Swing Dances and Swing Dances

pygmalion

Well-Known Member
#1
This finally partially clicked for me yesterday, so I figured I'd start a thread on it today.

In the U.S., ballroom and otherwise, there are a ton of so-called swing dances -- you know, ECS, WCS, bop, shag, lindy, balboa.

But if you talk about swing dances in Europe, chances are people will think of waltz or foxtrot.

So question. What do the two have in common? What makes a swing dance, of either description, swing?

Hint:

DanceUniverse said:
1. Swinging Motion: The action of swinging the body weight from foot to foot as though suspended from an anchor point high above, like a pendulum.

Pendulum Motion: Movement of the body or part of the body which emulates the swinging action of a pendulum: A lower portion of the body travels at a faster rate of speed than a portion of the body above.

Leg Swing: A pendulum-type swinging action of the leg underneath the hip.

Body Swing: A pendulum-type swinging action of the body.

Body Flight: The natural release of body weight from a swinging action. Body Flight is found in the ballroom swing dances.

2. Metronomic Motion: Movement of the body or part of the body which emulates the swinging action of a metronome: An upper portion of the body travels at a faster rate of speed than a portion of the body below.
 

suek

New Member
#2
pygmalion said:
This finally partially clicked for me yesterday, so I figured I'd start a thread on it today.

In the U.S., ballroom and otherwise, there are a ton of so-called swing dances -- you know, ECS, WCS, bop, shag, lindy, balboa.

But if you talk about swing dances in Europe, chances are people will think of waltz or foxtrot.
Sigh. I wish those ballroom-ers would leave our terminology alone! I cringe when I hear the word "Swing" used to describe "sway." Sorry, I don't have time to sugarcoat this opinion. (see previous post about thinning populations...speaking of thinning, my waist measurement starts with a "2" for the first time in nearly forever. YES!).

In my world, Swing is bounce, it's into the ground. Not just up and down like a pogo stick, but into the ground and in lateral motion at the same time. Ballroom swing has NOTHING to do with the ground and everything to do with swaying like a sapling in the breeze. There I've said it. That's it I'm done.
 

pygmalion

Well-Known Member
#3
Sorry, sue, but ballroomers had the terminology first. And basically anywhere in the world other than the US, swing means waltz or foxtrot. But there are good reasons why both types of dances are called "swing" dances. Because they both physically do swing. *shrug* sorry about stealing your terms. :) 8)
 
#4
Also worth keeping in mind is that jazz based swing (lindy etc.) did not originate in europe but in the U.S. and less than a hundred years ago-- fairly young compaired to these European dances I'd imagine (please correct me if I'm wrong)

It sorta makes sense that european terminology has not been greatly effected.
 

pygmalion

Well-Known Member
#6
This isn't the article I was thinking of, but it's a place to start in talking about swing versus swing. This one is about learning to "swing" properly in standard dances (such as ballroom waltz, foztrot, V. waltz, quickstep, etc.)

Dance Max said:
Dancemax Letter # 24, Thursday Nov 9, 2000



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Dancing Tid-bits
Swinging Correctly

From: shider@home.com (Sandy Hider)
To: Dancemax@aol.com


Hi, I have run across your Tib-bits on www.dancesport.uk.com and I love them. I was wondering if you would talk about two concepts that I am having trouble with.

1) What is Light and Shade? I have seen this mentioned a few times

2) How to work on Swinging correctly in the Standard Dances? I just can't seem to figure out how to use the supporting foot longer and keep my hips over my legs. I've spent many a private lesson on this subject.

Thanks and keep up the good work!

Sandy from Maryland, USA

We covered the first of Sandy's questions in our last letter and this time we will discuss SWING:

Definition: Dictionary defines Swing as, "To move freely to and from specially in suspension from an overhead support." I would assume that all of us have experienced what swing is as little children swinging in a tire attached to a rope hanging from a tree or maybe another sophisticated chain link swing in a public park. If I remember correctly, we started from a down position going up and then down again adding a little body inertia each time we went up. I wish I had learned it from my cousin then, who was so much better at it, it might have helped my Waltz now.

Swing naturally adds joy to Life. So how does this concept apply in dancing? We must have 2 elements to create more swing.
A fulcrum point
Body inertia and momentum
I believe the supporting foot and its vertical axis provides the fulcrum and the opposite hip, leg and body provide the necessary inertia. It seems then, it is quite obvious that if we do not stabilize our supporting foot, the movement will become jerky and wobbly. On the other hand if we use the supporting foot as a good fulcrum, and use the music to it's maximum allowed time, the dance will become smooth and more enjoyable. More the inertia, more the swing and thus more rise and fall. This will give longer steps, better lines and so on and so forth. How we do that? I would think that requires a session with your good knowledgeable teacher or coach. I would make only the following comments:

How to use your supporting foot longer? I remember Mr. Richard Gleave saying that this was the most difficult thing for him to master in his early training, when his coach would say "You haven't gotten your weight on your feet." There are many ingenious methods for this training such as dividing the beats into subparts such as 1&, 2& and so on and analyzing what happens when? We will not go into that here. A simple way perhaps could also be to count and feel the music in syllables, such as count 2 beats (slow) as "slow-lee" and in waltz count and feel "One, Twoooo Three." Once you are comfortable with the dance, give priority to Timing, Musicality and Posture of course, other things will come together naturally.

The feeling and action of swing is common to many sports including the Swinging of a Cricket or Baseball bat, Tiger Wood's swing of a #9 Iron or Swinging of a Tennis racket. All have a fulcrum and an Arc.

In USA when you mention Swing, we commonly interpret it as Swing Dance. However with recent interest in the English Style of Dancing (English or International whatever you may call it), the concept of Swing is becoming more and more understandable. In Waltz, Fox-trot, Quickstep and V.W. like the song says "it don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing." This is beginning to make more sense.

When it comes to upswing and down swing, it is simple and I can understand that, but when they start to talk all other mambo-jambo like "metronomic swing from here to here" and now "pendular swing from here to there" or this swing and that swing, I get confused. Please dont take me wrong I am not saying that it is wrong, but to analyze too much is like trying to fix something to the point that you break it. Again "Swing is a Feeling and Desire to dance well" and this then becomes translated into mechanics of Swing dances (Waltz, Slow fox-trot, Quickstep and Viennese Waltz). Whether the swing goes more up and down as in Waltz, or travels more distance as in the glide of Slow Fox-trot, or a stretched out Viennese Waltz, the concept is the same. And of course there is the swing of Quickstep in between, but certainly there is no feeling of swing in Tango. I would think there are swinging movements in Latin which have their own characteristics.

Now again, don't take a big bite right away. Get it little by little otherwise just like a little child you might get scared and panic and fall if you push beyond your limits. First "Think and Feel the Swing" and then put it to work.

I must add that I write these letters as a commoner and do not claim to be a world class coach or champion. It doesn't mean that you and I (the social dancer) have to be afraid to express our views. best wishes...Max

Last Question: Did you vote for Bush or Gore?.....or Pat Buchanan

Questions and comments to Dancemax@aol.com, thank you.
 

pygmalion

Well-Known Member
#7
More on swing. Don't mean to beat this one to death, but I can be really pigheaded when I get onto a topic. According to this article, a group of the world's top standard coaches identified swing as the most important feature of waltz.

DanceMax said:
"Dancing Tid-bits" Issue #85, Thursday, Jan 17, 2002



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Dancing Tid-bits
Waltz: A lesson with Pierre Allaire

A few weeks ago I told you who Pierre Allaire is, the Canadian legend of ballroom and Latin dancing with his wife and partner Mereleux, the 10 dance star of North America. I like him as a coach/teacher because whatever he says, I can understand and do. Nothing seems to be too controversial and out of this world.

He started his group lesson by telling us about a conference in Holland that he attended or knew about in which were present almost all the world class coaches. The panel of these experts was asked the following question.

Question: What is the most important feature of the modern day Waltz? The consensus was in the following answer.

1. The Swing: Actually it is hard to remember how he exactly explained the swing, so I will just quote from Dancing Tid-bits #16 that I wrote several months ago.

"Rise and Fall is an important aspect of Swing Dances. Swing Dances are Waltz, Slow Foxtrot and Quick step, and Viennese Waltz of course. We will base our discussion on Basic Waltz today. The term Swing Dance could be a little confusing to American dancers because we relate this to Swing Dance, like Jive. Actually when I heard this term for the first time I didn't know what exactly it meant. Then it got so complicated with terms like metronomic swing, pendular swing, upswing, downswing, that I thought it was about time to make some sense out of it. So I started teaching swing as a simple "Feeling" thing rather than a mechanical motion. You have heard "Less is more." So, with beginner students, first I will just walk the steps and tell them, this is "one way we can dance." Actually then I say "we are really not dancing, we are just walking the steps." Now I get them in a little mood and start swinging... "Come on Swing a little, like this." Steps get a little longer and I tell them to do a little "waltzing," up and down and they really start to swing and dance."

Do we swing our legs, hips or bodies? You will get different answers from different people, so I play safe and say that a little of everything. I wont say that I swing my spine. By now I hope you know what is the difference between just walking the steps like forward, side, together and swinging the steps to create waltz.

I dont know whether Swing creates Rise and Fall or vice versa. It's like asking, chicken or the egg first? You tell me. This I must say, you have to go down before you go up.
 

Sagitta

Well-Known Member
#8
It is so often said if you can walk you can dance. It is good to also hear what makes the two different, the swing. I still don't fully get it, but I guess you see someone walking, you someone dancing waltz/foxtrot...and part of what make different is the swing. [shrug]

I actually got a little confused by this when I started learning to dance as I associated swing with swing dance. Now I'm getting more comfortable hearing the term as a descriptor of ballroom dance.

A question is hip hop a swinging dance? zydeco? contra?...
 

pygmalion

Well-Known Member
#9
I know zero about zydeco and contra dance, so maybe someone else will answer.

But as far as walking and dancing, here's my take. Waltz, and especially foxtrot, at the beginning stages, are very much like walking. If you can walk, you can definitely do those. The "swinging", so to speak, starts when you get to a little higher level, and start using your feet and legs to power your dancing, as well as adding your body to the equation. That's the transition I'm trying to make now. Moving from walking to dancing.

If you want to see the swing, Sagitta, check out some videos of high level smooth dancers doing virtually any dance. You will see swing, big time.
 

pygmalion

Well-Known Member
#10
Hmm. Somehow, this thread is not going where I intended it to. What I was hoping we could talk about is the physical movements that constitute swing, whether it be one swing or the other swing. What is the commonality?

On the other hand, feel free to discuss whatever you like. It's a free forum. :wink: :D
 
#11
pygmalion said:
And basically anywhere in the world other than the US, swing means waltz or foxtrot.
That will come as rather a surprise to members of the (just to pick a few examples) London, Toronto, Tokyo, Swiss, Edinburgh, Perth, Moscow, North Wales, and Swedish Swing Dance Societies. If you're going to make absolutist claims like this, please back them up with some objective statistics.
 

pygmalion

Well-Known Member
#12
You left out Poland, Australia, UK, a few Asian countries, and quite a few others.

You're right, jon. I should have said that in ballroom communities around the world, except the US, swing means waltz, foxtrot, Viennese waltz, and quickstep.

I try to avoid absolutist claims entirely, since we all have perspectives that deserve to be treated with respect . 8) :D
 

SDsalsaguy

Administrator
Staff member
#15
Swing Kitten said:
Does the music swing for a foxtrot? It certainly does for lindy.
I'll leave this to our resident experts to answer more fully (oh Damon, where are you? :wink:). I'll just say that at many of the ballroom events I've been to the same song often has couples both doing swing dances (your version) in the center of the room while other couples are doing foxtrot around the periphery.
 
#16
I don't know much about foxtrot... can you lindy and waltz to the same music?

my point is that in the swing dances I know and love the movement is based on a bouce (into the floor of course ;) ) and not much of a side to side swinging movement... it's the music that 'swings'

Often it seems that dances are named after the type of music they were developed for. So doesn't make sense that the dance developed for/with swing music be called swing?



I'm not a historian
 

Sagitta

Well-Known Member
#17
SDsalsaguy said:
I'll just say that at many of the ballroom events I've been to the same song often has couples both doing swing dances (your version) in the center of the room while other couples are doing foxtrot around the periphery.
One of my instructors told me that if it is a slow swing song you can foxtrot to it!! She is pretty good at lindy,ecs and wcs so I guess she knows enough to say something like that! Not many people up for it where I am though! Usually people come to swing events to swing and not to do foxtrot!! :shock:
 

suek

New Member
#18
Sagitta said:
SDsalsaguy said:
I'll just say that at many of the ballroom events I've been to the same song often has couples both doing swing dances (your version) in the center of the room while other couples are doing foxtrot around the periphery.
One of my instructors told me that if it is a slow swing song you can foxtrot to it!! She is pretty good at lindy,ecs and wcs so I guess she knows enough to say something like that! Not many people up for it where I am though! Usually people come to swing events to swing and not to do foxtrot!! :shock:
And to add to the mix, there's a dance called Swing Walk or Savoy Walk that encompasses ballroom moves (fox trot basic, box step, promenades) with close Balboa embrace, with a down-into-the-ground bounce and totally ROCKS done to slow swinging jazz. One of my absolute favorites. And again, there's 1.5 leads here in Sacramento with whom I can dance it. Oh well, that's 1.5 more than none at all.
 
#19
The word swing in Europe even in ballroom communities does not mean any dance other than swing dance (Boogie Woogie, Jive, Rock and Roll, LeRoc, CeRoc, etc). Now if you ask a European ballroom dancer to describe swing they will probably describe exactly what Jen is talking about... th emotion used in smooth ballroom dances.

As to whether this is correct or not... I'd actually tend to say no. They talk about swing body parts and fulcrums, but in reality what they are doing bears no true resembalance to any of the physics in their anolgies about tennis rackets, golf clubs, or swing sets.

What they are actually describing is a relaxed propulsion where the body is moved through tensing and relaxing of muscles which cause a sway in the body and the end result is a swinging leg.

Now them choosing to use the word swing to describe this is certainly acceptable in their world, though if you really want to talk about body mechanics and physics different words really need to be used (in order to minimize misunderstandings and to most accurately portray the use of momentum energy (both kinetic and potential) friction, time, distance, etc. etc.



Now to SK's question classic fox trot songs are Jazz, Sweet, Hot, or Swing and therefor they all swing to a greater or lesser degree... but the rhythm behind them does not necessarily fit the needs of a song to dance Swing to.

A lot of ballorrom dances I have gone to go by "strict tempo" which seems (and Jen or anyone else please correct me if I've got this wrong) to mean that the required rhythm is present (ex. the cha-cha rhythm bum-bum-cha-cha-cha) while other elements needed for a song to qualify from a musicologists point of view are lacking.

SO while a song may have trhe rhythm to suggest a fox trot, and you may have people on the floor doing the fox trot, it may not be in the style of the classic fox trot songs.
 

pygmalion

Well-Known Member
#20
d nice said:
The word swing in Europe even in ballroom communities does not mean any dance other than swing dance (Boogie Woogie, Jive, Rock and Roll, LeRoc, CeRoc, etc).

Don't want to argue over semantics here, dnice, but this is not correct. The standard dances, except tango, are described in the ballroom world as the swing dances, which does cause some confusion, perhaps. But that's the way it is.

dnice said:
What they are actually describing is a relaxed propulsion where the body is moved through tensing and relaxing of muscles which cause a sway in the body and the end result is a swinging leg.
This is interesting, because swing and sway in the ballroom world are two separate concepts. I like your description -- relaxed propulsion. Gotta use that. It would be nice if we could get one or two of our ballroom experts to weigh in on the swing versus sway concepts -- they are connected to each other, but they're not the same. Unfortunately, the technique is still just beyond my grasp, so I'm able to see the difference on a video, but not able to explain. Maybe a ballroom technique expert willl comment.


dnice said:
SO while a song may have the rhythm to suggest a fox trot, and you may have people on the floor doing the fox trot, it may not be in the style of the classic fox trot songs.
I'll have to try to find a couple examples of these hybrid songs SD referred to, because I've heard quite a few which do have people swinging in the middle of the floor and foxtrotters all around the edge. Would be interesting to get a look at the sheet music. :?
 

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