Swing is a group of dances that came to prominence in the gold age of jazz in the United States, the 1920s through the 1950s. However, the earliest known form of swing was danced in the 1860s. In the early 1900s, a new dance form came from New Orleans called the foxtrot. The swing jazz era modified this dance and by 1936 the swing was a top dance in the United States. Each region of the United States further modified the swing to create countless variations of the iconic dance. Some of these variations include the Lindy-hop, the bop, the East Coast swing, and the jive. As with the diversity of the dance, the music is also just as varied from one style of the swing to the other.
One of the most famous variations of the swing, the Lindy-hop, takes its name from Charles Lindbergh, a prominent aviator and social figure of the time period. The dance was fun and could be improvised. The music that the lindy-hop was frequently danced to was lively jazz music.
Like many dance styles and novel ideas, the swing was also frowned upon and banned at various times by various nations. Many dance traditionalists frowned upon the inappropriateness of the “vulgar and immoral” dance. They believed it was another fad that would drift away into history. To their disappointment, it is an official ballroom dance to this date.
In Germany, the swing was very popular with the younger generations. While it was at first banned in Germany, it was then permitted on German radio for propaganda purposes, with the goal of influencing the German youth and the British youth who would tune in to German radio stations. Eventually, it was difficult for anyone to deny that swing was here to stay as it entered mainstream culture. In the United States, towards the end of World War 2, the federal government enacted a 20% tax on dance clubs, forcing many clubs to post “No Dancing Allowed” signs. This resulted in youths crowding to underground dance clubs and other ways to satiate their appetites for swing.
The phenomenon was not just a fad that would leave the United States; Hollywood glorified the swing and created hundreds of films that included the dance. Swing is still prominent in the dance scene; from movies, to dance studio, and all the way to night clubs. Many ballroom dancers learn this dance for its fun and creative movements and high pace. Use the video on this page for a basic guide on the swing and some of the movements a swing dancer should be familiar with.