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What Is Swing Dance? A Tool For Personal and Social Transformation

Updated on October 9, 2016
Social and fun street swing dancing
Social and fun street swing dancing | Source

Swing Dance and its History

Swing dance is a blanket term used to describe dances that are inspired by and danced to the swing style of jazz music. The dance was popular in the swing era of 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s, even though most origins of the swing dances predates this era. Majority of swing dances began in African American communities where jazz music was popular then. There were hundreds of styles of the dance during the swing era. Only a few like Lindy Hop, Balboa, Shag, and Charleston survived, and now have other derivatives.

Lindy Hop is the most popular swing dance known today. It is worth knowing the origin of the dance. Lindy Hop swing dance history goes back to the late 1920s and early 1930s when it originated from the African Americans in Harlem, New York City. The dance requires a lot of physical energy and is characterized by both 8-count and 6-count swing out patterns with triple steps, and has more room for dance improvisation. Lindy Hop has also evolved into the theatre with performance Lindy Hop, which involves a high degree of physical moves such as lifts and aerials. On the other hand, social Lindy Hop swing dance is more relaxed and matches the tempo and rhythm of the music.

There are other derivatives of swing dance, a common one being East Coast Swing Dance. Also referred to as Jitterbug, East Coast swing dance is an improvisation from Lindy Hop, with a simpler 6-count variation. East Coast swing dance is simple, has room for styling and variations and is danced to slow, medium or fast-tempo jazz music.

There are other derivatives of swing dance but they are not danced to swing music. Some of these non-swing dances include West Coast Swing, Western Swing, Boogie Woogie, Rock N Roll, Ballroom Jive, and Carolina Shag. If the derivative dances are not danced to swing music, then they are non-swing dances.

Learn to Dance Swing Dance

Learn To Dance Swing, Beginners Vol.1 - A Beginners Swing Dancing Guide to East Coast and City Swing
Learn To Dance Swing, Beginners Vol.1 - A Beginners Swing Dancing Guide to East Coast and City Swing

A beginner's swing dance lessons DVD series with two hour dance instruction video for your first swing dancing steps.


Lindy Hop swing dance video

The Transformative Power of Swing Dance

We can use the transformative power of performance arts such as swing dancing to bring change to our individual lives, families and communities.

Before we look at how swing dancing can bring social change, let us consider its historical benefits. Swing dance mostly originated from African American communities and was widely practiced during a time when they faced racism and other physical, mental and emotional persecutions and oppression following slavery. The intangible art of jazz music and swing dance with their benefits helped them to be resilient and built inclusive communities. The same transformative power of music and dance exists today for our benefit.

Let us consider some of these transformative benefits of swing dance:

1. Health Benefits

There are many scientific studies that confirm the health benefits of music, which powerfully affect the emotions, and dancing to the music. Swing dancing can transform your life, making you look younger, relieve stress and depression, keep your brain from aging, improve heart health (heartbeat, pulse rate and blood pressure), enhance sleep quality, boost immune system and make you a happier person.

2. Lose Weight

Swing dance such as Lindy Hop involves vigorous human movement and can burn lots of calories fast. Incorporate Lindy Hop into your weight loss plan and swing that extra fat off, while having fun.

3. Stay Fit

Swing dancing keeps the body and its joints flexible, enhances the body’s movement and strengthens the bones. The high degree of physical vigor involved in swing dances like Lindy Hop keeps the body fit, strong and healthy. Swing dance can be a better alternative for your fitness activities than expensive gym memberships.

4. Socialize and Connect

Swing dance helps you to develop a sense of self as an emotional and social being. You participate, interact and enjoy the social dynamics of fun, entertainment and build relationships. In this fast-paced technology-driven internet era, we get so caught up socializing virtually online that the smartphone or tablet becomes our constant companion. These electronic gadgets aren’t human beings. They consume our time and deprive us of enjoying the presence of another person, laugh and have fun together or create that social bond. Human beings are social beings and our happiness arises from our relationships and interactions with other human beings.

5. Breaks Cultural Barriers

The powerful energy of music inspires dancing, and music is universal. Dancing therefore has no cultural barriers. It brings together people from different cultural and social backgrounds with their differing ideologies to interact and find that common ground, deriving the benefits of improved health, well-being, happiness and understanding.

6. Enhances Empathy and Creativity

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It is a key element of emotional intelligence. Our empathy skills can be enhanced through swing dancing, where dancers develop understanding of others’ emotions and intentions and make dance moves responding to stimuli from other dancers. Improvised swing dancing develops from emotion and creativity. The participants become creative and develop dance moves based on their moods and energy levels. Having good empathy skills, higher emotional intelligence and being creative are characteristics for a better person.

7. Improve Relationships

Activities that require us to develop understanding of others’ emotions can improve our relationships with our spouses, partners, friends and family members. As we know, communication is key in any relationship. The famous communication rule says that seven percent (7%) is verbal and ninety three (93%) is non-verbal. The non-verbal component is made up of fifty five percent (55%) body language and thirty eight percent (38%) tone of voice. Swing dancing is basically body language expressing the emotions of the dancer. It is non-verbal communication. If your relationship isn’t thriving because of communication issues, get out there and swing dance.

Body language non-verbal communication for better relationships

Swing dancing at the Midtown Stomp, Sacramento, California (USA)
Swing dancing at the Midtown Stomp, Sacramento, California (USA) | Source

Get your own complete swing dancing for beginners DVD series

Learn Swing Dance

Now that you know what is swing dance and its many health, emotional and social benefits, you may want to learn the dance. You can search online for any organizations or groups offering swing dancing lessons near you. Get out there and join the fun.

If you want to start learning the dance immediately from home, we have put together a list of five free swing dancing lessons videos from YouTube here. Enjoy!

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Swing Dancing on Granville Street
Swing Dancing on Granville Street | Source


Our aim is to promote swing dancing as a tool for fun, entertainment, better health, relationships, social life and communities. The information does not replace or advise medical advice. As the dance requires a lot of physical movements, please seek professional medical advice if you have illness or medical conditions.

If you have any questions or would like to contribute to the content of this article, please do not hesitate to leave a comment below.

© 2016 Swing Dance


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