What is Swing Dancing?

Are you new to Swing dancing? Or have you just heard about it? Then this is for you.

This is a short introductory post about the Swing Dance in general which should help you understand a bit more and – hopefully – help you chose a class/course.

Under the category of Swing dance go generally all the dances developed under the swing style of Jazz music from the 1920s and onward. The dances developed with the music. Back then nobody would use the term Swing dance as we use it today. Apparently there used to be countless different styles back in the days and every district probably had different ways to express themselves on the dance floor. The ones that “survived” and are being taught in the Swing Scene today are most often:

Lindy Hop, Balboa, Collegiate and St Louis Shag, Charleston

Solo dancing is also possible, usually called as “Solo Jazz” and Tap Dancing of course.

Lindy Hop

The swing dance today includes also variations like: Boogie Woogie, West Coast Swing, Carolina Shag, East Coast Swing, Hand Dancing, Jive, Rock and Roll, Modern Jive. Not every Lindy Hopper knows of the other styles though.

This post is not about the history of Swing Dancing and does not seek to be one nor to be 100% accurate. Here we strive to explain what is globally available nowadays.

There is a lot to learn about the history of Swing and available information out there should you be interested. Should you become very knowledgeable, please let us know and submit us an article.


Boogie Woogie

St Louis Shag (front couple) and Collegiate Shag (the other couples)

Today the styles you will most likely come across on a Swing Dance dance floor are:

1) Lindy Hop and Solo Jazz.

Depending on your location and the ability of the teachers this is what most smaller school offer. It might also include tap dance. Charleston danced as partner dance is usually included in the Lindy Hop lessons, and in Solo Jazz lessons it could also be learned.

2) Boogie Woogie, Balboa and Collegiate Shag are less frequent but enjoy more and more popularity. St Louis Shag has been introduced by a few teachers and is regionally more or less known.

Charleston Performance

Do I need a partner to Swing Dance?

No you don´t! The Swing dances are partner dances, but everybody dances with everybody on the social floor. Optional partnering up – as teachers do to advance in your pursuit – is possible but not necessary at all.

Most of the schools and festivals accept single participants and each participant decides which role they want to dance.

What is a Leader and what is a Follower?

Traditionally the leader was the man and the follower used to be the woman. As the names say, one roles is leading, the other one tries to follow, e.g. do what they understand in the beautiful conversation of a dance.

Nowadays, whoever would like to lead the dance, will dance the part of the leader. And whoever would like to follow, will follow. It is common to find people who are capable of dancing both roles and usually depends on personal preference.

Old time Lindy Hop from the movie "Hellzapoppin"

There is however one dance routine we all know...

Over time, dancers explore and tend to find a dance they like most. There is however one dance routine that almost every swing dancer in the world knows and which acts like glue among us: The Shim Sham.

Originally a Tap Dance routine but nowadays tied to this one special song “It ain´t ahat you do” an all time Jimmy Lunceford highlight, which normally starts off the routine on every dance floor. Notice how much laughter and smiles it produces.

The Shim Sham


The videos above come from competitions or showcases. Do not expect to find such proficient level at social dance events.

The links here point to Wikipedia articles. Please be aware that some Wikipedia articles can also be/become faulty over time