From Harlem, NYC, to Abroad: Swing Dancing

Author:Denise Perreault

"It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing." Swing dancing is a popular pastime for all ages. Swing dancing became popular during the Jazz Era in the 1920s. Jazz music was originally dubbed swing music, and this music inspired the style of dance known as swing dancing. Lindy Hop swing dancing, which began in Harlem, NYC, combined elements of tap, jazz, breakaway, and Charleston. Swing dances began in the African American communities but expanded to white communities across the decades.

Some of the most well known styles of swing dancing include: the Lindy Hop (or Jitterbug), the Balboa, West Coast Swing, and East Coast Swing. Throughout the world of swing dance styles, there are many other variations that evolved as the popularity of swing spread and newer music was used for dancing. For example, Lindy Hop is traditionally danced to swing, or jazz, music while West Coast swing is often danced to Pop, Funk, R&B, or the Blues.

Learn more about dance history and how to swing with the following resources:

  • Brief History of Swing Dancing - The Appalachian State University Swing Dance Club provides this overview of the history of swing dancing, which includes some biographies of those important to the introduction of swing, including Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller.
  • How to Swing Dance - Robert Royston, a World Dance Champion, created this video to help beginners learn to swing dance.
  • What is Swing Dancing? - Edinburgh University Swing Dance Society's article about the different styles of swing dancing is accompanied by helpful videos.
  • The Most Common Beginner Swing Dancing Mistakes - This list of four tips helps beginners who could be making common mistakes when learning to swing dance.
  • What is Swing? - Click on this link to visit the South Florida Swing Dance Society's page on the origins of swing dancing.
  • Between the Wars: The Swing Era - This history page from the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media contains information about the Swing Era in the United States.
  • Gotta Swing Historical Video Archive - This listing of online videos from as early as 1937 shows some famous performances of swing dancers.
  • Building the Swing Dance Community - Swing dance partners Patrick Szmidt and Natasha Ouimet have created this website to provide videos and assistance for swing dancers of all levels.
  • Lindy Hop Moves - This site teaches fundamental, intermediate, and advanced Lindy Hop moves.
  • - Clicking here will bring readers to a whole website full of online dance lessons for all levels including Lindy Hop, Balboa, West Coast Swing, and plenty of other varieties of dance.
  • Yehoodi - Yehoodi is an online community for those interested in all types of swing dancing. There are discussion pages, a calendar of swing events, shows and podcasts, and plenty more information for swing dancers or those looking to get started swing dancing.
  • DanceCal - This site contains an online calendar of swing dance events all over the world.
  • Swing Dance - Basic Footwork - This video shows how to perform some basic footwork commonly seen in swing dances.
  • The Swing Dance Era - The Just the Swing website provides this page describing the Swing Dance Era in the 1920s to 1950s in America.
  • History of Swing Dance - The Swing Dance Company in the UK gives us this global history of swing dancing.
  • East Coast Swing - Sonny Watson's Street Swing website offers this description of the origins and history of East Coast Swing.
  • Ballroom Dancers: East Coast Swing - Learn the basic steps of East Coast Swing with these easy-to-follow instructional videos.
  • East Coast Swing Introduction - Here, readers can find East Coast Swing Lessons that teach the different steps, music, and style of this variety of swing dance.
  • Lindy Hop History - The Lindy Hop became popular in the 1920s and 1930s, and its presence spread throughout the world. It is still very popular today.
  • What is Lindy Hop? - Lindy Hop is danced to Jazz Music and was named after Charles Lindbergh's plane, the Lindy.
  • World Lindy Hop Day - World Lindy Hop Day is celebrated on May 26th, and people all over the world dance the Lindy Hop to participate.
  • Swing Dancing - This personal page about swing dancing defines the elements and male and female patterns of swing dancing.
  • Library of Dance: Four Count Swing - The Library of Dance shows swing basics through a listing of videos.
  • Unlocking the Mysteries of West Coast Swing - H. Leon Raper has written this beginner's guide to West Coast Swing, which includes the basic structure, basic dance terms, and types of even and odd rhythm units.
  • Balboa Swing Dance - This Balboa Island site discusses the origins of the Balboa swing dance that began on Balboa Island in Newport Beach, California.