Swing Discussion Boards > Evolution of Swing Dancing and Music - a brief overview

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by d nice, Aug 13, 2003.

  1. d nice

    d nice New Member

    There was a set of name changes as the music and dance evolved... The Lindy Hop, the eight count Charleston/Texas Tommy evolved dance of the 20's was eight counts done in four steps, evolved in the 30's to an eight count basic with 10 steps (the two sets of triples) as the music Hot Jazz went from 2/4 time to Swing in 4/4 time. Less hop more variance in the connection between leveraged tension and compression.

    As the dance caught on with "mainstream America" it changed mixing with the various regional styles of "swing" dancing. In the black neighborhoods it varied little in over all dynamic/style more of different flavors of the Lindy Hop rather than styles. Swing became the popular music of it's day.

    The biggest change in dance styles was what happened when it was danced by white dancers with little connection to blacks. Ernie Smith actually goes into a bit of detail about this in "Call of the Jitterbug", an excellent documentry BTW. The African rooted aesthetic was replaced with a European one. Moves and movements altered, evolved, and in some cases sanitized. It was still recognizably the same dance, but black dancers in Oakland, CA were more likely to look like those in Harlem than the white dancers who danced across the river in Jersey.

    Popular music changed going from 4/4 Swing, in the early to mid 40's to Jump Blues in many parts of the country and the dance of course changed to reflect that. The simpler rhythms and harder hitting drums caused the dance to simplify the footwork, this is where we start to see more and more of the eight count basic being replaced with the truncated footwork in six, believed by some to be based on the Foxtrot, but a decent amount of evidence in fact shows the source to be more likely another jazz dance called the "Jig Walk" which was popular amongst the black communities from Mobile, Alabama to Chicago, Illinois and all along the Eastern Seaboard. This newer form was starting to be consistantly refered to as Jitterbug or Swing rather than Lindy Hop, though New Yorkers refered to it by the name Lindy (the Hop was pretty much dropped from the name at this point).

    In the 50's popular music switched again, Rock and Roll and Rhythm & Blues were the order of the day. The dance began to not just evolve but split into two directions. Rock and Roll had a harder driving beat with simple syncopation and almost no swing, and Rhythm & Blues had a softer beat with simple syncopations but with more swing. The result was one dance to R&R music that was very energetic, lots of tricks but little in the way of improvised rhythmic footwork, and another dance to R&B that was was "smoother" with few tricks but more complicated footwork.

    This is where the style of swing known as East Coast Swing (danced to R&R) started to gain real popularity and at the same time what are generally thought of as the "smooth" swing styles started in the late 50's (West Coast Swing, Carolina Shag, Hand Dancing, Stepping, Bop, Push, Whip, Imperial, etc.).

    The 60's and 70's swing dancing pretty much died in main stream America, going under ground in various locals and regional styles flourished in the nightclubs and bars, while Disco music with the Hustle and solo dancing became the big draws.

    The 80's saw a slight upsurge in Swing Dancing, The smooth styles dominated by West Coast Swing gained in popularity, and Lindy Hop started peeking it's head out from the black dominated clubs were younger dancers in the mid twenties were mixing with those in their seventies.

    In the early 90's what is most often refered to as Neo-Swing or Retro Swing (a mix of Jump Blues, Swing, with some Bop stylings) spurred a sudden interest in swing dancing. The new style of swing dancing was heavily influenced from the Jitterbug/R&R dancing of the fifties, but with less refinement for the most part, as dancers stole moves off of old video movies, and TV Shows, but the force of the new movement (if a single source can be credited) was inspired by the Thomas Carter movie "Swing Kids". By the time Jon Favreau's "Swingers" came out in 1996 Swing dancing was a counter-culture movement and on its way to being an over exploited media sensation. Dancers were becoming more adept at the various forms of Swing dancing, regular lessons were being offered at clubs, ballrooms, churches, and in living rooms and garages in every major city. Old timers in their eighties were being sought out and revered by Gen X'ers regailing them with tales of life "back in the day" and sharing with them their home movies and favorite steps.

    It is important to note that Lindy Hop had not died out. There were still numerous places where the dance structurally remained the same though the aesthetic altered a little as the Jazz music changed from Hot Jazz of the 20's, Swing of the 30's early 40's, Bebop in the mid 40's to mid 50's, and Main Stream and Cool Jazz of the late 50's. In the 60's through 70's various forms of earlier jazz were being revisted as well as the growth of Soul Jazz and the 80's saw the birth of Post Bop. The 90's saw a renewed viability in big swing bands to support themselves and Lindy Hoppers were once again dancing to the sounds of classic Swing. The roots were still strong.
  2. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    Enjoyed reading this very much.

    I actually could see each of the dancing styles in my mind as I progressed through your words . . . especially after dancing through some of those eras.

    I too . . . went back . . . thanks for taking me there . . . . . . . . .
  3. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    This was a great summary. Now my question, from the perspective of a notoriously goal-oriented person, is what dances went along with the musical evolution you're talking about? Where do they all fit in? Needless to say, I have an agenda in asking this. I hate ignorance, especially when it's my own, and I'd love to know a little about how to do these dances! I'll probably nevere be a died-in-the wool swing afficionado, because I love other dances too much and refuse to pick. But I don't ever want to have to sit down because I don't know a dance, either. Where's a good place to start?
  4. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    You are starting to think like I have been doing lately. I asked the same question to a couple of Pro dancers. They said to start taking lessons.

    I used to compete, and as I responded to you in another topic, for all the wrong reasons. So, until I start competing again (for fun???), will look at other dances to learn. I've started Salsa and AT again. And now I'm trying to hook up with another member of this forum in an attempt to get some private lessons in the Lindy Hop.

    I too, am very goal-oriented, and do about nine dances, but now, have the time to learn to do more dances.

    Hope this helps and hope that others give you answers!!!!!!!!
  5. SwinginBoo

    SwinginBoo New Member

    That was some really great information. You certainly know your stuff.

    As an aside...I remember going to Father/Daughter dances with my dad in elementary school. We used to dance ( didn't know it then ) east coast swing to all the fifties rock and roll songs.

    I was really able to visualize the evolution of the dances from your post. Thanks a lot. :D
  6. d nice

    d nice New Member

    Specifics girl! ;)

    What dance do you want to here about first. Give me some direction. Otherwise I'll ramble on and never get to the point. Dealing with someone touched by senility and a touch of ahlzeimers... hmmm, not the best of mixes.
  7. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Senility? Unless your picture is VERY OLD, you're not! :lol: Don't use that as an excuse, mister. Just get some sleep! :lol: :lol: You'd be surprised how much that helps.

    Okay, here's a more concise problem statement and question for you. Since joining the forums, I have become aware of a myriad of swing and swing-derived dances that I never knew existed, or, for whatever reason, never appealed to me before. Now, after a month of reading commentary I can barely understand, I'm motivated to start learning some of those swing dances. I plan to take lessons to branch out and am really hungry to know everything I can. Is one swing dance preferable to any of the others as a starting point for study (in terms of commonality of figures or styling, for example)? I have other questions, but I'll start there. :D
  8. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    This is an excellent question! Knowing this type of information can really be a great short cut to branching out into more and more dance forms. And, following up on this, what forms are the most common today? Always good to have "transportable" material!
  9. d nice

    d nice New Member

    Most transportable? Jitterbug. a six count dominated dance closely related to lindy hop. Danced historically in the late 40's through the sixties with several regional styles of its own.

    The best base form? Well I always suggest going to the headwaters. Lindy Hop. Nearly every current swing dance is decsended from or used lindy hop as its inspiration. So many styles and musical variety and the root of so many of the techniques the others use as their definitive base.

    I think most of the swing dances are pretty amazing in their own right, and I have been lucky enough to have studied most of them, but Lindy Hop is my favorite because of it flexibility and energy.
  10. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Thanks for the information d nice! Just so I understand better though, why isn't Lindy the most transportable if it is the foundation?
  11. d nice

    d nice New Member

    WHen I was saying transportable I was thinking about the most danced version of swing. Definitely Jitterbug. If you are looking at the one which will serve you the best as being able to adapt your own dance to match others... Lindy Hop.
  12. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Then I guess Lindy it is, to start. There are a lot more Lindy hoppers around here, so I'll have more places to practice and people to practice with. The mid- to long- term goal is to learn several dances. But you have to start somewhere! :D

    Thanks. :D
  13. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    Hey d nice,
    I remember hearing in some of my more recent Music Appreciation classes in college (went back to get another degree a few years ago), that some Swing dancing had help evolving from the television dance shows of the time. It seemed that they wanted the dancers to stay perpendicular to the camera, yet parallel with the tv screen of the viewers - in a slot, perhaps? All to make the dancers look better, especially since some of them were stars in their own rights.

    I tried to argue this point in class, as I grew up playing bass/and guitar in an all black band, and we played in mostly all black establishments. Back in the late 50's, early 60's, I saw lots of dancers dancing in a slot!

    The dancers were great and the music, even greater!

    Any knowledge on this???
  14. d nice

    d nice New Member

    You are both right. They asked the slots be turned to fit the camera angle for the TV shows, but the slot was used in the 20's you can see George Snowden dancing in a slot in "After Seben".

    As to slots in the dance for dancing's sake... Lindy Hop was a circular dance the moves being more elliptical causing the direction the dancers faced changing to various degrees as the dance went on.

    Modern lindy hop uses both a loose slot and arcs. It is not and never was slotted in the sense that WCS is slotted today, but there are numerous linear moves that give the impression of a slot.

    The dances that evolved out of lindy hop all have their own unique form. Hand Dancing from the D.C./Baltimore area uses an asteriks, the leader maintaining a "center" postion and bringing the follower in and moving her out at various angles.
  15. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    Thanks d nice, nice update on that info. It great to have someone on the DF with your knowledge of Swing dancing.

    ANd thanks for mentioning George Snowden . . . I was trying to recall his name about a month ago . . . several of us were talking "Swing stuff," and somehting came up about George, but none of us could bring the name to our lips . . . now I can go back and tell them the answer!
  16. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Amen to this! We are very lucky! :D
  17. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    I see you kissin' up to him . . . and calling him "cute" too! What gives Jenn?
  18. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    :lol: :lol: Hey! Anybody patient enough to answer my dumb swing questions deserves a little flattery in return! :lol:
  19. d nice

    d nice New Member

    No problem. To think I was "invited" here by someone posting on Yehoodi.
  20. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    You betcha . . . and he straightens me out a lot too!

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