Swing is a broad term that applies to a category of both Jazz music and Jazz dance. There are many styles of swing dance, including Lindy Hop (the first partnered swing dance, from the 1930s and ‘40s), Jitterbug, Jive, Balboa, and more.
Things to know...
Lindy Hop is an African-American dance that grew out of the ballrooms in Harlem, New York City in the 1920s and 1930s and originally evolved with the jazz music of that time. Lindy was a fusion of many dances that preceded it or were popular during its development but is mainly based on jazz, tap, breakaway and Charleston. It is frequently described as a jazz dance and is a member of the swing dance family.
In its development, the Lindy Hop combined elements of both partnered and solo dancing by using the movements and improvisation of Black dances along with the formal eight-count structure of European partner dances. This is most clearly illustrated in the Lindy’s basic step, the swingout. In this step’s open position, each dancer is generally connected hand-to-hand; in its closed position, partners are connected as though in a loose embrace.
Frankie Manning (1914-2009) was a dancer, choreographer, and teacher. He fell in love with Lindy hop and the music of swingin’ jazz bands at the Savoy and other ballrooms of Harlem, New York in his teens. And the world fell in love with him when keen and ambitious Lindy hop revivalists of the 1980s sought him out for instruction and inspiration.
It is impossible to overstate his importance to and influence on swing dancers of the current era. Teaching, telling stories, performing, and continuing to social dance up until mere months before his death at age 94 (!), Frankie was a continual beam of light, joy, encouragement, and positivity at events around the world. Thousands of dancers can speak of meeting him at events, learning from him, and hearing his tales of dance, music, and “happy feet.”
Check out the lessons page to determine which class is best for you. Each class page has a link to registration.
If you have never taken a lesson, the Intro to Swing classes are likely best. If you have completed both of those, and you feel confident of the material that was taught, you may be ready for Lindy Hop Essentials program. Some people take one or more series in the Intro to Swing and Lindy Hop Essentials programs more than once. If you’re comfortable with all the material of ITS and LHE, and you go social dancing regularly, the Intermediate classes could be for you. If you have been dancing at an intermediate level for a year or so, The Lab may suit you best. If you are still uncertain, contact us with details of your dance and lessons experience.
Wear comfortable, casual clothes and comfortable shoes with a non-marking sole. Leather-soled or smooth rubber-soled shoes are excellent, as are sneakers without much of a tread.
Check out the links below for dancing in the Vancouver area. A good place to start is Rhythm City Strut on Thursday nights, especially on a band night. View the calendar. The evening starts with the Intro to Swing classes. These are 6-week series and require registration in advance (no drop-ins).
People who enjoy Lindy Hop and related dances are part of a global community. You can meet us in pretty much any major urban centre in Europe and North America, and in many cities in Asia, Oceania, and South America.
Check out the links on these pages for information on the dance, its history, theories on instruction and variations, and much more…
Swing Dance around the world…
Herräng Dance Camp (Sweden)
Savoy Swing Club (Seattle)
Swing Jam Productions (Seattle)
Sugar Swing (Edmonton)
Bees’ Knees Dance (Toronto)
Toronto Lindy Hop
Cat’s Corner (Montréal)
Lindy hop is a partner dance, which means there is a lead and a follow. Anyone can lead, and anyone can follow, and sometimes people do both, and even switch roles in the course of a dance (with the understanding and participation of their current dance partner, of course!).
You do not need to bring a partner to a dance or a class. Most people arrive at a dance without a partner, though they may arrive with friends. If there is a lesson prior to the dance, the teachers will have the students “rotate” periodically, so all follows mix with all leads. Throughout the night, people dance with lots of different people. The greater variety of styles and levels of dancer you mix with, the better your dancing will become.
We advocate rotating in our beginner classes, because it is a helpful learning tool, and because it helps to establish and nurture a community of positive students sharing in a group learning environment.
We have run classes in the past that offer the option to stay with one partner, but we found that students did not learn as well, and those students who chose not to rotate were less likely to come out dancing and join our social dance scene. Our priority is a community of Swing dancers who mix, mingle, and participate in a joyful dance scene.
If you are willing to take a chance, we bet you will enjoy the classes in rotation, and will find that each of you (you and your partner) are better dancers than when you rotated away from each other!
To a dance: It depends on the theme of the night. Generally, people dress pretty casually when they go out dancing these days, but you will find a wide range of apparel, from jeans and t-shirts to historically accurate dresses, suits, and hairdos. If there is a band, people are more likely to dress up. Regardless of what you wear, you should bring at least one change of shirt, because it’s easy to get sweaty at a dance, and you don’t want to share that with your partner. Wear deodorant (but avoid scents, colognes, and perfumes), bring gum or mints, and change your shirt if it is noticeably damp on the outside. Shoes should be comfortable and allow you to pivot or swivel your foot without sticking to the floor. If you’re just starting out, you should stay away from high heels for now. Low-tread and non-marking sneakers are perfect. Hard rubber-soled and suede or leather-soled dress shoes are also great, but may be slippery on some floors.
Jazz music that swings.
That can be a difficult thing to define, so here are some examples:
Big Bands: Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Buddy Johnson, Lucky Millinder, Chick Webb (where young Ella Fitzgerald got her start), Benny Goodman, Jimmie Lunceford, Cab Calloway, Erskine Hawkins (and many more). A good place to start if you want to go searching is “Savoy House Bands.”
Smaller groups are also great: Check out Cats and the Fiddle, Lionel Hampton, Sidney Bechet, Louis Armstrong, Bunny Berigan, Fats Waller, Slim Gaillard, Woody Herman, and the legendary Billie Holiday.
Modern bands who do a great job of playing jazz with the energy of the swing era include Falty & The Defects, Naomi & Her Handsome Devils, The Careless Lovers, Gordon Webster, Glen Crytzer’s Syncopators, Jonathan Stout, The Solomon Douglas Swingtet, George Gee, Stompy Jones, Tuba Skinny, Meschiya Lake & The Little Big Horns, The Loose Marbles, and, locally, The Jen Hodge All Stars, Slipped Disc, The Rossi Gang, The Rugcutter Jazz Band, Blackstick, and The Brothers Arntzen Band.
Start here: this short video demonstrates Lindy hop and briefly outlines its history.