Dance instruction planned for Swing Camp 2019

Lindy Hop (or Lindy) is an exciting partner dance that’s been around for decades. Originating in the 1920’s and 30’s and feeding off the heyday of American jazz music, Lindy is commonly thought to have been created in New York at the Savoy Ballroom. The Savoy, in Harlem, was a huge, racially integrated ballroom where both White and Black could dance, be inspired and share moves. Lindy soon became a cultural phenomenon that broke through the race barrier when segregation was still the norm. As a partner dance, it was born from the blending of African rhythms and movements with European structured dance.

Through the past few decades, Lindy has developed into a wonderful social dance culture with a strong emphasis on hospitality. The culture supports large international events with Lindy dancers travelling across the globe to participate in this vibrant dance community.

Lindy is danced to a wide range of music beyond swing jazz, including blues, rhythm and blues, jump blues, jazz, groove, soul and hip hop, as well as rockabilly and country in the American South and Southeast.  Live music is very popular in this culture and the swing revival in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s was driven by neo swing music. Lindy experienced a big revival in the mid 1980’s, when swing dance legend Frankie “Musclehead” Manning, an influential choreographer and performer of an earlier era, was rediscovered.

Consisting of both 8 and 6 count steps, Lindy includes footwork borrowed from the Charleston and Tap and many other older dance styles. The most popular step—the swing-out—combines both closed position and open position and is clearly related to the Charleston but also has influences from Tap and Foxtrot as well as other older dance styles.

Social dancers are generally concerned about connection, whether their partner “feels good,” rather than whether their partner is capable of doing a number of moves in succession. In Lindy, concentrating on this connection allows both partners to style with each other and the music, resulting in a totally improvised, musical dance.

Swing music inspires the freedom of improvisation yet Lindy dancers still love dancing with a partner. Lindy can be wild and spontaneous, with frenzied kicks and body movements, or it can be cool and sophisticated. The most important aspects of Lindy are that it is danced with your partner, to the music, and that you enjoy it!

West Coast Swing (WCS) is a smooth, modern style of swing that actually has its origins traced to ‘Savoy-Style’ Lindy, a dance style developed at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem in response to early jazz music with a swing beat.

As early swing dancing spread across the US during and after WWII, it split into several dances including East Coast Swing, Carolina/Collegiate Shag, Balboa and Jitterbug. But then, a smoother form of swing popped up in the Los Angeles area: Western Swing (a bit of a descendent from Jitterbug and early Rock and Roll dancing).

Western Swing was created and developed by a man named Dean Collins who had also danced at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. Collins had come to California in 1936 to get into the movie business and brought his love of swing dancing to the west coast. In Los Angeles, he danced at night after work, on Hollywood sets, in nightclubs and then in dance competitions. Not long after that, he started teaching his version to other local dancers. This was the pre-cursor dance to the West Coast Swing that we know today.  WCS is the Official State Dance of California and it has been featured on popular dance programs such as So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With The Stars.

WCS uses a lot of similar moves and rhythms as Lindy but has a very different style and culture and is danced to different musical genres. Traditional figures include 6-count and 8-count patterns in a number of varieties. Many common West Coast Swing figures are derived from simple variations of these basic figures. basic moves performed with the same “step step tri-ple-step tri-ple-step” pattern equalling eight steps in six beats of music.

WCS is a fundamentally improvised dance where the leader creates and re-directs the momentum of the follower, communicating how they wish to lead the dance. Both lead and follow can improvise while dancing together, giving room for individual expression. It is danced in a slot formation mainly and there is a great emphasis on musicality and connection. The dance is characterized by an elastic look that results from its extension/compression technique of partner connection.

Through the decades, West Coast Swing dancing has been constantly evolving, influenced by blues, disco hustle, country western dancing, salsa, hip hop and other new contemporary dance styles. Today, WCS is a sophisticated, evolving social dance enjoyed by dancers all over the world. A fun and expressive dance, WCS is danced to medium/slow Blues, R&B, Pop, Jazz, Hip hop, Rock, and pretty much anything that is in 4/4 time with a moderate tempo.

Here’s a link to some more history of West Coast Swing:

While Lindy Hop was developing on the east coast of North America, another swing variation was evolving on the Balboa Peninsula in southern California.  Balboa reached huge popularity in the 1930s and 1940s when big-band swing music was at its peak.  Favorite big band artists included Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Count Basie and Duke Ellington whose timeless music still excites swing dancers of today. Other types of swing music can be used also including gypsy jazz and small combo swing tunes; either at slow tempos or faster.

Balboa features closed positioning, rhythmic weight shifts and body leads. As with other swing styles, lead-follow partnership in important.  Smaller steps allow it to be danced to faster music too. Modern Balboa also includes a style known as Bal-Swing. This style allows for more room between partners and typically incorporates movements from Charleston and Lindy Hop. You’ll see more upright positioning, more intricate footwork and many turns.

In our Swing Camp Intro to Balboa, we’ll get familiar with the closed position, the many basic steps, and some of the classic Balboa moves. You’ll have some fun with come arounds, lollies, toss outs and out-and-ins. We will progress into Bal-Swivels and footwork variations. A great way to broaden your dance repertoire!

At Swing Camp 2019, we’ll also introduce the Carolina Shag, a form of Swing dancing that is often called the “swing dance of the South.”  And, there are definitely similarities between Carolina Shag, East Coast Swing, Lindy Hop and even West Coast Swing to be found.

What makes Carolina Shag really fun is that it is danced to that good-feeling, rhythm and blues beach music that you just can’t resist. You’ll often find you can West Coast Swing to the same beach music and can try out your swing fusion.  Try this class at Swing Camp to add some moves to your repertoire.

This quick and smooth partner dance was developed in beachside communities in North and South Carolina. It is a descendent of the Jitterbug, East Coast Swing and the Lindy Hop and rose in popularity in the 1940’s. Today, it is a recognized in national and international dance competitions.

For beginners, Shag resembles other swing dances, following a familiar “one-and-two, three-and-four, five-six” rhythm (aka triple-step, triple-step, rock step).
Like WCS, Carolina Shag is danced in a slot, mixing 6 and 8 beat patterns. Partners mirror each other in sync quite often, doing the same step but on the opposite foot. Once you master the basics, you can move onto faster, more complicated steps.

The Shag is a quick, fun, and very social dance; the perfect dance to know if you are down south at a beach party. Just ask our organizing committee members who regularly attend Shag Festivals in the Carolinas.  They have stories to tell and will show you a few moves whether you ask them or not!