The history of swing dates back to the 1920’s, where the Afro-American community, while dancing to contemporary jazz music, developed the Charleston and the Lindy Hop.
On March 26, 1926, the Savoy Ballroom opened in New York’s Harlem district. It was an immediate success with its block-long dance floor and raised double bandstand. Nightly dancing attracted most of the best dancers in the New York area. The music at the Savoy was largely Swinging Jazz.
One evening in 1927, a local dance enthusiast named “Shorty George” Snowden had just walked off the dance floor and was watching some of the other dancing couples. A newspaper reporter, on assignment to do a story on the new nightclub, asked George what dance those on the dance floor were doing. The dance had not been named as yet, but George happened to glance down on the bench beside him where a newspaper caption read, “Lindy Hops the Atlantic”. Reading that, George quipped, “Lindy Hop” and the name stuck.
In the mid1930s, a bouncy six-beat variant was named the jitterbug by band leader Cab Calloway when he introduced a tune in 1934 entitled “Jitterbug”. Contemporary jazz and swing music were evolving with Benny Goodman leading the way. Dancers soon incorporated tap and jazz steps into their dancing.
Swing was a very dynamic and athletic dance and became popular among the young in the 1930s. During World War II, American soldiers carried it to Europe.
In the early 1940s, Lindy Hop was tamed and simplified by dance schools to become a ballroom dance called Eastern Swing. In the late 1970s, the name was changed to East Coast Swing to match another variation of Swing, the West Coast Swing.
Presently, the Lindy Hop is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. It is a smooth Swing (not a lot of bounce) and patterns are usually 8 counts instead of the 6 used in East and West Coast Swing basic steps.
Today, there are many different styles of Swing, depending on what part of the country you visit. Each geographic area has put its own particular mark or twist on swing to come up with a wide variety of ways to dance this dance; and it’s all good!