"Swing is so much more than a dance, it's a way of life. The music gets stuck in your mind and the dance is in your heart and the whole scene is engraved on your soul. You can fly." -Nicholas Hope
Dancing is a fantastic outlet for creative individuals who want to express themselves alone or in front of a crowd.
While it is true that some of us were not born with the gift of dance but instead two left feet! Don't give up too soon, there are many ways to learn about dances that are interactive and fun.
In today's article, we will thoroughly examine one of the world's most famous dance genres: swing dancing!
The Origins of Swing Dancing
Everything in today's world has a beginning and an end. For example, we start our career on a specific date and get laid off or retire on another special date. Also, we may purchase a home or a flat and live there until we move onto another place.
The reality of starting and ending a matter can also be said of specific dances. For instance, all famous dances that people have been dancing for centuries or decades have had a beginning that can be traced due to the people who were present in attendance.
Take the famous Viennese Waltz, for example, it had very scandalous origins back in the 18th century. The Samba also has an interesting beginning; it started in the late 19th century in the slums or "favelas" of Rio de Janeiro from music that connects back to the African slaves.
What about swing dancing? How did it start?
Swing dancing began in the 1920s and 1930s in the United States of America when big, giant, colossal bands took over the music scene at that time. Swing dance has never died since and has had some influence on every dance style that has been invented since the 1920s.
When dancing the swing there is always the inclusion of another partner to make the moves fluid and breathtakingly fast.
The swing dance was not originally penned as "swing dancing" from the beginning. For instance, in 1920s Harlem, New York City, an exciting evolution in jazz music broke out where the dance moves became more lively. The result of moving to revolutionary jazz music became known as "lindy hop."
Lindy hop was a mixture of new movements along with mimicking dances that were very popular at the time such as the foxtrot.
The term "lindy hop" debuted in New York City but after some years became a worldwide sensation; it was fast and intricate and was the perfect dance remedy to match the loud and electric sounds of the Big Bands. As is the case with many other popular dances, the "lindy hop" or swing evolved and became known as many different dances such as the jitterbug, boogie-woogie, and rock'n'roll.
Fun fact: the term jive, that became popular in the 1960s, was a derogatory term used by African Americans to describe white people who were dancing the "lindy hop" very poorly.
The lindy hop became less popular in the 1980s but was revived in the 1990s when certain popular bands revived the electric beats. Swing dancing can still be danced to in many parts of Europe and North America, even South America.
It is interesting to think that swing dancing is still popular in developed countries such as Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark among today's youth.
Types of Swing Dances and Moves
The period of time when the swing or lindy hop was extremely popular and all the rage is known as the "Swing Era." The Swing Era took place from the 1920s to the 1930s and a little bit more depending on which historian you ask.
Therefore, since swing dancing is an entire era or period, there are many sub-dances that were practised, developed, and experimented with.
The jitterbug, 1920s Charleston, Breakaway, Lindy Hop, Boogie Woogie, and the West and East Coast Swing all have swing origins and similar moves yet can be categorised by specific steps and certain songs.
Nonetheless, the following are some of the most iconic moves that are essential steps to assimilate in swing dancing:
- The Cuddle Turn or Step,
- The Inside Turn,
- Kicks and Flicks,
- Stop and Go,
- The Hand Slide,
- Lunge and Turn,
- Man's Hook Turn.
But how can we master each of the previously mentioned steps to become a legendary swing dancer? By watching informative videos and tutorials on reputable sites.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words; therefore, a video must be at least worth one million!
Some of the best online resources for finding swing videos and tutorials include passion4dancing.com, dancing4beginners.com, and HowCast.
The Best Songs For Swing Dancing
Without music, there is no rhythm and without rhythm, there is no dancing. Therefore, it is important to state that without a doubt, music is what makes swing dancing so amusing.
Music & lyrics created in the Swing Dance Era was loud, boisterous, fast, and simply electric. Big Bands were dominating and the dance moves needed to be on par with the style of music created.
What are some of the most famous or danceable swing songs?
Without further ado, we shall bring out the best swing dance songs of all time to instruct beginners in a proper way:
- Sentimental Journey by Frank Sinatra: one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, Frank Sinatra is an Academy Award and Grammy Award, winner. His songs transport people to another place and "Sentimental Journey" is no different. Named by many media outlets as a perfect song for swing dancing the night away with your favourite partner.
- In the Mood by Glenn Miller: probably the most influential and well-known swing dancing song of all time, "In the Mood" is easily recognised by the most devout fans and early beginners since it is a prime example of how jazz music contributes to the swing dance moves.
- Sing, Sing, Sing by Benny Goodman: known by many in the 1930s as the "King of Swing", Benny Goodman was an experienced clarinettist who led one of the most famous bands in the world during the mid-1930s. His song, "Sing, Sing, Sing" has become a classic that goes hand in hand with swing dancing.
- Mack the Knife by Louis Armstrong: associated with many distinguished artists such as Kurt Weill and Bobby Darin; nevertheless, Louis Armstrong's version of "Mack the Knife" has become an iconic jazz song that is frequently heard at swing dance parties to this day.
It is important to mention that the music of famed jazz musicians such as Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, and Billie Holiday made the Swing Dance Era a beautiful and iconic period during the 20th century.
Swing Dance Lessons in the United Kingdom
Want to learn how to dance? Do you want to do the jitterbug at the next party you attend? Do you want to be a good swing dancer to attract the lovely ladies on the dancefloor?
If you answered yes to the three previously mentioned questions you're almost ready for your next swing dance lessons!
Finding the correct teacher or dance school, of course! However, finding a qualified swing dance institute should not be an issue in the United Kingdom since there are many swing dance schools in the UK's largest cities such as London, Birmingham, Manchester, and Plymouth.
The following are highly recommended swing dance schools in the UK:
- SwingdanceUK: formerly known as the London Swing Dance Society, SwingdanceUK is one of the longest-running swing dance companies in the UK, established in 1986. Specialising in various dances from the Swing Dance Era such as the lindy hop, the jive, and the Charleston. There are many distinct teams offering lessons every night of the week in the city of London.
- Donahey's Dance School: offering world-class dance lessons in distinct towns near Plymouth, Donahey's has years of experience teaching many dances from the 1920s and 1930s. Check out their website, to learn about dance programmes that are taking place near you!
- The Swing Era: located in the bustling city of Birmingham, The Swing Era has gained a wonderful reputation for being one of the best swing dancing schools in England. There are many courses currently being offered in the 2020 programme such as Lindy Hop Level 1, 2, and 3. It is also possible to undergo private lessons and learn from frequent workshops that are offered.
Also, if you live in a very rural part of the United Kingdom where there isn't the possibility of attending a reputable dance school, we highly recommend watching tutorials online or taking online classes with a professional dance teacher via Skype or video calling.
However you decide to learn to swing dance is your business; nevertheless, one thing is for sure, dance lessons are a brilliant way to exercise and learn something that you will treasure for a long time.