The Origins of Swing Dancing


Well-Known Member
It is generally accepted that swing came from out of Harlem in the 1920's or 30's, but I thought that I read somewhere that it's very beginnings were in the deep south among the African American population who brought it with them during migration to the north to areas such as NYC. :?:
That depends on what you mean by "come out of".

The first known Swing Dance was the Texas Tommy Swing which was developed in San Francisco. Whether it was created there or not, is unknown.

As much as New Yorkers like to think they are the center of the universe, they are not the alpha and omega of all things hip (or should I say hep ;)). Blacks migrated from the South moving out West and North. Harlem was the proving grounds of jazz and jazz dance, its unique culture and environment took existing arts to new heights... this was generally refered to as the Harlem Renaissance. The steps that eventually became the first swing dance certainly owe their geographic birth to the South, where slaves from many African Tribes were thrown together. Steps were shared and altered.

The Texas Tommy was imported to NYC. The Breakaway in this dance was used in the Charelston of the twenties, giving rise to a dance known as uniquely enough "the Breakaway". There is also anecdotal evidence (interestingly enough the spoken word of a person is considered one of the least accurate and therefor worse forms of verification in historical research) of the dance transitioning to something called the hop, which with some innovations became the dance George Snowden named the Lindy Hop.


Well-Known Member
I was under the impression that swing developed along side blues. Makes sense since that is one of the best forms of music for dancing swing. :wink:
Not exactly. Blues developed out of the African work and religious chants (what evolved into gospel). Jazz was an offshoot of that, which turned into Swing (note capitol "S") in the mid to late twenties.

Dance Ads