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What is Swing as a Style of Dance?

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By Sorina Fant / Edited by Samantha Bellerose, B.Ed, Dip.Dance (Performing Arts)

Swing culture originated in the United States in the 1930s and 1940s after the rise in popularity of swing music. The swing movement includes a signature sound – a style of jazz music – as well as fashion and swing dancing. 

Swing music is a form of upbeat jazz with improvisation and solos played over the melody. Many people believe that the term “swing” and the era of swing music began with the popularity of Duke Ellington’s hit song, “It Don’t Mean a Thing, If It Ain’t Got That Swing.” 

Hoagy Carmichael’s song “Star Dust” and Bennie Moten’s hit, “Moten Swing,” were also amazing songs that helped define this style of music. Ella Fitgerald, Frank Sinatra, Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong, and John Coltrane also contributed amazing music to this genre. 

Many styles of swing dance have developed over the decades including the Charleston, the Collegiate Shag, and the Balboa. The Lindy Hop, which started in Harlem, New York, is the most widely known form of swing dance. Many of these are danced with a partner and can be seen in ballroom and social dancing.

The movements in swing dancing include fast footwork, spinning, jumping, and swinging. The many styles of swing dance are danced to different swing songs at various tempos. 

Swing music continues to be popular today with swing conventions and dance competitions hosted around the world every year.

This page is just one of hundreds of definitions of the many styles and genres of dance. This library is being continually added to by the writers and contributors of Dance Parent 101!