General Dance Discussion > Ballroom swing compared to “street” swing?

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by Dots, Oct 28, 2013.

  1. Siggav

    Siggav Active Member

    Hey no need to do that, if you remember OP learnt ballroom east coast swing originally and quite likes that and there's no need for any name calling in any direction. These are different dances and in very different cultures, it's like comparing western horse riding with English dressage. One is better for competing in dressage and the other is better for herding cows in various terrains.

    Metaphor aside, one thing to remember with it all is that lindy hop is very much a dance that evolved out of the collsion of western partner dancing with african solo dancing, so a lot of the downwards pulse aesthetic with the relaxed knees and slightly bent over at the hips etc. comes from the african side of it.

    For people wanting to really work on their lindy and who are up for crosstraining taking west african dance classes can actually be really helpful.

    The people who wrote up a ballroom syllabus for swing basically removed most of the african inspired elements and "cleaned it up" (from their perspective) but what they really did was basically create a different dance that from my point of view left out the bits that really make lindy super fun but that's a my opinion thing, I know there are people who don't like lindy who do like ballroom swing so that's all good.

    Another thing I find very interesting though is that there's actually a pretty big solo dance side to lindy hop these days, almost all the lindy communities have some solo vintage jazz dance classes occasionally and there's usually some breaking out into solo jazz steps in most showcase routines too, not so much in normal social dancing for obvious reasons.
  2. Hedwaite

    Hedwaite Well-Known Member

    Unless you've done reining or western riding.
  3. bookish

    bookish Active Member

    When talking about subjective things like art, we can never be unbiased, only equivocal :p I don't like being equivocal but I try to be nice.

    The more I do "street" dances (or whatever you want to call them), such as Lindy, Balboa, blues, Argentine tango, etc., the harder it gets for me to watch ballroom-style Latin... so I'm biased! I don't think "street" should be equated with undisciplined or unstylish per se. I think ballroom Latin generally looks pretty weird and artificial now, with exceptions (showcases often being better than comps IMO, and somewhat older professional dancers looking more natural than younger competitors who are trying oh-so-hard and move so fast they lose the rhythm).

    In Lindy Hop in particular we frequently use stretch & compression in the physical connection between partners. These ideas are present in ballroom Latin too, but in different ways. (I'm not quite as familiar with Rhythm BTW).

    For example, in an Int'l Rumba forward basic, there is compression (the leader moves forward slightly earlier, "into" the follower) and stretch (the follower moves back a bit further, extending the connection). In syllabus Int'l Samba there's a fair amount of both in various figures, e.g. stationary walks. And so on.

    Now, my understanding of the Jive rock step (and probably Rhythm swing, but again I'm not quite sure) is that it is meant to keep a "close" or "short" connection, which means you're not stretching apart that much. And it's actually a rotational rock step (foot goes behind and to the side, rather than straight back), and this rotation helps keep a short connection.

    In Lindy Hop, a rotational rock step would lead to a turn, whereas a linear rock step leads to a linear movement. To me, this makes a lot of sense. The rock step is the prep for the next movement. In Jive, you do a rotational rock step whether or not the next action turns, which I find a bit weird. But it does keep you close to each other, which I guess means it serves its purpose.

    Another comparison would be the Jive Link and Whip Throwaway, which is the closest thing syllabus Jive has to a Lindy swingout. I think Rhythm Swing might actually call it a Lindy turn or something like that. In the syllabus version of this combination, you dance from open to closed position, then go around each other in a circle, then dance back away from each other. This is how many beginners do a swingout, badly, and they eventually have to learn to dance past each other while properly using stretch at both ends.

    As for not transferring the weight, it depends on how far back the foot is going. Since our foot in a linear rock step goes straight back, we don't want to fully transfer axis (different from weight transfer BTW) or we would move too far away. You can also just tap or kick the leg back without stepping (no weight transfer), as long as you keep the quality of the connection. In general, Lindy is extremely open to footwork variation "at will" as long as it doesn't negatively affect your partnering.

    As for lateral hip action, there's not much of it in vernacular swing dancing (Lindy/Balboa/etc) -- swivels are generally rotational more than lateral so they don't count -- nor is there much rolling through the foot except in some jazz steps like apple jacks or fishtails.

    Blues dancing has both rolling through the foot and lateral hip action, which to me tends to look fairly natural. The Jive/Rhythm Swing way of moving the hips looks weird to me, honestly. The Jive chasse reminds me of a Blues step called touch and go.

    This is partly to do with style, and also partly to do with body mechanics. In a Lindy triple step, the first step is generally a full weight transfer; in Jive it's part. In a Lindy triple step, the middle step is a "prop" step that you generally don't collect on. In Jive I think you drop your weight and collect onto the middle step. Closing the feet in Lindy would be a bit weird. BTW closing the feet in a chasse is not a universal constant. I saw an instructional video with Bryan Watson teaching NOT closing the feet in a Cha Cha chasse, whereas closing the feet seems to be popular now. I think different people do it differently in Jive too.

    Completely dependent on pattern & available space. Lindy can grow or shrink to fit. With good floorcraft you can keep it on the spot or use an entire floor. Some beginners barely move and others take huge steps, so it's good to teach a range of step sizes to start building control IMO. It is necessary to "move it" a bit to get past each other in swingouts, side passes, etc.

    Also, if you're not closing your feet in a chasse you don't go as far... think about it.

    I rarely heel lead in basic Lindy. Not sure what pattern they were teaching. Westies heel lead a lot, but then their actions are based more on walking without bouncing.

    I would be careful of using the word hunched. When I look at great Lindy hoppers their spines are generally pretty straight. But straight does not mean vertical. You can have a straight diagonal line too :p I find good posture from the waist to the shoulders to be similar across dance forms. Everything else varies. Of course people who are not pro dancers will probably have forward head posture to some degree.

    Because we don't think a large volumetric frame is good for drawing attention, because we don't have the type of frame-based rotational action as in Standard or closed position Smooth that benefits from a lateral frame, and because we try to keep no more tension in our arms than required, in part to make the movement more free and efficient and in part to avoid transferring excessive tension to our partners or pulling on them.

    P.S. the Lindy/Charleston performances on DWTS are indeed Cringe. Worthy. As was the recent demonstration of "Lindy Hop" in a historical dances presentation at Blackpool that I saw a clip of. There are excellent pro Lindy dancers in Europe they could have gotten, rather than having Latin dancers do really sloppy Jive. Le sigh.
    Terpsichorean Clod, leee and Siggav like this.
  4. ralf

    ralf Active Member

    Yeah, the Lindy Hop community uttered a collective groan this spring at the "Lindy Hop" routine that barely even qualified as Charleston (or as Nicole Zuckerman described it on SwingNation, "kick kick kick aerial, kick kick kick aerial").
  5. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    I would always watch ballroom championships broadcast on public television. Then, just you you, I got to the point that I could not watch anymore.

    Now, some thoughts about "street dance."

    I've been thrashing around in Frankie Manning and Norma Miller's books about dancing at the Savoy, and there's a bit from "Jazz Dance..." where a young man from suburban Pittsburgh learns by watching a practicing, but finds the same style of dancing in lower class places with ethnically diverse women, and most recently The Autobiogaphy of Malcolm X. All these people learned by watching other people and getting on the dance floor to try things out.

    Does anyone know anyone who has learned that way in the past three or four decades? If you DO happen to know anyone who has never taken lesson or a class, how many of them are there?

    It also seems like whenever someone has a problem or question, lots of people advise them to "take a private" from a "pro."

    So, my thought is that Lindy Hop, along with most of what used to be "street dances," have in their way become nearly as well defined as ballroom dances.

    I'm interested in other opinions on this!
  6. bookish

    bookish Active Member

    It seems to me that learning by "watching" *probably* has more to it than just watching, whether it's growing up with certain rhythms and rhythmic movements as a child, or having someone "take you aside" and show you the ropes. I think that's feasible.

    That being said, contemporary "street" social dances tend to be quite technical dances when done well, and there is quite a lot of depth to what you can learn if you stick with them and take workshops/privates.

    But there are relatively few people in these dances who drill technique for hours a day as some competitive ballroom dancers do. This has more to do with social structure, lifestyle, and goals than with the physical dance forms themselves. Most people I see in "street" social dances today find these dances as adults rather than being funneled through intensive youth competition circuits, treat them as hobbies, and are not upper-middle class or wealthy.
  7. snapdancer

    snapdancer Well-Known Member

    My own experience is sorta what you're looking for not exactly. Have had lots of group lessons in WCS, but not privates. Based on positive comments recently from teachers observing me social dancing, I think I've come to a respectable amount of ability. But it took decades to get there, with private lessons from the right teacher I should have been able to achieve that much, much sooner.
  8. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    I have to disagree. The difference is that the BR crowd consists of two sub scenes, the social majority and the competitive élite with actually only little overlap. In the street scenes there is more of a continuum. And be assured talented street dancers work as hard to be successful.

    (And of course the biggest difference is, that street dancers do not drill blindly, they have develop uniqueness. That´s more of an artistic aspect.)
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2013
  9. LindyKeya

    LindyKeya Member

    I haven't read the whole thread, but you seem to have stumbled onto an inaccurate dichotomy of street swing vs. ballroom swing. Lindy hop is not street swing.
    "Street swing" is very specifically a fairly untrained, club/bar version of East Coast Swing. Usually single time only, with lots of lifts (when allowed, as they often were in the late 90s), and almost nonexistent technique. The regular swing/lindy hop crowd looks down on street swing. It's not a competition vs social dichotomy. Street swing is more "oh, this dance is easy and fun and I learned in five minutes." Street swing is not a "street dance" (at least not in the sense of those being talked about here); it is not a technical dance. It's a fast and loose dance. Since swing stopped being a fad, street swing has largely died away. At most dances though, you'll find a guy still dancing in that style. In most cases, he started dancing in the 90s (or earlier), and has never taken a lesson (at least not beyond the free, introductory lesson at many venues). You can usually find him by watching which guy the girls avoid (usually for fear of having an arm ripped out, not for a regular odor/creepy issue). Someone doing the pretzel (outside of a country dance) is usually a clear indication that they're in the street swing category too.

    Steve, what you speak of is actually how a lot of people learned to swing dance in the 90s, during the trend. Some took a single basic class, but many did not. There was a lot of impromptu on-floor teaching in those days too ("Hey, that was a neat move. Can you show us how to do it?")

    The difference between how that worked in the 30s and 40s is staggering though, and I don't have a good explanation as to why. It could just be a numbers issue though. Presumably more people tried out swing dancing at some point during the 30s (presumably most everyone under the age of 40?), whereas that's probably not true of the 90s. Therefore, if 10% turned into good dancers who practiced, took the dance seriously, etc., you might just have gotten a larger overall # in the 30s and 40s.
  10. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    There's a Swing Dance Encyclopedia by "CoupleDanceWorld" published in 2008. I don't have their definition of "street dance" in my notes, but they state that Lindy Hop, and "West-Coast-Swing and its related styles such as the Push, Whip, plus"... (a total ot 13 dances are listed). Note that East Coast Swing is not in that list.

    I'm getting the book from the library again to see their definition of street dance, but it appears to be a dance that constantly develops and adapts.

    This is why I always try to put "street dance" or "street swing" in quotes. There doesn't seem to be any agreed upon definition.
  11. bookish

    bookish Active Member

    The ballroom/street divide changes over time and sometimes seems to be more about positioning/marketing that anything else. Ballroom dancers present what they do as having "more technique" than what anyone else does, while other communities seem to want to be "street" because it's cooler and less stuffy. Of course each of these styles has technique, and each also has "casual" dancers.

    Something I find a bit funny is that East Coast Swing started out as a ballroom style that codified and formalized the stuff the cool kids were doing without studios or teachers, but is now the default style of not-taking-classes swing.

    And Jive started out as a proper, stiff-upper-lip, British alternative to (blatantly caricatured) "wild" American jitterbug. Whereas now the women are in fringed bikinis (eta: and I don't know what to call what the men are in) and the dancing is more overtly wild and sexualized, while Lindy Hop is the one where people dress a bit vintage and go out for some clean fun and church groups show up sometimes. Things change. LOL.
    leee likes this.
  12. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Frankie Manning's son, Chazz Young, saw his father perform in late July 1943. After that he was sent to the Mary Bryce Dance Studio in Harlem to begin studying, among other dances, basic Lindy.

    And, what I'm finding out by looking at every old dance book I can get my hands on is that is that what the dance teachers did (the Murray studios were not alone in doing this) was take the most basic of movements they saw, which were the jig walk and "jockeying," and used those as the basic steps to get people dancing.

    Wonder what they taught Chazz at Mary Bryce in 1943.

    was the stuff that was put on film and on stage by groups like Whitey's Lindy Hoppers.
  13. bookish

    bookish Active Member

    Those films involved a degree of racial caricature, but the dancing, as dancing, was good stuff that people still seek to learn from today. I'm talking more about this:

  14. Dancing Irishman

    Dancing Irishman Well-Known Member

    I can't speak to specifics of Lindy technique, but thought I'd call out some things that aren't quite correct in your discussion of ballroom swing(/jive). (To the best of my knowledge, at least. I am far from the technique authority, especially in EC swing where I have very, very little coaching).

    It's also a result of the use of rotation in Latin to collect the gesture foot under the body and prep it for the next step.

    Well executed Jive/Swing whips also have the element of moving past, not around (usually past each other and then again to complete a full 360, in my experience). My latin coach would describe it as moving past the point of connection between partners and then turning.

    Although I agree with the point you're trying to make, I would say not necessarily. How much ground you cover is a function of both where you place the foot on the second step of the chasse and how much you compress into that leg (since the compression "launches" you off the standing leg).

    Free movement I can agree with, excessive tension and efficiency I cannot. A well-done standard frame has hardly any tensile/compressive stress at all; a common critique for newer ballroom dancers is that they need to make their frame/connection lighter. And by virtue of bounding the lateral movement toward and away from partners to the frame, closed position moves should have an order of magnitude less tension than an open break/rock step in social swing or ballroom/latin dances. And in terms of efficiency, a rigid member is the most efficient means to transfer force/motion between two parts of a machine; a member that builds elastic tension or buckles under an applied load will be less efficient because of friction losses or failure to transfer the force (that last sentence might not be comprehensible to someone other than a sympathetic reader with a background in mechanical apologies).

    For what it's worth, the ballroom and Latin performances on that show are also often cringe worthy as well (the show prioritizes entertainment value over dance quality, since trained and/or experienced dancers are a small minority of the viewing audience at best).

    There's a good chance what you saw was a butchered version of lindy hop, but there might also be a chance it was historically accurate. I was fortunate enough to work with a pro who's been dancing ballroom since my parents were alive, and hearing him talk about the ways ballroom has changed since it began as a competitive dance style was eye-opening, to say the least. Most ballroom dancers wouldn't recognize a properly executed vintage ballroom dance as such, so is there a chance you had the same thing happen with lindy hop?
  15. Dancing Irishman

    Dancing Irishman Well-Known Member

    As a ballroom dancer I have to *heartily* disagree with the claims being made that one can differentiate ballroom from "street" dances by the following two supposed characteristics of "street" dances but not ballroom dances:

    1) "Street" dancers have to find an element of individuality.
    2) "Street" dances constantly evolve.

    In response to 1), I would say that for the best ballroom competitors, individuality and individual interpretation of the dance's character are absolute must-haves (both in performance quality and choreography). Look at Yulia and Riccardo doing rumba versus Michael and Joanna and you'll see the difference pretty markedly. Ballroom dancers often work on individual interpretation later in their careers because the common practice is to master a syllabus of technique first and then focus on individual characterization (but there's still plenty available in the syllabus figures, no styling is dictated in the syllabus).

    In response to 2), see my previous comment on the evolution of Ballroom/Latin (i.e. the world champions of the 1960's would look very different next to a modern comp couple). The evolution of ballroom and latin is arguably easier to see precisely because there is such a centralized infrastructure of people competing that you can see the innovations in technique, styling, and choreography trickle down through the ranks. I would argue that any art form in which people actively seek to learn and grow as artists will de facto have this evolution.
    Sania likes this.
  16. bookish

    bookish Active Member

    Oh well that's good, then. I have seen syllabus videos in which it was demonstrated as dance up to partner, go around in a circle, dance away from partner.

    Given that elastic stretch is part of the underlying requirement for the movement, the efficiency of rigid members in transferring force does not come into play. If we lose heat energy due to friction, so be it; Lindy with a rigid/inelastic connection would be VERY UNCOMFORTABLE. P.S. when I wrote "tension" in the part of my post you're responding to, I meant excess muscle action, not elongating force. I usually say stretch instead of the latter to avoid the ambiguity, though others may nitpick on the definition of stretch.

    The amount of "away" connection in the open and closed connections in a swingout is similar. Not necessarily identical, but by no means an order of magnitude different.

    The original Lindy Hop dancers' performances are on film. (So is Alex Moore demonstrating Standard syllabus, for that matter.)

    And I know the DWTS ballroom performances aren't great, either, but the difference is that in the ballroom performances at least the pro looks like they know what they're doing!
  17. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

  18. Siggav

    Siggav Active Member

    Just to pipe up a bit with the connection stuff, the elastic connection in lindy is part of what I really like about the dance, the elastic "boing" or springy connection that flows through the entire dance (absolutely required for swingouts but it's present in some way pretty much all the time) feels really nice when it's well done by both lead and follow.

    The dance can require you to manipulate quite a lot of momentum at high speeds so you need the elastic connection to absorb and then redirect the momentum, bit like if you were catching a ball one handed and then in one movement throwing it again, you wouldn't want to keep your hand completely still when the ball hits, instead it needs to move back to absorb some of the momentum from the ball and then reuse that energy for the throw.

    Bookish is exactly right as well in that in a swing out you have two places where the ball is being caught and thrown again (just to stretch the metaphor) and the connection feels pretty similar, i.e. it happens both in open and closed, a pretty common beginner mistake is to loose the stretch on the closed side of the swingout so you end up pretty much just walking around each other instead of having that nice feeling of carrying on the momentum
    leee likes this.
  19. leee

    leee Well-Known Member

    Are these the technical terms?
  20. Siggav

    Siggav Active Member

    Hahaha, probably not but it does work when trying to describe stuff though :)

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