Swing dancing is a very famous collection of dance forms that originated in the years 1920s to 1940s. This was also known as the infamous swing era. During this time hundreds of new dance forms under the swing style emerged but only a few could make their mark on society. Swing dance was initially inspired by swing music, which was a type of jazz music that was very prevalent at that time. Swing dances usually include couple-style dance forms. With each new generation that came up since the 1920s, a new form of swing dance began.
The Charleston and the Lindy Hop were the two earliest forms of swing dances that emerged. The African American community has had a very big role in the invention of these dance forms. Jazz was the music these dance forms were performed to. In the year 1926, the Savoy Ballroom in New York was inaugurated and opened for the local public to visit . This ballroom was well built and had all modern architecture, which made it an instant success in no time. As its popularity increased, more and more famous dancers got attracted to it and started visiting it, and since the music that played in the ballroom was mostly swing jazz, people starting creating new steps and this emerged into a dance form.
One day a local dance enthusiast was watching a few couples dance. There were a few newspaper reporters that asked him about the dance form these people were doing. He did not have any idea about the name of the dance form, and made it up by reading the headlines of the newspaper that was on the bench next to him. The newspaper headline read “Lindy Hops The Atlantic”. He caught the name ‘Lindy Hop’ and told the reporter that the dance form was called the Lindy Hop. This name stuck and a new dance form emerged.
Later in the 1930’s, a new six-beat variant of the swing dance emerged, which was called the Jitterbug. These two dance forms became very famous, and more and more people started dancing to the swing music following these dance forms.
With time the dancers started mixing in other dance forms such as tap and jazz into the dance. This made an even better amalgamation.
The head bouncer at the Savoy Ballroom, Herbert White, later formed this group named ‘Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers,’ which was the first Lindy Hop dance group to have ever existed. The group gained immense popularity and started performing in the theaters worldwide and also in the movies.
The next big step in the evolution of swing dance came when a dancer at the Savoy Ballroom, Dean Collins, won the award for Dancer of the Year at the age of 18. He went to Los Angeles and started teaching the Lindy Hop, with the incorporation of his own steps. He even won numerous dance shows with his style of dancing. He became a very famous choreographer and taught many dancers, dance teachers and even the movie stars in L.A.
Although the Lindy Hop and its variants were becoming increasingly popular with the public, elite dancing schools looked down upon it. It was called as a ‘degenerated form of jazz’ and people predicted that it would not last to see the end of the century. It was also considered vulgar and sexual by the older generation. In Germany the swing music and dance forms were banned. Even after such prohibitions, people somehow found a way around them and still kept listening to the music and watching the dances.
Until the 1940’s dance schools in New York did not consider the different variations of dance forms as real dance forms. They had more interest in teaching foreign dance forms like the Tango, Paso Doble, Samba, Mambo, Chacha and Waltz.
The revolution came when in the early 1940’s a group of studios headed by Arthur Murray asked their teachers to teach the dance forms that were being performed on the streets of the city. There were different forms of swing taught in each city by the Murray studios.
In 1950s the proper dance notes or the swing dancing forms were formed and the dance form was officially established. Ever since then the form was being taught in many schools and the forms like Ballroom East coast Swing and Ballroom West coast swing dance emerged.