Swing Discussion Boards > Historical Swing Dance definition HELP!!!

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by Jonathan Walford, Aug 27, 2007.

  1. Jonathan Walford

    Jonathan Walford New Member

    Hi, I just joined your group, and I am hoping you can help me with my dilemna.
    My mother who was 'into' dancing when she was young referred to the dancing style she did during the war as 'jitterbugging'. However, it seems this is a term that is not used universally. Lindy Hopping seems to be more used, and of course some people just refer to everything from then as 'Swing dancing'.

    Has there been a definition of what was being danced at the time and what it is called? I never seem to get a definitive answer from anyone I ask and I haven't found a consistant answer in any online sites or books that I have come across. Having danced myself during the 70s, I always referred to the dance collectively as 'disco' but with various steps or dances withing that larger category such as Latin Hustle, etc. Is it similar in the 40s and Swing is the collective and Lindy and Jitterbug are dances???

  2. waltzgirl

    waltzgirl Active Member

    Now, "swing" tends to be the overall term covering all the swing dances. Some people still call single time swing "jitterbug."
  3. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    Hiya Jonathan . . . and "WELCOME."

    I can really relate to your questions.

    My Mom was also a Jitterbug dancer (during the war) in New York City, in fact she was a two-time state champ in Jitterbug. She danced with some now famous dancers that are frequently mentioned in the DF.

    I grew up doing the Jitterbug and other dances with her.

    We have some very good swing historians here, so you should get some great answers soon. I believe your last sentence is close . . . Lindy and Jitterbug, as well, as a host of dances.

    Stay tuned for more . . .
  4. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Will give you a brief distinction ( from a war time dancer ) Jitterbug, was an expression applied to the way that people danced to " swing " bands in the states-- this later ( 1940s ) was brought to the UK by the armed forces-- developed in to Jive-- Lindy, named after Charles Lindbergh, and the pre cursor of american style " swing " , is a style still danced today . ( bop, was also a term used )
  5. Jonathan Walford

    Jonathan Walford New Member

    THanks for your input. So I take it then that the terms Swing and Lindy post date the term Jitterbug in regards to dancing to Swing music? I realize Jive and Bop are more 50s terms. However, I am still confused... In the late 1930s and early 1940s the dancing one did to Swing music was called Swing dancing? Jitterbugging? or Lindy Hopping? I realize Europe was behind the States in dance styles as the time.
  6. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    All of those-- just different styles .

    Time lines ,approx-- Lindy 1927/8-- J>B . / Swing -- thirties/ forties-- Jive late forties early fifties, and Bop , fifties .

    And, as usual, the English took a perfectly good dance genre ( swing etc ) and formalised it .
  7. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Cab Calloway had a song and a film using the word Jitterbug in 1935. I'm not sure of the date of the "first" use of the term Lindy Hop, but there is agreement that the dance and the term came out of Harlem.

    The terms Lindy and Jitterbug were / are used with almost equal frequency by Life magazine from the mid 1930s through the end of the 1950s. I just checked this on a site that sells those issues and has an index of the article. (Life was a very important publication at one time here in the US.)

    This contradicts a popular belief that the term Lindy Hop became less fashionable because Charles Lindberg went to Nazi Germany, got a medal from them, etc. Then, we ended up at war with them.

    Arthur Murray identifies the Lindy Hop as the favorite variety of Jitterbug that was done by young New Yorkers (How To Become a Good Dancer 1947).
    In the 1959 edition of the same book we find the text "Formerly called Jitterbug, Lindy Hop and various other names in different sections of the country, Swing is the newer title." (Lots of people like to slam AM, but the guy actually wrote things down and had them published, so we don't have to rely on hearsay for everything.)

    The kids on American Bandstand in circa 1956 say that their favorite dance was Jitterbug. They were dancing to early rock n roll. (The History of American Bandstand (1985))

    The "Swing Revival" was responsible for the reemergence of that particular style call Lindy Hop. Along with newly labeled Hollywood Style, etc.
  8. LindyKeya

    LindyKeya Member

    My understanding was that Jitterbug was more of a common term for all of what we now call "Swing" dancing. The term Lindy may pre-date the other terms, but Joe MiddleAged Public, if he ever saw young people "swing dancing," probably said they were "Jitterbugging," until that was replaced with "Swing." (He probably also had some comments about that "horrible music.") Many people who were young in the 50's refer to all swing dances as "Jitterbug," although they seem to really be meaning ECS, particularly if they claim to have done it back in the 50's.

    (I think we get the same thing now, really, and we just give more credit for accuracy to the older generation. Think about the average person who goes "swing dancing" a few times with their friends, and maybe takes a few lessons. It's a fun, kind of trendy thing to do, but most of those people don't take serious lessons, or dance much at all. I think the same thing probably happened in the 50's. 20 years from now, these kids will say "Oh, I used to swing dance," and not "Oh, I used to do ECS/WCS/Lindy." )

    I would consider Lindy-hop a more specialized term, used by the people who did the dance, and others who actually cared (or were trying to sound hip), while swing/jitterbug were used more generally. (Think how your average person thinks of ballroom (well, maybe not now, but 5 years ago) -- Foxtrot, Waltz, whatever all equal "Ballroom" to some people.)

    Besides Lindy, and ECS, you also had emerging forms of Jive, Bop, Boogie Woogie, several Shags, Balboa, etc.
  9. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    That depends on where one was raised-- in the UK in the late forties early fifties, we called it " Bop ". It transitioned, very quickly, in the ballroom world, to the term , Jive , as I was frequently reminded, by my teachers ! .

    Swing is a very generic term, and should be broken down into its " parts " . The type and style of music, as in most dance developement, determines, by and large, the " form " of the dance .

    And by the way-- " behind in dance STYLES ??? " , I do believe WE were the ones who created the type of Jive we see today, from the other dances in the genre .
    Not to mention, the world wide impact that was made ,in the current forms of Ballroom and Latin-- for better or for worse .

    And to make a blanket statement, about dance, one should always, again, define the area, in to which you are refering .
  10. DennisBeach

    DennisBeach New Member

    You are correct, swing is now normally used to refer to a category of dances, although people doing a specific form of swing, tend to refer to that as swing dancing. West Coast swing dances are normally called West Coast Swing, but other forms of swing frequently advertise their dances as swing, rather than Lindy Hop, east coast, single time etc.. At least it is that way in my area.
  11. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Not exactly the same topic, but I am really interested in everyone's reaction to this quote by Louis Armstrong.
    I've been reading W. C. Handy's ("the Father of the Blues") autobiography, and this just blows me away.

    Louis Armstrong shared a different version of the history of swing during a nationwide broadcast of the Bing Crosby (radio) Show. Crosby said, "We have as our guest the master of swing and I'm going to get him to tell you what swing music is." He asked Louis to explain it. Louis said, "Ah, swing, well, we used to call it ragtime, then blues-then jazz. Now, it's swing. Ha! Ha! White folks yo'all sho is a mess. Ha! Ha! Swing!"

    Father of the Blues by William Christopher Handy. 1941 MacMillan page 292

    Any comments?
  12. bjp22tango

    bjp22tango Active Member

    Not so in our area.

    The Portland West Coast Swing clubs official name is Portland Swing Dance Club. It was around before the renaissance of Lindy Hop so you really can't blame them for not specifying the type of swing they do.

    The Portland Lindy Society is for Lindy Hop/East Coast Swing.
  13. bjp22tango

    bjp22tango Active Member

    Well, dipping my toe into a potential mine field because I'm whiter than Snow White:

    I think he is just saying that what you called the music wasn't as important as doing the music, that the music spoke for itself, but that "White folks" always had to categorize stuff. (As modern music moguls do to most listeners detriment, I think)

    I think it's along the same lines of the "what do you call this kind of swing dance" debate.

    Now, in the case of dance, it is fairly important that we know why swing "swings" because, as dancers, it definitely has a different "swingy" feeling from ragged or Ragtime music and Blues and Jazz.

    As soon as you put a name to something, the most minor deviation from that "something" will cause a new name to be created.

    But maybe it was irritating to the musicians do be playing a different "style" of music each week based on what "white folks" sold the public.
  14. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Now let me get this right.. HE said WE used to call it, etc, etc ?

    So then in essence, were THEY not re defining the name as the music changed ?.. or... do I detect a resentment that the paradigm was not of their making .

    If we are talking " roots ", then yes , we probably would have no dissention... but like a tree, it has branches and all the branches look slightly different .
    Definitions do not always define an absolute .
  15. Alias

    Alias Member

    About the "Swing" or "swing" terminology:

    I make a difference between "Swing" and "swing".


    Swing music refers (according to Jazz music history) to a specific kind of music that was played in the 1930s, Jazz music that was played in the 1930s by Big Bands, one may talk about the Swing era (sorry for the simplification).

    Then given a music genre or a piece of music, one may ask the question "does this music swing?", this may refer to a music technical definition, this may refer to a feeling you have while listening to the music (and then you may try to technically analyse the music to find why), and for dancers this may also refer to feeling something in the music that would translate in something in the dancing (these "something" being a bit subtle, a kind of quality ...).

    Music and Dance:

    As a dancer I would not specifically target the Swing music, but "dancing Jazz music" (Jazz music was tuned for dancing, but then exploration of new ways in Jazz music led to something not that much suited to dance a priori), in fact I like to dance to New Orleans or Dixieland Jazz music.

    Among the dancers, when some talk about "Swing music" do they always specifically think of "Swing music" or do they also include some other "dancing Jazz music"?

    It is a mistake anyway to qualify music that for instance "West Coast Swing" dancers dance on as "Swing music" or "swing music" or "swing", because it seems that usually they don't dance to Swing music (or Jazz music) nowadays, and there doesn't seem to be a specific music genre associated to WCS (the kind of music may change over time).


    There are a bunch of related dances via history and structure, knowing more about how they were named can be helpful to understand testimonies from the past (from old people or from writings), and nowadays when communicating over the world through the World Wide Web - and then being aware of dances outside our local town or country - it is useful to take them into account and not use ambiguous or misleading names.

    More on "Swing" in dance names later (maybe).
  16. ginsu

    ginsu New Member


    Its my understanding that Jitterbug was a regional african american dance from Detroit. Look up Detroit sources for more information on the dance. they take it very seriously.


    The dance never died in getos of Detroit. It's now called "Jit" "jitten" "Jitting" .

    look up "detroit jit" on youtube. its now a solo dance done to techno. And its incorperated many funk/popping moves. But they still count it in 6. And any swing dancer will recognize the steps.
  17. pruthe

    pruthe Member

    Thanks for comments on Jitterbug. I'm also familiar with Detroit Hustle which is variant of syncopated 3 count Disco Hustle. Looks like Detroit is another city of dance history. Welcome to Dance Forums.

  18. d nice

    d nice New Member

    The Lindy Hop was the first "popular" name to Swing Dancing. Jitterbug used to be a derogatory term which eventually was embraced by the dancers and worn like a badge of honor. The Lindy Hop was a specific dance, Jitterbug was synonymous with Swing Dancing and rather than referring to a specific dance or step referred to the freestyle/improvisational approach and use of all the dances.

    Steve... the amount of books written by dancers and academics about the dances is wider than you think. Arthur Murray is merely one source, and not the most researched or informed one at that.
  19. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Quite true d nice.
  20. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Hey, d, I started with Murray because several web sites stated that he and his studios were involved with early West Cast Swing. Some of the things I read were out right wrong, and were not written in the Murray books, as the web sites stated.

    When I started, I had no intention of spending so much time on dance and music history. I've looked at dozens of books now (some of which were ones you mentioned in a PM), with WCS being only one of a number of dances I've been checking out. When I come across something that is "out of the ordinary", that I think others may find interesting, I post it here to see what others think.

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