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 Lindy Hop, Balboa, Collegiate Shag, and Charleston. Today, the best-known of these dances is the Lindy Hop, which originated in Harlem in the early 1930s. 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". 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."
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.
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.
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.
There is no points system for the majority of Lindy Hop competitions.
Swing dancing falls under the American Rhythm category. There are several different categories at competitions depending on what type of dance you do.
Judging for competition is based on the three "T's" as well as showmanship.
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).