The Swing Dance community is a very large and complex web of styles, cultures and histories I mean very complex. At the typical Late Night Swing Dance, the trained eye can recognize several different types of Swing dance. And each type has rich variations within itself! Going to a swing dance blind, or with little knowledge of the culture, can be overwhelming, which can easily result in a gross underappreciation for the activity.
Fret not! Here's a list of different swing dances that will help you navigate the next dance you attend.
1. East Coast Swing
East Coast Swing is the first style that I learned. It's also one of the easier dances to get into due to its simplicity. It's generally danced to rock and roll, though it can work in jazz and blues without losing its style. East Coast is less aggressive than Country Swing. It focuses less on large dips and extravagant aerials, and more on moving with the music. There's a special spot for East Coast swing in my heart.
2. Country Swing
Country Swing, as the name suggests, is a Swing dance typically performed during a country song. And, just like the great music genre this dance style is inspired by, Country Swing is a melting pot of different flavors of ballroom and swing dances. It's an eternal series of spins, turns, dips and jumps, all with the posture of a mannequin. Its flamboyant movements and fast pace attracts a lot of people, though it's the most demanding in terms of flexibility and strength.
3. West Coast Swing
West Coast Swing is like ketchup: it goes well with anything! (Musically, that is.) From Big Band Jazz to Modern Pop and everything in between, West Coast fits them all like a glove. Unlike Country and East Coast, West Coast has a linear, slotted shape to it. It's almost as if the follow is always dancing on an invisible line. West Coast also tends to be more sensual than the other swing dances. Honestly, I'm not sure why, but I bet it has something to do with its swinging relationship with music genres…
4. Lindy Hop
This one is my personal favorite. This is the style people think of when they hearken back to the '30s and '40s, eras filled with Fedoras, cigars and endless booze. The dance originated in Harlem at the Savoy Ballroom, and it's the Mother of all swing dances. The dance can be sexy like West Coast, simple like East Coast or wild like Country. But I think the driving force between all the different moods is humor. Lindy Hoppers love to be silly in their dances. Just take a look at this scene from the movie "Hellzapoppin'," performed by Whitey's Lindy Hoppers. They're going crazy!
I must add a disclaimer to this: this is not at all a comprehensive list of all the swing dances out there. I recently learned that there are at least three different styles of Shag! And, if you don't know what shag is, I encourage you to look it up. Here's a video of one of my favorite Shag showcases!
Anyway, these four dances are the most common at any given dance. Hopefully, knowing about them before your next dance outing will help enrich your experience!