a little slower and bouncier than
the 30's Jitterbug, and regional styles of Lindy, Jitterbug, Swing, Carolina Shag, and Bop
developed in addition to Rock'n Roll. During the fifties the track style became most popular
among the serious Swing dancers and was called Western Swing in the west and Carolina Shag
in the south. In 1959, the California dance organizations changed the name of Western Swing to
West Coast Swing so it would not be confused with country and cowboy dancing.
During the 1960's, when the baby boomers were in high school and college, the unprecedented
promotion of the Chubby Checker Twist, the Hully Gully and Continental line dances, and the
small and crowded dance floors changed the dancing style leaving the majority of dancers no
longer in contact. By this time however, Swing was firmly established as a dance, rather than just
a fad, such as the twist. The circular and track forms of Swing were still in vogue, with the
circular form (East Coast Swing) most popular on the East coast and the track form (West Coast
Swing) popular on the West coast.
While whites got nostalgic with "American Graffiti" and "Happy Days" in the early 1970s,
Puerto Ricans created the Hustle in the Puerto Rican and black neighborhoods of New York City
and Miami. The Van McCoy's 1976 record "The Hustle," and John Travolta in the 1977 movie
"Saturday Night Fever" helped popularize the dance. The American sales force spread Hustle
across the nation in the late 70's with continuous Donna Summer hits; dance TV shows such as
Disco Magic in Miami, Disco Fever in Los Angeles, Dancing Disco in Boston, American
Bandstand in Los Angeles, and Soul Train in Los Angeles; and a multitude of popular dance
books such as "Dancing Disco" by Randy Deats.
The Hustle, with it's latin roots, became popular like Rock'n Roll did 20 years earlier. People danced in contact again throughout the nation and it was a wide open free-for-all on the dance floor as everyone developed an individual style. In the beginning it was easy and fun for the attractive, young and lithe beings who enjoyed flaunting their bodies. The desire of the young to dance the Hustle spread from coast to coast, and again history repeated itself.
As West Coast Swing became the Swing dancers' dance in the late 1940s, so did the tracked
Sling (Street) Hustle become the Hustle dancers' dance in the late 1970s. With the public
clamoring for dance instruction, however, the dance schools could not keep up with the Puerto
Rican and Black street dancers' complicated style, though Randy Deats, on "Dancing Disco" in
Boston, did manage to bring the basics of Sling Hustle to the public through television. The Sling
Hustle was and still is the Hustle style danced by the street dancers in the early 1970s. It is a
complicated and demanding dance, (as is West Coast Swing), and is not easy for someone just
off the street to learn as a first dance.
The ballroom dance schools (Arthur Murray, Fred Astaire, and other independent schools),
influenced by traditional East Coast and West Coast Swing figures, standardized and promoted
the Hustle in various forms:
Rope Hustle (similar to Merengue)
American Hustle (similar to Bop or Delayed-Single Swing)
Triple Hustle and Disco Swing (similar to Jive or Triple Swing)
Latin Hustle (similar to Delayed-Single Triple West Coast Swing)
Street Hustle (also called Sling or 3 Count Hustle) (structurally a subset of West Coast Swing and rhythmically a variation of Waltz)
Line dances (similar to the Hully Gully and Continental).
During the late 1970s the dance schools taught the easier to learn Swing dance styles such as the
Rope, American, Triple, and Latin Hustle.
In southern Virginia, the Carolinas, and from Mississippi to California, the Carolina Shag and
West Coast Swing remained the dancer's dance. The Hustle, and in particular the Sling Hustle,
was not popular. In Norfolk, Virginia, for example, the 1940s established generation of West
Coast Swing dancers set the pace for the attractive, young and lithe dancers and the Sling Hustle
dancers never had a chance. In order to keep winning the local dance contests, southern Virginia
dancers visiting Texas brought back Houston Whip and Dallas Push moves.
St. Louis is another example of the 1940s generation of West Coast Swing dancers influencing
the 1970s dancing generation. Few if any St. Louis dancers do the Sling Hustle. Everyone does
Imperial Swing. They adapted the West Coast Swing to the popular tunes and used the easy East
Coast Swing to start people dancing. At last count during the mid 1980s, St. Louis had over
3,000 members in seven Swing dance clubs.
The 1940s generation West Coast Swing dancers in Texas also muffled the Hustle potential in
their state. Dancers adapted their Push and Whip styles to the popular music, and Sling Hustle
The 1940's generation of Swing dancers in California also held the Sling Hustle at bay. However,
thanks to Nancy-Beth Orr and a handful of other teachers, the Sling Hustle gained popularity in
the Los Angeles area. Ms. Orr, with an extensive Latin, Ballet, and Jazz background, developed
the Sling Hustle way beyond its origins and gave it the same dedication, study, and development
that the English gave to the other ballroom dances.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE HUSTLE?
The following five events, among others, curtailed Hustle popularity in the early 80's:
1. With dance competitions popularized on television programs such as Dance Fever, the adagio
and acrobatic forms of the Hustle became the stock moves of the competitors, and the mass of
social dancers were discouraged by seeing material they could not easily perform.
2. The Street Hustle variations became more intricate as they replaced the easy four-beat Rope
Hustle taught to beginner and social dancers. Just as West Coast Swing superseded East Coast
Swing and became the epitome of Swing in the late 50's, the Street Hustle became the epitome of
Hustle in the early 1980's. Both require dedication and practice which the average social dancer
is not willing to put into dancing.
3. John Travolta was back in early 1981 in "Urban Cowboy," and Country Western music and
dancing became a fad that moved eastward across the U.S.
4. The fast paced English "New Wave" music spawned frenzied jumping solo dancing; a fad that
moved westward across the U.S. in early 1981.
5. The English did not take the Hustle back to England as they did the Tango, Samba, Foxtrot,
Peabody (which became their Quick Step), Cha Cha, Rumba, and Swing (which became their
Jive). Thus, it did not become a part of the Imperial Society of Teacher's of Dance Association
syllabus and international dance scene.
The collision of these events knocked the wind out of the Hustle. The Hustle and its music will
continue to live through it's generation of dancers, just as there is an earlier generation of dancers
who dance the Mambo, and another who dance the West Coast Swing.
WHAT IS THE LEGACY OF THE HUSTLE?
WHAT IS THE LEGACY OF THE HUSTLE?
First, a beautifully controlled floor and adagio form of Swing in contrast to the athletic acrobatics
of the Jitterbug.
Second, the Street Hustle is a dance with figures that take three beats to execute in 4/4 metric
signature, whereas Swing takes six or eight beats, and Rumba and Mambo take eight beats.
Specifically, Street Hustle rhythm is Quick-Slow with a single, delay, or triple on the slow. The
Street Hustle Quick-Slow rhythm with a triple on the slow, can be viewed as a doubling of the
tempo and a rearrangement of the order of the traditional Swing Slow-Slow-Quick-Quick rhythm
to a Quick-&-&-Quick rhythm in 4/4 metric signature. More advanced dancers will use a Samba
triple if the music is syncopated accordingly.
Third, the Street Hustle is a popularization of the Quick-Slow Canter rhythm used in more
advanced Waltz figures if you view the Street Hustle Quick-Slow rhythm in 3/4 metric signature.
Thus, a Waltz may be danced as a Street Hustle. During the highlight of the 19th century Waltz
era, it is reported that the Austrians did adagio moves in their Waltz, so one may wonder just
what is new in the Hustle.
EIGHTIES COUNTRY SWING
In 1981 John Travolta came back in "Urban Cowboy," and the Country Western music and
dancing fad moved eastward across the U.S. Meanwhile the English New Wave music, played at
a faster tempo, and its associated frenzied jumping solo dancing, became a fad and moved
westward across the U.S. Thus as the eighties dawned, the young and lithe beings were pulled in
different directions and dancers began dancing apart again. The movie "Flashdance" brought
break dancing out of Harlem and onto the big screen, and resulted in the young males rolling
around on the floor. "Tango Argentina" begot a brief flirtation with the tango, the movie "Dirty
Dancing" romanticized the mambo, and a host of immemorable Lambada movies steamed the
glasses of Fred Astaire wannabees. In the aftermath, Country Swing emerged as the popular
Swing form, with the emphasis on moves between intricate dance positions with little or no
footwork. The American Bandstand, Soul Train, and Dance Fever television programs continued
to provide a look at American grass roots dancing, though the format changed on Dance Fever
before its demise in the mid 1980's, when Swing dancing began to compete with folk, tap, jazz,
and ballet, as well as the other ballroom dances.
LINDY HOP REVIVAL
Dance enthusiasts brought back the Lindy Hop in the 1980's. Sandra Cameron and Larry Schulz
of the Sandra Cameron Dance Center Inc. in New York City, New York were instrumental in
bringing original Whitey's Lindy Hoppers Al Minns and Frank Manning out of the woodwork to
teach the Lindy Hop at their Dance Center. Al Minns' initial students formed the embryo of the
New York Swing Dance Society, established in 1985. Margaret Batiuchok, one of the students,
wrote her Masters Thesis on the Lindy Hop and is helping to keep it alive by promoting it in the
New York Swing Dance Society as well as in Swing Dance Societies in Boston, Massachusetts
to Washington, D.C. Jonathan Bixby and Sylvia Sykes in Santa Barbara, California are keeping
the Dean Collins Lindy Hop style alive on the West Coast. Warren Heyes and Terry Monahan are
the spark plugs for the Jiving Lindy Hoppers in London, England where they recreated the Lindy
Hop with help from Frank Manning, Pepsi Bethal and Mama Lu Parks.
Robert Crease began providing excellent articles covering current Swing Dance activities across
the U.S. Jack Bridges started the U.S. Open Swing Dance Championships, and the U.S. Swing
Dance Council was formed in 1984 under the chairmanship of Robert Bryant.
What happened in the American dance schools during the 1980's? They were rediscovering the
Argentine tango via the Argentineans dancing on broadway and in night clubs throughout the
U.S. (Note: The English borrowed the tango, turned it into a flat-footed quick step, and have
been selling the English version back to the U.S. for the last 30 years.) The tango will never get
out of the dance schools however, unless the music hits the Top 40 list or a John Travolta dances
his way through Argentina. The American old-time Swing/Jitterbug greats can put together a
show just as well as the old time Tango/Milonga greats of Argentina. When are the Americans
going to take Swing America to Argentina as they brought Tango Argentina to the United States?
Will Pierre Dulaine's American Ballroom Theater Company go for it?
NINETIES LINDY HOP
We are entering the decade with a long history and tradition of American Swing dancing from
the Lindy Hop through Hustle to Country Swing. What did the attractive, young, and lithe beings
learn to dance to the popular tunes in the nineties given the past 20 year cycles? Lindy Hop! With
such movies asMalcome X and Swing Kids featuring the Lindy style in the mid nineties a
resurgence of the Lindy Hop among the young began and with the 1998 spring GAP commercial
it took hold. If you do not Swing dance, I recommend you learn. Swing is where the action is!
SWING DANCE CLUBS
Swing dance clubs in the major cities in the Carolinas and west of the Mississippi River have
managed to pass West Coast Swing down through succeeding generations, as it is the style now
used in the majority of Swing dance clubs in the U.S. The clubs are maintaining a previous
Swing era via promoting West Coast Swing. The early 90's has seen a proliferation of swing
clubs and societies sprout up in the Northeastern U.S. with the dancers discovering and enjoying
the Lindy Hop and Jitterbug styles.
West Coast Swing is called West Coast Swing in California, Push in Dallas, Whip in Houston,
Supreme Swing in Tulsa, Imperial Swing in St Louis, Alcatraz in New Orleans, Carolina Shag in
the Carolinas, Savoy Swing in New York city and DC Swing in Washington DC. With each
region reflecting its own indigenous characteristics, many variations and styles have developed
and been refined across the country.
In the areas where West Coast Swing dancing is still popular, there were one or two excellent
Swing dancers who could teach and took the time to help others learn. Since they each had their
own ideas of what Swing should be, their particular style of Swing came to be popular in their
region, and they became the regional Swing dance gurus. Thanks to them, West Coast Swing is
being passed down through the generations in Swing dance clubs across the U.S. As a result, the
number of Swing dance clubs in the United States as of March 1992, is over 260 with a high of
38 Carolina Shag dance clubs in North Carolina.
The dance schools generally do not try to keep up with the Swing club dancing in their areas.
Why? Dancing is a business for the dance schools, and they do not want the Swing club
competition, as Swing clubs provide inexpensive as well as fun dancing. Besides, a street Swing
dancer does not want anything to do with a dance school.
Swing dance clubs are continuing to gain in numbers and popularity across the country for Swing
dancers of all ages and styles. At least two large Swing dance club events occur each month
someplace in the Unites States. A major holiday is a call for the Swing dancers to move on the
wood to their favorite tunes. Here are just a few of the events. You may choose either a
competitive or social Swing dance club.
JANUARY: Bill Cameron's "New Year Extravaganza" In New England or the Las Vegas Desert
Swing Club's "First Dance of the Year."
FEBRUARY: The Sacramento Capital Swing Dance Club sponsors the "Presidents Day
MARCH: "Society of Stranders" (SOS) National Shag Dance Championships in Myrtle Beach, SC.
APRIL: "Seattle's Easter Swing" or Fat Harolds Beach Club Annual "Society of Stranders (SOS) Spring Safari,"
the "North Atlantic Swing Dance Championships", or the "Texas Classic" in Dallas.
MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND: Chicago Rebels Swing Dance Club's "Chicago Classic" or
Charlie & Jackie's "Grand National Dance Championships" in Atlanta, GA or The San Diego
Swing Dance Club Inc. sponsors its "Annual Swing Fling."
JUNE: The South Side Imperial Dance Club sponsors its "Annual St. Louis Swing Invitational."
FOURTH OF JULY WEEKEND: The Greater Phoenix Swing Dance Club sponsors its "Annual
AUGUST: Barry Durand's "Annual Swing Fling" in the Washington, DC area.
LABOR DAY WEEKEND: The Dallas Push Club sponsors its "Annual National Competition
Extravaganza." The Top of Beardsleys and The Bay Swingers dance clubs sponsor their "Swing
SEPTEMBER: Fat Harolds Beach Club hosts the "Society of Stranders (SOS) Annual Fall
OCTOBER: Next Generation Swing Dance Society's "Boogie by the Bay" in San Francisco, the
Potomac Swing Dance Club's "Virginia State Open Swing Dance Championships" in McLean,
VA or The Redwood Empire Swing Dance Club's "Annual Wine Harvest Dance Festival."
THANKSGIVING DAY WEEKEND: Jack Bridges sponsors the "Annual U.S. Open Swing
Some clubs sponsor state competitions, New Years Eve parties, and anniversary parties in
addition to their weekly dance events.
THE NATIONAL SHAG DANCE
In March of each year, the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce of Myrtle Beach, SC,
presents the National Shag Dance Championships. For American "grassroots" Carolina Shag
dancers, it provides another opportunity to keep the Carolina Shag alive by bringing the best
Shag dancers along the East Coast together once a year to determine a National Shag Dance Champion.
The championships include junior, non-professional, professional, and overall divisions. Charlie
Womble and Jackie McGee of Atlanta, Georgia, won the National Shag Dance Championship's
Professional Division and Overall Division for eight consecutive years, beginning in 1984 and
won the titles nine times.
A Palace Production movie titled "Shag," filmed with a 1963 setting in the Myrtle Beach area,
was released in England in the fall of 1988 and in the U.S. in the summer of 1989. The movie
failed to generate nation-wide interest in Shag dancing, however.
Charlie Womble and Jackie McGee introduced the Carolina Shag to the USSDC community at
the 1989 USSDC convention held in Oklahoma City, OK, and at the 1989 U.S. Open Swing
Dance Championships held in Anaheim, CA.
U.S. OPEN SWING DANCE
In California, the Jack Bridges annual U.S. Open Swing Dance Championships are also keeping
Swing alive, with Kenny Wetzel spinning the platters. Thanks to Jack Bridges, once a year, the
regional hot Swing dancers can travel to the U.S. Open Swing Dance Championships and let the
judges decide who will reign king of the Swing hill for a year. It is a tough call for the judges
when they are looking at a variety of styles, but what counts is how the dancers have
choreographed their music, how they execute their technique and style, and how they project
themselves. In other words, how they strut their stuff and move to the music they have chosen. At
the U.S. Open Swing Dance Championships you will see some of America's best grass roots
Swing dancers in action.
The Europeans have rediscovered the American Lindy Hop and Jitterbug through old 1930s and
40s movies. They call it Lindy Hop and Rock 'n' Roll. Each year since the late seventies, they
have had European Rock 'n' Roll championships with dancers of all ages having fun "rocking
around the clock." They even sponsored a world Rock 'n' Roll championship in 1978 which
included an entry from the United States that could not keep up with the Brits. If Al Minns or
George Kristaferson had been invited to participate, the Europeans would have had a real show
and competition! In addition, the English "Jiving Lindy Hoppers" with the spark of Warren
Heyes and management of Terry Monaghan and the Swedish "Rhythm Hot Shots" under the
direction of Lennart Westerlund, have both superbly recreated the American Lindy Hop. They
would be tough to beat on anyone's wood. The Europeans have always produced superb acrobats
and they probably will be exporting their refined acrobatic Rock 'n' Roll and Lindy Hop back to
the U.S. in the near future, as they have all the other ballroom dances. One day a couple from
Europe may enter the U.S. Open Swing Dance Championships, so the U.S. Swing dance
competitors had best be prepared!
UNITED STATES SWING DANCE COUNCIL
The U.S. Swing Dance Council (USSDC) 1984-1993 provided a national organization for Swing
clubs. The purpose of the USSDC was to promote "interest in Swing dancing on a national level,
elevate the standards of Swing dancing, provide a definition that will clarify and establish
qualities that differentiate the various styles of Swing, and encourage the adoption of Swing
dancing as a true American art form." A major goal of the USSDC was to make Swing the U.S.
national dance. Additional goals of the USSDC were to standardize Swing terminology, provide
advice and assistance to those who wish to start a Swing dance club, establish a judging standard
for Swing competitions, and publish a national Swing dance newsletter.
The USSDC defined Swing as "...an all American rhythm dance, consisting basically of 6 beat
and 8 beat patterns that cover either a circular or track area on the dance floor. Swing
incorporates underarm turns, side passes, pushes and whips, plus variations, syncopations and
extensions of the same. Extensive observation of both live and video presentations make us
aware that although the styles do vary from state to state and even area to area, all styles
incorporate the same basic identifiable moves. If you can define the dance as something other
than Swing, it is not Swing."
The USSDC held an annual convention in a different city each year. The objectives of the
convention were to provide 1) workshops on various Swing styles from across the United States,
2) a social gathering for Swing dancers, 3) Classic and Jack & Jill Swing dance competitions and
4) Award a National Swing Dance Championship title. Contenders for the National Swing Dance
Championship title were the 1st, 2nd or 3rd place winners of their respective state championships
sponsored by the USSDC.
THE NATIONAL JACK 'n' JILL AND STATE
SWING DANCE CHAMPIONSHIPS
Robert Bryant has replaced the USSDC with the National Jack 'n' Jill and State Swing Dance
Championships (NJJSSDC). If you are interested in participating in the NJJSSDC contact the
NJJSSDC at 3122 North 34th Street, Phoenix, AZ 85018-6212. If you're in a hurry, call Bob at 602-381-1670.
AMERICAN SWING DANCE
Mario Robau, Sylvia Sykes, Teddy Kern, and Alan Rocoff established the American Swing
Dance Association, Inc. (ASDA), and the American Swing Dance Teachers Guild, Inc. (ASDTG)
in 1991. The purpose of the ASDA is to preserve and promote the indigenous American dance
known as "Swing." The ASDA is dedicated to educating American lovers of dance in the history,
social dance patterns, performance, and competition levels of Swing dancing. The ASDTG was
organized to provide a professional association for Swing Dance teachers throughout the United
States. In addition it was to provide a framework for exchanging teachers, teaching methods, and
materials throughout the U.S. as well as providing teachers with insurance benefits. The ASDA
also helped sponsor the annual American Swing Dance Championship title. The ASDA is now defunct.
THE NATIONAL JACK 'N' JILL AND
STATE SWING DANCE CHAMPIONSHIPS
With the passing of the USSDC, Robert Bryant establised "The National Jack 'n' Jill and State
Swing Dance Championships." It's first title was awarded in 1994.
WORLD SWING DANCE COUNCIL
With the passing of the USSDC, Cay Cannon of Jitterbug Magazine and Skippy Blair of the
Golden State Dance Teachers Association formed the World Swing Dance Council in 1993.
NATIONAL ASSOC. OF SWING DANCE EVENTS
In 1995 the National Association of Swing Dance Events, (NASDE) an organization of
autonomous swing dance events was formed. The objectives of the Association are to promote,
preserve, perpetuate, and improve swing dancing as an art form as well as coordinate an annual
cycle of swing dance competition events for the purpose of awarding points and prize money for
competitors placing in the events. The NASDE sponsors a tour each year with the final
competition at the US Open Swing Dance Championships. The 2000 NASDE tour consists of the
following events with a $10,000 prize fund: Check out www.nasde.com for details.
Capital Swing Feb
Seattle's Easter Swing Apr
North American Swing Apr
Chicago Classic May
Grand Nationals May
Swing Fling Aug
Dallas D.A.N.C.E Sep
Virginia State Open Oct
Boogie By The Bay Oct
US Open Nov
THE UNITED STATES NATIONAL DANCE
Swing is the United States national dance as far as all the past, present, and future Lindy
Hoppers, Jitterbuggers, Swingers, Jivers, Boppers, Rock 'n' Rollers, Shaggers, and Hustlers are concerned.
One of the goals of the USSDC was to make Swing the national dance of the U.S. With Carolina
Shag voted the state dance of South Carolina, West Coast Swing voted the State dance of
California, and the Imperial Swing dancers starting a drive to make Imperial Swing the state
dance of Missouri, it is clear grass roots America understands what its dance is. Now we need
New Yorkers to lobby to make the Lindy Hop their state dance, Florida to make Bop their state
dance, Texas to make the Push their state dance, and Virginia to make the Sling Hustle their state
The USSDC was sponsoring legislation in the United States Congress to recognize Swing
dancing as the United States National Dance. It was an uphill battle with the Square, Folk, and
Polka dancers. However, Swing music and Swing dancing is a North American continent
original. The origins and popularity of the dance are on the side of the Swing dancers. However
the U.S. Congress has decided such activities and acknowledgments are frivolous and official
designation is not possible at present.
In 1996 and 1997 the internet became popular and information on Swing activities is readily
available. Search on "Swing Dancing" and enjoy your discoveries.
We know Swing dancing is the national dance of the United States! Americans, be proud and
join the fun in the nineties with the young getting involved with the Lindy Hop!
The D.J. just put the Chicago Blues Band's "Albis Boogie" on the turntable. So let's get back to
the wood where we belong and strut our moves. Keep On Dancing! Hutch
HISTORICAL SWING FILMS
Historic Films (Swing Included)
SWING DANCER'S NOTES