Well-Known Member
Just what is meant by Jitterbug?

Now, I've been told that it refers to single time swing and I'm also told that it is triple time; all depends on who I talk to.

Could it be a term referring to swing dancing in general and not one specific style? I think I've heard this as well.
I think the Jitterbug refers to wild swing dancers who do aerials and tricks. Back in the old days some clubs would post signs that said "no jitterbugging allowed". So I would say the term Jitterbug has nothing to do with the actual step pattern--it has to do with aerials and such.
The meaning of "jitterbug"

According to Raper's Swing Dance Corner
What is Jitterbug?
It seems as though everyone you talk to has an answer such as Lindy Hop, East Coast Swing, Jive, or other of the Swing Dances. It depends on who you are talking to as to their definition of Jitterbug. The term Jitterbug was created in the 1930s. The people dancing to swing music were referred to as Jitterbugs - no matter what dance they were doing. Therefore, I rarely use the term Jitterbug. If I do, I am referring to Lindy Hop or am referring to all of the Swing Dances in general.


I mostly agree with Leon on the definition, it is a name that has reached across so many stages of swing dancing history.

The name itself existed much earlier than 1930 however, although it wasn't related to dance. The most favored explaination by historians is that a "jitter bug" refered to one who was drunk / acting drunk / often drunk. This name was most likely applied first in distaste for the dance, to many white Americans the black dancers seemed to shake and move like someone who had little bodily control, as opposed to the 'main stream' dances of the early 1900's. Like most named used (like the term "hippy") it came to be embraced by those it was used on. When, exactly, it was first used or accepted is hard to nail.

As swing dancing spread across the country, whether you asked for a "Lindy Hop" of a "Jitterbug" depended largely on geographic location.

For instance, in New York you would commonly approach a partner and ask if they "want to Lindy Hop". In Pittsburgh of the 1930's, you would ask if they cared "to Jitterbug".

As time went on and the dance changed to match the musical changes, the name was carried over by dancers to what they were doing, and used varingly. Today, it's useage normally depends again on location, and you will hear it referenced to either "single" or "triple step swing", as they're also called. But it's never used in relation to Lindy Hop anymore.

Jitterbug isn't used to refer specifically to Lindy Hop anymore by the mainstream crowd of Lindy Hoppers. My aunt, who lived in Memphis and Harlem (four months out of the year for work) calls it jitterbug, even though she was a regular dancer at the Savoy.

When I say Jittebug I tend to me a non-ballroom form of triple count swing (oddly enough I just got home from teaching both Jitterbug and Chicago Steppin') which aesthetically is very similar to lindy hop but six count dominant.

Steve Pastor

Staff member
Recent addition to the talk page of the jitterbug article in wikipedia

No Such Dance [edit]

In Herräng, during one of his talks at the Föreningen Folkets Hus, Frankie Manning mentioned that there was no such dance as the Jitterbug. I do not have a source for the citation, aside from being present when he said it. His words, however, are supported by Al Minns, who was asked about the definition in the following video (2:50):

Interviewer: "Tell me, what what's the jitterbug?"

Al Minns: "... we called people who just jump on the floor without any knowledge of what they were doing and go mad with the drums and what not ... and shakin' their heads and ... jumpin' up and down without any control ... are what we call jitterbugs."

Norma: (Miller)

Now, from what the story I
get, when Benny Goodman was playing the Paramount Theater, and the kids
got up and started dancing in the isles and everything, I understand that he
was the one that said they looked like a bunch of jitterbugs. And I heard that
was how the phrase got, 'cause we were Lindy Hoppers. We didn't get the
jitterbug phrase until afterwards, when, 'til the white Bobbysockers did it at
the Paramount Theater. And that's what's, I always had the idea he didn't
want dancers with him. That's competition. Wherein Chick Webb never went
out and didn't have Lindy Hoppers with him.

I just got done looking up some info on "Swingin' the Dream" from December 1939. A whole bunch of people, all of whom were were in that production, were billed as "Jitterbug." The "Jitterbug"s included Frank Manning and Norma Miller. Benny Goodman was the musical director, as well as a performer.

My point? I guess the Lindy Hoppers didn't mind so much being jitterbugs back then. And I guess Benny Goodman didn't mind having Lindy Hoppers aka jitterbugs so much.
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Well-Known Member
My Mom, who was a teen in the' 40s, taught me the jitterbug when i was very young and I watched as she danced it at some family functions. From what I remember, it was triple count ECS with a lot of pulling away and back in.


Well-Known Member
My Mom, who was a teen in the' 40s, taught me the jitterbug when i was very young and I watched as she danced it at some family functions. From what I remember, it was triple count ECS with a lot of pulling away and back in.
In the UK ( in the same time period ) we never used triple time .

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