the late 1930s and early 1940s, only the music was called
"Swing" but the dance paraded under various names.
News reporters called all of the dancers "Jitterbugs". There was no desire and no need for anyone to define what was
being done - it was all just dancing.
styles were emerging from all over the country. They had similarities because they all danced to the same
MUSIC! Music is the key word
here. Dancers have an
instinctive response to sound, tempo, and musical interpretation -
influenced by the social customs, style of dress, and moral code of the
day. Wherever we were - and
whatever we called our dancing - it was compatible from coast to coast!
the years flew by, this very unique dance started developing into specific
styles with special, identifiable characteristics. On the East coast, there was the New Yorker and the Lindy.
New Yorker grew to be
known as Eastern Swing - and eventually East Coast Swing.
In the South, dancers on the beach started developing what would
one day be known as Carolina Shag. In
Texas, the dance was developing into Push and Whip.
In California, as well as a few other places across country, there
was a slower form of sophisticated Swing that had dancers traveling in the
same direction on their “double rhythm”.
Arthur Murray’s adapted this style to their curriculum and dubbed
it “Western Swing”.
later - with a few years of the US OPEN under our belts - Swing dancing
started taking a turn that made the dance hard to define. Hustle music brought variations into the Swing world that
confused the judges and blurred the lines of "What is Swing?"
Time for a definition.
This is the first Definition
of "Swing" as approved by the original Swing Dance Council in
1985 (I was there,
attended all the meetings and personally recorded this tidbit of history):
is an all-American couples rhythm dance consisting primarily of 6-Beat
and 8-Beat patterns that cover either a circular or slotted area on the
dance floor. Swing
incorporates the use of underarm turns, side passes, push breaks, and
whips -- plus "4-Beat" rhythm beaks, syncopations and extensions
of the same."
1994, an amendment was added by the World Swing Dance Council based on
the percentage required in specific Swing competitions.
The amendment - added to clarify what Swing is NOT - read as
you can identify the dance as something OTHER than Swing, it cannot be considered part of the required
percentage of Swing."
of what is NOT Swing are: Hustle,
Hip-Hop, Charleston, Balboa, Jazz, etc.
1999, an attempt was made to define the various forms of Swing, placing
each in a "family" of either "West Coast" Swing (both
partners travel same direction) or "East Coast" (partners have
opposition moves of a back-rock).
at the WSDC Meeting in Atlanta in 1999, the following dances were
designated as being included in an "open" Swing competition:
West Coast Swing
West Coast Swing (added in
Whip (Traditional & Contemporary)
Coast Swing (both Classic and Funky)
story continues. Heated debates occurred over what was Swing and what
was NOT Swing. I personally did a full year of research before
coming up with something that 100% of those involved agreed with. The
criteria for "Is it Swing?" - even on a social basis - is this:
a Leader doing one form of Swing can dance with a Follower doing another
form of Swing -- with only slight adjustments in style and tempo -- then it
last statement is the one that finally removed "Hustle" from the arena of
still ask for clarification and, fortunately, the above definition takes
care of the problem. Further
clarification includes that Hustle has 2 changes of direction in one 6-beat
pattern. One of these changes takes place on an "a" count
prior to a Downbeat and the other takes place on an "a" count
just prior to an Upbeat. This unique characteristic takes place in no other social
dance to date.
have come a long way toward defining our dance.
However, "defining" should not be confused with
of interpretation is one thing, but it should be noted that a great orator
once said, “Without discipline, there is no freedom”.
Blair is fondly referred to as the "First Lady" of West Coast Swing.
In addition to being the co-founder of the World Swing Dance Council,
she has been a dance competitor, performed in Hollywood movies, written books, taught at her renowned
"Intensive Study" seminars, judged at every major Swing
dance event in America, and served as coach and mentor to hundreds of
Swing dancers, past and present.