Swing Population Thinning?

De'ja' Vu,
In the 1950's, Swing in New York City died in the womb where it was born, nourished and finally abandoned for the new more virile Mambo. Today Swing is going down the same drain pipe, because it is being abandoned for the new more virile Salsa. Just compare the Salsa dance population with the Swing dance population in Southern California today in 2003. I lived through this same 'Devolution of Swing' in New York City in the 1950's that is taking place here in Southern California in the 2010's.
I wrote a commentary on this subject some six months ago and the Swing population was diminishibg significantly then. The problem is worsening, and one Venue host answered my question, "Why is the Swing population thinning out?" The answer was significant, "I don't know, but I'm not hanging around to find out!" So one of the most popular Venues closes down this month with another one hosting only twenty couples on a Friday night is hanging on by the teeth.
So what's my point? Am I just another 'Doomsday' reporter?
Swing dancing along with other Ballroom Dances have saved my sanity, given me an improved physical health, cured my shyness, opened up an outrageous social life, and even after 80 years dancing continues to give me benefits that no medicine, doctors or money could give me. So when I have some erudite suggestions to help this ailing American Cultural Art form that has benefited the World at large, I want to share them with the hope my suggestions take root and help bring back Swing to the front burner of social life.
First let us explore some of the problems, and I do not feel that Salsa' ever growing popularity in Southern California (S.C.), as some commentator wrote a few months back that "Salsa was killing Swing". In the 1950's both Mambo and Swing were equally popular in Hollywood. I was there operating the most successful dance studio in that town, so I speak as a primary source. But what are some of the reasons for the continual 'thinning out' of the dance population here in S.C.? And what steps and strategy can we take to adrenalize this anemic art/sport?
DANCE TEACHERS: There is a serious lack of qualified teachers who are on a daily basis discouraging students rather then inspiring them. When a student pays $5.00 or $50'00 for a lesson, they should at least be able to lead and follow a few dance moves 'ON BEAT, RHYTHMICALLY'. If a person can walk rhythmical, which we a;all do, than they are capable of dancing within one hours lesson be it private or class. If you as a teacher are unable to get them on a dance floor with a variety of dancers, then you do not qualify as a dance teacher. Swing is that easy to learn!
Free dance lessons are a must if you want the Swing/Lindy population to grow. I strongly suggest that the teachers you hire, DO NOT teach complicated, flashy movements or give intimidating demonstrations that discourage beginners. Your Venue teachers should focus on simple basics so the students can enjoy dancing that same night. And hire a half dozen volunteer monitors to continue dancing with 'BEGINNERS' from the class. Forget about the good dancers, You free classes are for bringing in new patrons into your Venue to fill your coffers. It's good business for you that will pay off as the Swing populations grows.
I feel that old experienced teachers are not always the best. Teachers in all fields are subject to 'BURN OUT'. Enthusiasm of new teachers is often more affective in keeping a student focused and interested than fancy smancy moves that experienced teachers present, and then are forgotten when the exit door hits the student in the knat!.
Lastly, I have published my 'SIMPLIFIED SWING' TEACHING METHOD' in two books, but for whatever reasons, my 'Revolutionary System' has not been adapted.

Black Sheep d.lanza@netzero.net
PS Don't forget to vote for the Simplified Swing Magic Pill:
YES, for me to describe the 'Teaching Method' on the Internet!
NO, do not make the Simplified Teaching Method public!

Vince A

Active Member
Swing Diminishing???

I agree that Salsa is on the rise in many venues, but Swing, especially WCS (and Hustle) is also on the rise in the venues that I attend. It's nearly impossible find a 'slot' to dance WCS to at many of the events that I've been to this year - maybe 150 - 200 couples on the floor! However, in the Salsa room, there may be only 5 - 15 couples on the floor at any given time. There used to be only 2 - 5 last year!

On the flip side, I do see more and more at each event attending the Salsa classes, albeit, that's not saying that there are less at the Swing classes. The Swing class has easily 200 people on the floor learning yet "another" pattern. B-O-R-I-N-G!

There have been several movies out in the past few years that focused mainly on Salsa/Latin/Dirty dancing, yet the the last movie on Swing that I can recall at this moment is "Swing Kids." So Salsa is noticed more!

So Swing isn't diminishing, if anything, more and more people are learning the Shag, the Lindy, the ECS, and others, right along with the WCS. I am a prime example. I was getting burnt out of WCS and Hustle, so I took up Salsa group and private lessons. In one class was an instructor who teaches the Lindy and the Shag, but never learned the WCS. Now, we are trading off classes and I attend her classes and take privates from her, and I'm teaching her the WCS.

Diminishing? No!
Spreading our wings? Yes!
I think if the swing tradition is really dying, it's due to a lack of education in some areas. I've met too many people that didn't even know about the existence of swing dancing. I myself thought that it had died out even though I was in to classical dancing until I happened to meet someone who did it as a hobby. If it was offered more and publicized more, then maybe we could get more people "hooked!" :lol:


About 6 years ago when Brian Setzer came out with "Jump, Jive and Wail" and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy came out with their album, the swing I saw people doing at clubs was the simple "Side, side, rock step". It was easy and fun for everybody. Two years later the Swing addicts were dominating the dance floor and doing complex Lindy and WCS patterns. This proved complex and intimidating for the average beginner and there was a decline. Hopefully, there will be a new resurgence that will likely start with the music world.
But while the super snazzy dancers may be intimadating to some beginners they serve as a great source of motivation for others. It's best to have a health mix I'd presume. Essencially the dance needs people to start as well as people to stick with it and maximize their potential to acheive such a mix. I also think that people need to feel that they're not the 'worst' dancer on the floor for very long. I can be discouraging.


Joe has some good points: the ability of the teacher to provide a solid ground-work for the dancers to grow on is essential for the (majority) of first-few-time-out dancers. I see lots of teachers failing to install basic rhythm as the focus of dance, and teaching sloppy technique instead.

I think Swing Kitten also has some good points: Where do those newer dancers want to go? Without a 'goal', they are missing one key element that started the 'revival' to begin with.

DanceMentor also has some points (see a pattern?): Two years ago, there wer enot as many advanced dancers. Two years before that there were even less dancers who were tuely into the music and dance as a lifestyle more than just a fad.

However, I don't think that's a bad thing, in fact it means that the scene is growing, and I wouldn't base the loss of new people on the growth of more advanced dancers. If you have 50 'advanced' people and 100 new in a crowd, or 100 'advanced' and 100 new, I don't see the difference in the view of newer people, except that they'd have a wider viewpoint of possibilities they can watch, dance with and learn from.

Just my thoughts; I would look elsewhere than advanced dancers as a reasoning if one were to say that swing is 'losing it's hold', perhaps even along similar lines. But I'd say it's stronger base of passion since it's first 'era' passed can ensure it lasts for a long, long time once again. However, whether it has the draw of new people to keep as many venues open is a great topic brought up here.

I like the thought you bring up, DanceMentor, about the change in swing becoming a house-hold dance starting with the music first.

Again, just my thoughts :D

Vince A

Active Member
This issue has been around a while . . . proof . . .

"Some folks say That Swing's Not Here To Stay
And That It's Dying Out
But I Can Prove It's In The Groove
And They Don't Know What They're Talking About."
--Marion Hutton 1939 vocal with the Glenn Miller band.
Well we can't really say that it is dying out.

I haven't been in it long enough to really be of any use in detecting patterns of crowd sizes. Also, this is something that could easily vary from location to location. Since one dance scene does not nessesarily reflect all of swing dancing so this would put sole personal experience in the 'not so useful' catagory without representatives form multiple other locations giving their input as well.

Another question, What role does economics play in this? Does dancing carry as much importance in times of posperity? I could see if things aren't going too well finacially for folks that that could cut back on the amount of time they spend dancing... however I can also see how if things aren't going so well for folks that they would need the sort of escape dancing would provide. I'll leave this one to the historians though... I am not adaquately informed in subject.


The Depression Era (circa 1929-1939) and the explosion of Lindy Hop as a dance coincided. Many historians tie them together, as dancing became more than just a casual way to escape issues, but a lifestyle - some would even bring their babies and children into the Savoy, for one example, in the afternoon and stay all day.

But whether someone was 'escaping' or 'wallowing' in the hard times, or looking for jubilant music to fit their mood, jazz and blues music was there for many of them in their homes, on the streets, in the house parties, on the car radios (developed 1929).

That was a large difference, the music infiltration into the cribs and beds of people when they slept, and the awareness of it during the day. Which is why I like DanceMentor's drop about it starting with the music, the other half of the marriage ;)

It very well may not be. Although it would make perfect sense for it to fluctuate.

Also there's the difference between thinning and dying. Am I correct in saying that swing dancing enjoy a popular resurrgance around the same time as the release of Swing Kids? If so, since then hasn't it experienced a decline from that period of hype? Into a healthy scene?

I could be mistaken of course.
the ballroom dance community has actually increased in size and activity since the realease of many updated dance movies and dance related shows on television.
well, swing is considered a ballroom dance. we teach many different types of swing dances at our studio and we show how to social dance to swing...I don't know if that makes it a social ballroom dance or not... :?:
but I would agree that media attention would increase the amount of new comers... it only makes sense... put enough media attention on anything and more people are bound to try it... but especially when it seems people enjoy themselves.
MissAlyssa said:
well, swing is considered a ballroom dance. we teach many different types of swing dances at our studio and we show how to social dance to swing...I don't know if that makes it a social ballroom dance or not... :?:
Depends entirely on ones definitions. I normally consider Swing outside of Ballroom dance though a number of studios teach it. A lot of it has to do with what is focused on. Most Swing dance performances/comp. divisions I've seen I barely recognize the dance. While a number of the moves are similar or even the same the manner in which they are executed is very different from its roots. I personally have no issue with this it's like American Tango to Argentinian Tango. Two different very dances that share the same name. One is not superior over the other (though some people love to argue this) they just appeal to different people for different reasons.

What kind of swing dances do you guys teach at your studio?

I've always kind of thought that the energy/spirit of the dance is what first caused the explosion in the depression, and again during it's "rebirth". The more interesting and exciting the dance and the dance scene, the bigger the crowds.
Ballroom dancing defined

Any dance that involves two people dancing in unison with one leading while the other follows, can be considered a Ballroom dance from the Minuet to the Polka. The fact that there are many styles of Swing dancing with various names does not exclude them as ballroom dances; the character of a unique dance is determined by 1) the music it is danced to (although this can be very flexible), 2) the rhythmic patterns, 3) the mood and 4) the style of the body, leg and foot movements. The Savoy Lindy is the generic of all Swing dances whether they be WCS, ECS, Boogie Woogie, or Joshua's Jive.
The traditional Ballroom dances like Foxtrot, Waltz, Slicker dances, Peabody, Pasadoble', Marengo, Samba, Tango, Shag, Balboa, Bossa Nova, and Swing all fit within these parameters of the definition of Ballroom dances. There are 'borderline' dances like Disco Dancing, the Big Apple which is a series of single step dances, and the Charleston that are done mostly without hand contacts, but If we don't call them SOCIAL Ballroom dances, Who has got a better categorical name for those Borderline dances, and who cares?
Black Sheep, one who does care.

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