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What is Swing Dance?
Lindy Hop (or just “Lindy”) is what most people are talking about when they talk about “Swing Dance.” It’s an energetic dance that involves both 8-count and 6-count patterns with triple steps, as well as moves borrowed from the Charleston. Although performance Lindy Hop often involves lifts, tricks, and aerials, social Lindy Hop requires none of these things. Lindy Hop is characterized by a low, relaxed posture and a rhythmic bounce–or pulse–that matches the music it is danced to.
East Coast Swing
East Coast Swing (also called Jitterbug) is a term generally used to describe a simplified version of Lindy Hop that only uses 6-count moves, and may or may not include triple steps (the rhythm of the triple step corresponds to the swung rhythm in swing music). The basic pattern of East Coast Swing is “quick quick slow slow” or “quick quick triple-step triple-step.” You could call what we teach in our beginner drop-in lesson “East Coast Swing,” but we prefer to think of it as just “Swing.” Rather than being a separate dance, “East Coast Swing” is a subset of the patterns, moves, and techniques we use in Lindy Hop. East Coast Swing is danced to swing music, making it a Swing Dance by our definition. Although ECS consists of 6-count patterns, it is danced to 4/4 music.
Balboa is a swing dance that around the same time as Lindy Hop, but in the ballrooms of California as opposed to New York. Balboa, as we use the term today, is actually a fusion of what were once two distinct dances “Balboa” (what we now call “Pure Bal”), and “Randy Swing” or just “Swing” (what we now call “Bal-Swing”). Balboa is charaterized by a more upright position that Lindy Hop, intricate footwork, and many turns. It is often danced to faster swing music, but can be danced to any tempo.
A broad category including solo charleston, vernacular jazz, some forms of tap, black bottom, cake walk, and others. Solo jazz may be danced alone, or in a circle, where dancers might steal each others moves and try to one-up each other. Solo jazz routines such as the Shim Sham, the Tranky Doo, and the Big Apple all fall into this category.
Collegiate Shag and St. Louis Shag are two different swing dances, despite their similar name (and both wholly different from the non-swing dance Carolina Shag). Collegiate shag is danced with an upright position, and is based on energetic scoots and hops. St. Lousi shag is closely related to charleston, and is often danced to boogie woogie and jump blues.
Savoy Blues and Slow Drag
Blues is a tricky one. Savoy blues (also called slow drag) has its roots in the same African-American dance traditions as lindy hop and solo jazz - it’s just slower. Nowadays, “blues” is danced to a huge variety of music, and “alt-blues” and “fusion” dancers are pushing the boundaries of the genre. In our eyes, dancing done to slow swing and blues music in a way that is insprired by the original dances done to this music is swing dancing. Other dancing that also goes by the name blues, not so much.
Dances that grew out of swing, but are not danced to swing music, include:
West Coast Swing
Boogie Woogie (Europe), Rock & Roll (North America - also called Jive in places)
Fusion blues and other non-swing blues varietals
Carolina Shag (no relation to the Shag dances above)