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Swing dance
Peter Loggins and Mia Goldsmith swing dancing at the Moore Theatre, Seattle, Washington.
Origin1920's, Harlem, New York City, U.S.[1]
Evita and Michael at 2011 Catalina Swing Dance Festival

Swing dance is a group of social dances that developed with the swing style of jazz music in the 1920s–1940s, with the origins of each dance predating the popular "swing era". Hundreds of styles of swing dancing were developed; those that have survived beyond that era include Charleston, Balboa, Lindy Hop, and Collegiate Shag.[2][3] Today, the best-known of these dances is the Lindy Hop, which originated in Harlem in the early 1930s.[4] While the majority of swing dances began in African-American communities as vernacular African-American dances, some influenced swing-era dances, like Balboa, developed outside of these communities.

"Swing dance" was not commonly used to identify a group of dances until the latter half of the 20th century. Historically, the term swing referred to the style of jazz music, which inspired the evolution of the dance. Jitterbug is any form of swing dance, though it is often used as a synonym for the six-count derivative of Lindy Hop called "East Coast Swing".[5] It was also common to use the word to identify a kind of dancer (i.e., a swing dancer). A "jitterbug" might prefer to dance Lindy Hop, Shag, or any of the other swing dances. The term was famously associated with swing era band leader Cab Calloway because, as he put it, "[The dancers] look like a bunch of jitterbugs out there on the floor due to their fast, often bouncy movements."[6]

The term "swing dancing" is often extended to include other dances that do not have certain characteristics of traditional swing dances: West Coast Swing, Carolina Shag, East Coast Swing, Hand Dancing, Jive, Rock and Roll, Modern Jive, and other dances developed during the 1940s and later. A strong tradition of social and competitive boogie woogie and Rock 'n' Roll in Europe add these dances to their local swing dance cultures.[7]

Original forms dating from the 1920s and early 1930s

Forms dating from the late 1930s and early 1940s

Derivatives of swing dance from the 1940s and 1950s

Swing dancing today

San Francisco Sunday Streets: Valencia

Swing dancing was most popular in the 1930s and 1940s, but it still continues today. Dance moves have evolved with the music. Swing dancing styles are the foundation of many other dance styles including disco, country line dancing, and hip hop. Swing dancing clubs and contests are still held around the world.[20]

The American Bop Association (ABA) is a non-profit corporation of 34 member swing dance clubs who are dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the broad range of dance and music styles more commonly known as bop, all forms of swing, jitterbug, and shag.[24]



The swing dance competitions use one of the few formats ("categories"):


In West Coast Swing the competitions are divided into sections by level of experience. The levels are Newcomer, Novice, Intermediate, Advanced and All-Star. There is no official system in the United States to ensure that couples dance at the appropriate level of experience. The World Swing Dance Council holds a Registry of all points attained at different levels of competition.[27]

There is no points system for the majority of Lindy Hop competitions.[28]

Judging criteria

Swing dancing falls under the American Rhythm category. There are several different categories at competitions depending on what type of dance you do.[29]

Judging for competition is based on the three "T's" as well as showmanship.[30]


Most competition dance floors can only hold about 12 couples dancing at a time. If the number of participants is larger than what the floor can hold, the competition will hold qualifying rounds. Once they get to 24 couples there will then be the quarterfinal round (2 separate rounds of about 12 each), then the semifinal (1 round of about 12), and finally the final round (1 round, usually 6 or 7 couples).[29]

See also


  1. ^ "WHAT IS SWING DANCING?". Cheltenham Swing Dance.
  2. ^ "What is Lindy Hop?".
  3. ^ a b c d Martin, Ryan (2014-03-05), The Rebirth of Shag, retrieved 2022-10-14
  4. ^ "What is swing dancing?". Retrieved October 7, 2016.
  5. ^ "The Jitterbug". Retrieved October 7, 2016.
  6. ^ Christine Zona, Chris George (2008). Gotta Ballroom. United States: Human Kinetics, Inc. pp. 13–214. ISBN 9780736059077. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
  7. ^ The Beautiful Times (May 2011). "Swing dance". The Beautiful Times. wordpress. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
  8. ^ Guest, Dan. "Balboa History". 10/17/2005. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
  9. ^ Manning, Frankie (2007). Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop. Temple University Press. p. 46. ISBN 9781592135639. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
  10. ^ Spring, Howard. Swing and the Lindy Hop: Dance, Venue, Media, and Tradition. Vol. 15. University of Illinois Press, 1997. 183-207
  11. ^ Manning, Frankie (2007). Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop. Temple University Press. p. 230. ISBN 9781592135639. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
  12. ^ Pritchett, Judy. ""Shorty" George Snowden". 1995-2006. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
  13. ^ Spring, Howard. Swing and the Lindy Hop: Dance, Venue, Media, and Tradition. Vol. 15. University of Illinois Press, 1997. 183-207.
  14. ^ “Shag Latest Dance” Blytheville Courier News (Arkansas) 25 July 1929: 5 [Research credit: Forrest Outman]
  15. ^ "St. Louis Shag". Retrieved 2008-09-28.
  16. ^ a b Wilkinson, Jeff (2003-08-25), "You just got in a group and followed along", The State, archived from the original on 2004-01-06, retrieved 2007-11-04
  17. ^ Guest, Dan, Big Apple History, archived from the original on 1 November 2007, retrieved 2007-11-04
  18. ^ Jitterbuzz, Interview With Betty Wood, retrieved 2007-11-04
  19. ^ "Swing History origins of Swing Dance". 1996. Retrieved 2008-03-22.
  20. ^ a b "The History of Swing Dancing | zZounds". Retrieved 2022-10-14.
  21. ^ "Global Swing DJS". Archived from the original on 2014-02-28. Retrieved 2014-02-19.
  22. ^ Culver, Henry (2007). Imperial Swing Dancing (2nd ed.). Chesterfield, Missouri: Flight Information Publications. pp. 1–30. ISBN 978-0-9601062-2-6.
  23. ^ "". Retrieved October 7, 2016.
  24. ^ "Home". americanbop. Retrieved 2023-06-18.
  25. ^ Callahan 2005, p. 7.
  26. ^ Callahan 2005, p. 8.
  27. ^ WSDC Points Registry Rules – World Swing Dance Council, March 2019.
  28. ^ "Competition Rules". Swing Dance America. Retrieved 2022-10-14.
  29. ^ a b "DanceSport - Competition Guides - For the Competitor -" DanceSport - Competition Guides - For the Competitor - Accessed April 10, 2015.
  30. ^ "On Judging, Part 3: Swing Judging Philosophy 101". 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-04.