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History 101

the roots of swing dance

Swing Dance is a big term, because at it's core it means anything you're dancing to swing music! When we talk about swing dance though, we're usually talking about the dances that became popular when swing was king of popular music, starting with the African American dancers in the 1930s.

 

Swing dances are constantly evolving - from the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem in the 30s to the performances, social dances, and classes that we run today. Check out some of our favorite dancers doing their thing!

The Lindy hop

Inspired by the likes of such swing pioneers as Chick Webb, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington, the dancers at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem NYC adapted the Charleston and other dances into the "jitterbug" craze that became know as the Lindy Hop.

Dancers like "Shorty" George Snowden, Norma Miller, and Frankie Manning caught the imagination of the world, and 70,000 dancers a year would go to the Savoy to social dance and enjoy the music.

 

If you come out to a Syncopation Foundation dance, this is the most commonly sighted of the swing dances. We recommend trying your hand at all three roles: following, leading, and cheering!

 

Solo jazz

Sometimes the music gets you moving and you don't have time to find someone to dance with! The original swing dancers threw down with or without a partner. 
 

Solo Jazz dance is directly inspired by the music, and grew out of the rich African American dance traditions, from the dances that were brought from Africa up to vaudeville style tap dancing.

Check out dancers like Al Minns, Leon James, Jeni LeGon, and Pepsi Bethel for a taste of what we're talking about. 

Keep an eye out at the social dances and you'll find lots of folks being moved by the music, partner or not!

Balboa

Swing music came through the radio to the west coast before swing dancing was available to the masses, since TV wasn't a thing yet. That didn't stop people from dancing though! Teenagers in California made up their own steps to the sounds of Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, and others, and picked moves that fit in the crowded southern California ballrooms.

 

Hal & Marge Takier, Willie Desatoff, Lawrence "Lolly" Wise, and Mary McCaslin are just a few names on the long roster of Balboa dance innovators. 

Balboa is great at all tempos, but you'll notice it most often when the speed picks up and most folks take a break.

 

 

Other Styles

In addition to these three dance styles, we offer diverse classes and workshops as well as spaces to put these styles in action. Check out our classes for special series classes and workshops ranging from Pilates for Dancers to Slow Dance Swing to classes geared toward switching roles between lead and follow.​ Join us!