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The SWING Phenomenon!


Swing dancing and music has had a recent and very popular revival. There are classes all over the nation, from the US to Sweden and Germany along with festivals drawing huge crowds each year. The Swing revival happened in the late 1990s and its instigation is credited to some Jump Blues and Swing bands playing at nightclubs in LA. Since then it has spread all over the US, throughout Europe and Australia and beyond. 90s films such as The Mask and Swing Kids helped spread the rage with fantastic scenes showing the dynamic moves of this style of dance.

Swing originated in the 1930s and 40s and some of the style morphed into Rock and Roll dancing in the 50s onwards. The style of Swing music is Big Band with typical instruments being the trumpet, saxophone, piano and double bass. The sounds of Benny Goodman, Glen Miller and Duke Ellington are familiar to most and their songs are enjoying more replays than ever at Swing classes. Contemporary swing music has developed into the fast paced Electro-Swing which incorporates sampling, hip hop and house techniques.
Most Swing dances began in African-American communities and cover Lindy Hop, Balboa, Blues, Jitterbug, Shag and Charleston although Balboa developed within white communities. Lindy Hop originated in Harlem in 1927 and is very popular in the current revival. It is a fusion of jazz, tap, Charleston and breakaway which is when the partners break away swinging out into an open position where each partner improvises before rejoining into a closed position. Lindy Hop’s most extravagant feature is the aerial in which the follow (usually the woman) is thrown by the lead (usually the man) in short low to longer high movements. As fun and jaw dropping as these moves are they are not considered sociable on a crowded dance floor!
The tempo of the music is medium to fast and the rhythms are 8 count and 6 count with the triple step being a frequent step. The actual step formations are easy to learn, the bits that are harder are the swing outs when the partners open out to do various moves and flourishes. It is best to be really comfortable with the steps before learning swing outs as they can seem complicated but when accomplished, really impressive! A lot of dancers today also dress in 1940s clothing for classes or even every day!
A popular Swing group with dozens of classes all over London is Swing Patrol which started in Australia, where Swing is increasingly popular, and expanded over here. The classes are a great place to meet like-minded people who enjoy the fruity beats of the music and quirky moves of the dances. Every year a performance ball is organised where each class rehearses a dance and performs to the other classes with social dancing in between each performance. Swing is so popular that members of Swing Patrol are often asked to perform at parties, festivals, and have even featured in scenes in Doctor Who and the recent Call the Midwife!
The main thing to remember with Swing dancing is that it is a very social dance and to improve you should do more social dancing than lessons as this is where you will learn to improvise and move naturally with the music and flow of each partner. To get more of an idea of these dances there are many clips and lessons on YouTube.
If you’ve always wanted to be thrown over someone’s shoulder on the dance floor or do the throwing yourself this could be the dance for you!