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Swing dance

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Swing dance

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The term "swing dance" is commonly used to refer either to a group of dances developing during the swing era (late 1920s to 1940s) or to the current dances and dance scenes centred on swing dancing. Historical swing dances as a family are usually situated within an African American vernacular dance tradition, though there are some exceptions which developed within the white or mainstream American community. Almost all of the former feature the syncopated timing associated with African American and West African music and dance, and with jazz dances of the jazz era (late 19th century to the 1940s). Most swing dances developed in response to swing (genre) music, though many of these styles and their descendents are danced today to modern music. There are swing dance scenes in many developed Western and Asian countries throughout the world, though each city and country varies in the popularity of specific dances, local culture and definitions of "swing dance" and "appropriate" dance music.

Contents

Forms of swing

In many scenes outside the United States the term "swing dancing" is used to refer generically to one or all of the following swing era dances: Lindy Hop, Charleston, Shag, Balboa and Blues (dance move). This group is often extended to include Jive, rock and roll, Western Swing, ceroc, and other dances developing in the 1940s and later. Within the United States, swing dancing is often expanded to include many other social dances, including West Coast Swing, East Coast Swing, Hand dancing and so on. A strong tradition of social and competitive boogie woogie and acrobatic rock and roll in Europe add these dances to their local swing dance cultures. In Singapore and other scenes, latin dances such as salsa and tango are often taught and danced within the "swing scene", and for many scenes tap dancing and a range of other jazz dances are considered key, as are hip hop and other contemporary African American street dances. The variations continue, dictated by local dance community interests.

Many swing dancers today argue that it is important to dance many styles of partner dance to improve technique, but also to reflect the historical relationship between these dances in the swing era of the 20s and 30s. In the Savoy Ballroom, for example, bands would often play waltzes, latin songs and so on, as well as swinging jazz. Dancers were often familiar with a wide range of popular and traditional dances. There are a number of hybrid forms which combine swing dances with other styles, including swango, a combination of Argentinian tango and swing.

Swing dance communities and dancers are often interested in and dance:

Early Jazz forms of the 1920s and earlier

  • Black Bottom (dance)
  • Rhythm Tap Dance
  • Texas Tommy The first mention of Swing dancing was in the San Francisco Tribune in 1911 to describe dancers performing the Texas Tommy in the Fairmout Hotel. The Texas Tommy involved partners breaking away from each other (instead of dancing in a closed position holding each other) and in which the leader "swung out" his follower, adding many forms of free improvisation and acrobatic movement. The term "acrobatic" was used repeatedly to describe this dance. Texas Tommy was the basis for Lindy Hop. When the original Texas Tommy dancers were asked to describe their dance they said it was "exactly like the Lindy Hop, just the first couple of steps were different." They continued to say that the "Lindy basic was like the Texas Tommy basic." Through time, Texas Tommy, through its open framework (meaning its allowing integration of improvisation and free movement) had evolved into the Breakaway, and absorbed along the way a host of other partner dances - namely the animal dances such as the Grizzly Bear, Bunny Hop, Eagle Rock and Turkey Trot.
  • Shim Sham Shimmy was a popular dance of the 1920s and 30s.
  • Apache was an old french dance from the suburbs of Paris, popular from the mid-1800s. The essence of the dance was the performance of a scene in which a man, or a pimp, subjects or punishes a woman, or a prostitute. The dance consisted of the woman dragging from the man in close position and the man throwing her around. This is the only known early dance other than Texas Tommy in which the couple "break away". The move "Apache Spin" or "Texas Tommy Spin" came from this dance, and it is easy to visualize how it would fit within the theme of the dance.
  • Charleston is a classic 8-count dance that predates Lindy Hop and is often incorporated into Lindy dances. The Charleston originally developed in African American communities in the 1920s, though it reached wider audiences through stage performances. It was danced alone or with partners, and is often identified today as belonging either to the 1920s style or to 1930s and 'swinging' or "Lindy Hop" styles.
  • Breakaway developed from Charleston in the late 1920s and is often associated with dancers such as George Snowden. Dancers 'breaking away' from each other into open is often seen both as a development of dances such as the Texas Tommy, but also as an important developmental step in the history of Lindy Hop. It is popular with dancers with an interest in the history of Lindy Hop.

Later forms from the 1930s and 1940s

  • Lindy Hop evolved in the late 1920s and early 1930s as the original swing dance. It is characterised by an emphasis on improvisation and the ability to easily adapt to include steps from other 8-count and 6-count Swing styles. It has been danced to most every conceivable form of jazz music, as well as to the blues, and any other type of music with a blues or jazz rhythm.
  • Balboa is an 8-count dance that emphasizes a strong partner connection and quick footwork. Balboa (sometimes referred to simply as "Bal") is primarily danced in a tight, closed position with the follow and lead adopting a firm chest-to-chest posture. This dance is particularly popular in settings with fast jazz (usually anything from 180 to 320 beats per minute) and/or limited floor space, though it is also danced to slower tempos.
  • Blues dancing today is an informal type of swing dancing with no fixed patterns and a heavy focus on connection, sensuality and improvisation, often with strong body contact. Although usually done to blues music, it can be done to any slow tempoed 4/4 music, including rock ballads and "club" music. Historically, there are many different types of blues dancing, including the slow drag. Blues is occasionally danced alone in swing dance communities, though almost never outside the United States. There are only small (if any) blues dancing communities within the wider swing dancing communities outside the United States and Europe.
  • Carolina Shag
  • Collegiate Shag is a simple 6-count dance that is typically done to faster music.
  • St. Louis Shag

Forms from the 1940s, 50s and later

  • Boogie Woogie developed originally in the 1940s with the rise of boogie woogie music. It is popular today in Europe, and is considered by some to be the European counterpart to East Coast Swing, danced to rock music of various kinds, blues or boogie woogie music but usually not to jazz.
  • Country Swing, also called Western Swing or Country/Western Swing (C/W Swing) is a form with a distinct culture. It resembles East Coast Swing, but adds variations from other country dances. It is danced to country and western music.
  • East Coast Swing is a simpler 6-count variation. It is also known as Single-Time Swing, Triple-Step Swing, 6-Count Swing, Rock-a-billy, or Jitterbug. East Coast Swing has very simple structure and footwork along with basic moves and styling. It is popular for its forgiving yet elegant nature, and it is often danced to slow, medium, or fast tempo jazz, blues, or rock and roll.
  • Washington Hand Dancing
  • Jitterbug is often described as a subset or development of Lindy Hop.
  • Jive is a dance of International Style Ballroom dancing. It diverged from Swing still further.
  • Push and Whip are Texas forms of swing dance.
  • Skip Jive A British variant, popular in the 50s and 60s danced to trad jazz.
  • West Coast Swing was developed in the 1940s and 1950s as a stylistic variation on Lindy Hop. Followers stay in a slot, which reduces their ability to move left and right but improves their ability to spin left and right. West Coast Swing is often danced with blues and rock and roll music, as well as to smooth and cool jazz. It is popular throughout the United States and Canada but is uncommon in Australia, New Zealand and much of Asia, though it is often compared to Ceroc or Dirty Latin Jive in these countries.
  • Acrobatic Rock and Roll Popular in Europe, acrobatic rock and roll is popularly associated with Russian gymnasts who took up the dance, though it is popular throughout Europe today. It is more a performance dance and sport than a social dance.
  • Rock and Roll Developing in the 1950s in response to rock and roll music, rock and roll is very popular in Australia and danced socially as well as competitively and in performances. The style has a long association with Lindy Hop in that country, as many of the earliest lindy hoppers in the early 1990s moved to Lindy Hop from a rock and roll tradition. There are ongoing debates about whether rock and roll constitutes swing dancing, particularly in reference to the music to which it is danced: there is some debate as to whether or not it swings. Despite these discussions, many of the older lindy hoppers are also keen rock and roll dancers, with rock and roll characterised by an older dancer (30s and older) than Lindy Hop (25 and under).

Performance, social dancing and competition

Competition/performance styles

Traditionally, distinctions are made between "Ballroom Swing" and "Street Swing" styles. Ballroom Swing is a part of American style Ballroom dancing. Street Swing and Ballroom Swing are different in appearance. Ballroom Swing is danced in competition and is done strictly in patterns (a series of interlocking moves). Street Swing is danced in many different styles and places with thousands of differences and is very open to interpretation.

Social swing dancing

Many, if not most, of the swing dances listed above are popular as social dance, with vibrant local communities holding dances with DJs and live bands playing music most appropriate for the preferred dance style. There are frequently active local clubs and associations, classes with independent or studio/school-affiliated teachers and workshops with visiting or local teachers. Most of these dance styles - as with many other styles - also feature special events such as camps or the lindy exchange.

Music

The historical development of particular swing dance styles was often in response to trends in popular music. Charleston, for example, was - and is - usually danced to ragtime music, Lindy Hop was danced to swing music, which is a kind of swinging jazz. West Coast Swing is usually danced to blues or rock and roll or to virtually any 4/4 music that is not too fast. Country Swing is often danced to country and western music. Hip hop lindy is danced to hip hop music, and blues dancing either to historical blues music forms, or to slower music from a range of genres (though most frequently to jazz or blues). There are local variations on these associations in each scene, often informed by the local DJs, dance teachers and bands.


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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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