different types of swing dance

Types of swing dance

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What are the different types of Swing Dance?

Swing Dance is an umbrella term for a group of dance styles that originated in the 1920’s. Taking its inspiration from the Jazz era of music, it all started with the grandfather of all swing dances: Lindy Hop.  From there it evolved into numerous variations, including: Jitterbug, East Coast Swing, Collegiate Shag, Jive, Balboa, Charleston, Carolina Shag, D.C. Hand Dancing, right up to today's contemporary West Coast Swing.  The most popular of these in the U.S. and around the world is: East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing, and Lindy Hop.  The others are regional dances and are performed differently in various parts of the country.

Watch this short video by US Open Swing Dance Champion Robert Royston on the different types of swing dance!

East Coast Swing

East Coast Swing refers to a form of social partner swing dance that mainly uses six-count patterns, although there are some eight-count variations as well.  ECS is a spot dance moving in a circular fashion, with most patterns ending with a rock step. It uses three different rhythm structures: single, double, and triple rhythms.  This dance is fast and upbeat and is characterized by its bounce and lilt actions.

Here is an instructional video covering the basic steps of East Coast Swing: 

West Coast Swing

West Coast Swing refers to a form of social partner dance that can be done to a wide variety of music, including pop, country, blues, and contemporary music.  It can vary greatly in speed but is generally between 90-120 beats per minute.

Check out our article on the differences between East Coast and West Coast Swing for a more in-depth discussion of these two dances.

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Here is an instructional video covering the basic steps of West Coast Swing:

Lindy Hop

Lindy Hop was the initial form of swing dance, introduced at the Savoy Ballroom in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City.  Originating in the 1920's, its popularity heightened in the ‘30's.  The basic for this dance involves both six- and eight-count patterns, with its signature whips, kicks, and swing-out moves.  Advanced dancers also perform aerials and lifts in this style.  The music is known for being very fast, with twists and grounded movements.

Even today, lindy dancers like to dress in 1930's attire!

Here is a great example of how Lindy hop looks in contest format:


Jitterbug is a term often used generically to describe East Coast Swing dancing and dancers.  But specifically, Jitterbug is a form of ECS called single rhythm swing, and it is danced to very fast big-band music, yet the footwork is slower than the triple rhythm swing.  Standard timing consists of slow, slow, quick, quick. This equates to two swaying steps in place, followed by a rock step.

Here are some beginner moves in Jitterbug


Balboa started in Southern California and is performed in a closed dance position.  Unlike the other types of swing, Balboa mostly stays in a close embrace and focuses on footwork to emphasize the fast music.

Here is an example of a Balboa showdance:


Jive is a ballroom dance that is the last of the five International Latin dances (although ironically, it’s an American dance!).  Jive is a very fast version of East Coast Swing with speeds around 175 bpm.  Fast, rebounding flicks and kicks are the signature of this dance.

Here is a video of one of world's top couples performing a Jive showdance: 


What are the different types of swing music?

Well there is big band jazz, a faster swing rhythm that we often think of when we think of swing. Then there is a slightly slower swing music with a bit of a bounce that we might dance east coast swing to. Finally there is a blues or pop oriented style of music more popular for west coast swing.

Again lets turn to this great video description by Robert Royston!


What is the difference between East Coast Swing and West Coast Swing?

This is a question we get all the time. They are both swing dances but have completely different and distinct differences! We shot a video describing the difference in the basic patterns and actions of west coast swing versus east coast swing.

We did a video on the topic of ECS vs WCS!

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