DanceTutor's Ramblings on the Dances

Currently online at DanceTutor.com are east coast swing (also called jitterbug), lindy hop, west coast swing, charleston, balboa, salsa, polka and Argentine tango. All but the last three are forms of swing dancing.

Jitterbug, lindy hop and west coast swing are the major forms of swing dance. Though the Big Three of swing dance originally were done to big band tunes (In the Mood, Take the A Train, One O'clock Jump, etc.). today the dances are done also to rock 'n roll, country rock, some blues and other kinds of music.

Jitterbug (also called east coast swing and "6-count") is by far the easiest of the group, so new students should start with jitterbug (referred to as Swing 1 and Swing 2 on the site).

Lindy hop is a more athletic dance and also presents a steeper learning curve than jitterbug. Both jitterbug and lindy hop are danced to the same music (pretty much), and both can be used interchangeably within the same song. If when you view the jitterbug and lindy sections on DanceTutor.com, and the 6-count lindy hop section looks the same as jitterbug, -- well, it is.

Many social dancers only know jitterbug, so when they say to their soon-to-be dance partner "I only know jitterbug" or "I don't know lindy hop", there's a good chance the partner is relieved because he or she does not know it either.
West coast swing is the official State dance of California (no kidding!)and in the early and mid '90s spread like wild fire to the east coast. West coast swing may be done to any speed of music if one is athletic enough, but it is generally suited to slower songs. "Sultry" or "Bluesy" are often used to describe the dance. Whereas lindy hop and jitterbug are close cousins, west coast swing is less like the other two . Like lindy hop, west coast swing presents more of a challenge to the beginning student than jitterbug. For a more detailed description of the dances, see the author's introductions which are accessible in the respective tables of contents.

Depending on where people may be swing dancing, there are different mixes of jitterbug, lindy hop and west coast swing. DanceTutor.com is based in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area so we can say from observation that lindy hop is the fastest growing dance here currently, but Philadelphians definitely do more jitterbug than lindy hop. Many social dancers only know jitterbug (remember, also called east coast swing or 6-count).

As mentioned, jitterbug, though a dance in its own right, is a kind of subset of lindy hop. The collective dance memory of DanceTutor.com only goes back to 1990 (a few years after the swing dance revival got into full swing), but it happened liked this -- at least in the mid-Atlantic states. First there was jitterbug, and swing dancers were mostly in their 30s and 40s. Then in 1998, there was a sudden tripling of the number of swing dancers with the new ones being mostly in their 20s and even teens. This tripling phenomenon has generally been attributed to a commercial for Gap clothing. But whatever the reason for the surge, the younger dancers gravitated to the more athletic lindy hop and for the most part have ignored west coast swing, at least to date.

If when you view the jitterbug and lindy sections on DanceTutor.com, and the 6-count lindy hop section looks the same as jitterbug, -- well, it is.
West coast swing may be the primary swing dance in the western states. This used to be true and we are guessing that it still is. Though there are still two specifically west coast swing dances in the Philadelphia area, the place of west coast swing as a percentage of dances has waned dramatically from the level it enjoyed in the mid '90s when it stood right alongside jitterbug as a "must-learn" dance. We believe it has waned also in the Washington DC and New York areas, though specifically west coast venues continue there also with a loyal and dedicated following. Since more people do them, jitterbug and lindy hop get our recommendation over west coast swing as swing dances to learn.

In addition to the three "majors", there are also other swing dances which enjoy some popularity. One of them, balboa, is already online at DanceTutor. Balboa (also called bal-swing) is a fast dance done to very fast music and in our view should only be attempted by advanced dancers . Shag (Carolina shag, as distinct from the lesser-known collegiate shag and St. Louis shag) enjoys vast popularity in the southeastern states and even has a very active Philadelphia/Delaware Valley group.

Salsa is in the latin family of dances and is the "next dance" for many dancers looking to try something new. As with swing dancing, there are many places to "go salsa dancing" in Philadelphia and New York and presumably elsewhere. And then there's Polish-American polka, one of the fancier polka styles where the footwork is fairly straightforward but the styling takes a good while to learn.

We haven't mentioned Argentine tango. Argentine tango is not a swing dance. It originated in Argentina and has it's own music styles and dance steps, all of which are unrelated to swing dance. Its music is gorgeous and it is widely thought of and probably is the most complicated couple dance to learn. Persons unfamiliar with other kinds of dancing should not begin with Argentine tango, it would likely frustrate them. In our view, the swing dances or waltz or foxtrot are better entry points to dancing.

The sample videos on the home page (one for each dance type) and the introductions under the various tables of contents may be viewed and saved without payment. The main instructional pages, which are accessed by links next to the listings in the tables of contents, require an enrollment (payment by either credit card, PayPal or check or money order). Currently, for one month's access the charge is $7 per dance section. For 2 months, it's $9.

For the brand new beginning student, we'll be philosophical for a moment:

Happy Dancing!
DanceTutor
Return to home page