Swing Dancing is dancing to Swing, a style of Jazz born in the early 1930s which became popular throughout the 30s, 40s and 50s and has enjoyed a revival since the 1990s. Swing is often identified with Big Band music, where large ensembles of brass, double bass and percussion instruments mix to produce a dynamic and spirited form of music.
Here at the Queen's Swing Club we teach and promote the original Swing Dance: the Lindy Hop.
The most important reason for the formation of the Queen's Swing Club and our continued involvement is to teach as many people as we can how to swing. We love this dance and want everyone to be able to enjoy it as much as we do.
This part of the website is here for that reason. Here you can learn all about how Lindy Hop came to be. You might find these dancing tips helpful to get you started. And you can learn some new moves (or review ones you already learned).
These resources are meant to reinforce what is taught at our lessons. And nothing beats actually dancing; as practice makes perfect. So we encourage you to join us at our lessons, dances and special events throughout the year.
A Short History of Swing Dance
The Lindy Hop is one of many styles of dance suited to big band music. Lindy developed in response to a desire to dance to the new form of jazz music which was evolving around the time of World War I. At that time, more than four million African Americans were enjoying the benefits of citizenship along with the woes of racism and segregation.
The makings of jazz had been around since the civil war and jazz styles like Dixieland and Ragtime were already big in the South. But in the fifty years since emancipation, a flood of freed slaves flowed north to places like St. Luis, Chicago and New York . With them, came a rich musical heritage. The black tradition was influenced by tribal drums, spirituals, gospel music, work songs, field hollers and sorrow songs (later blues). And the black tradition merged beautifully with the more structured white tradition to create jazz.
The new sound spread quickly through the clubs in cities all across America. The fans and musicians were not all black. Many white teenagers also felt that the music spoke to them, mostly oblivious to the music's roots in slavery. Jazz was rebellious and sexually-loaded. In fact, the word "jazz" was a sexual slang word originally spelled "jass".
The music was rhythmic and made people want to express themselves with dance, but no traditional European forms of partner dancing fit the sound well. A void was waiting to be filled and the Charleston was waiting backstage.
The rudimentary form of the Charleston was brought to America from Africa by a group of black dancers. They started performing on an island off the coast of Carolina and were recruited to tour the East Coast performing on stage in front of large audiences. Their journey began in Charleston, where their popularity exploded, hence the name.
Another important tour-stop was Harlem, a black haven in New York City. The audiences in Harlem had especially been hungering for a dance that could express the raw energy and rebellious nature of the new sound purveying their culture. The Charleston fit the music perfectly, with its high energy and kicking feet.
1926 Harlem saw the opening of the Savoy Ballroom. It took up an entire city block, offering a spacious dance floor and an elevated double bandstand. The Savoy attracted the best black bands and nurtured some outstanding dancers. The Charleston dominated the dance floor. It evolved from a solo dance to a side-by-side partner dance and developed many of the moves we still use today. The 'swingout' was a variation which opened up the couples as well as the possibilities. Dancers tried switching between open and closed positions rapidly; basically creating what we now call the 'simple form' of Lindy. But as balance, timing and control became more important, dancers added rock-steps, twists and ball-changes.