The roots of Swing can be traced back to the late 1920's with the birth of the Lindy Hop in which all other Swing dances evolved.  Lindy Hop has many names depending on age and origin of the dancers.  Swing, Jitterbug and East Coast Swing are synonymous with Lindy Hop.

  • East Coast Swing
  • Jitterbug
  • Jive
  • Lindy Hop
  • Shag
  • West Coast Swing

East Coast Swing

East Coast Swing traces its roots to the original swing dance, Lindy Hop. Lindy Hop was created in the late 1920s by African American youth at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. Danced to the swing and jazz music of big bands such as Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway and Benny Goodman, Lindy Hop was, and remains, a dynamic, athletic dance.

By the mid-1930s, Lindy Hop (also called Jitterbug and Swing) had captured the imagination of young people everywhere. It was widely danced in the US and Europe through the end of WWII. In the early 1940s, Lindy Hop was tamed and simplified by dance schools to become a ballroom dance called Eastern Swing. In the late 1970s, the name was changed to East Coast Swing.

Dance Characteristics

East Coast Swing is a fun, upbeat, non-progressive dance, distinguished by its bounce, back break (also called a "rock step"), and "swing hip action".


The tern jitterbug is used to refer to different swing dances, such as the jive and the lindy hop. It comes from slang used in the early twentieth century to describe alcoholics. The term became associated with swing dancers because, like the jitters of alcoholics, they were seen to be out of control. The term was popularized with jazz bandleader and singer Cab Calloway’s song “Call of the Jitter Bug.”

Characteristics of Jitterbug:

The jitterbug (initially called the "hop") first became popular in the 1920's, although its popularity was limited primarily to Harlem. The name Lindy was appended to the "Hop" in 1927 at the Savoy Ballroom, supposedly in commemoration of Lindbergh's famous flight across the Atlantic. In the 1930's when white dancers discovered the Lindy, the name Jitterbug often was used to describe the dance. The music that this dance accompanied was jazz, which by the 1930's was also called Swing, and which traced its origins to Ragtime, Dixieland and Blues.

From the early days of the "hop" until the mid-1930's, the mainstream of jazz music and swing/lindy/jitterbug dancing was developed and defined in the United States by African -Americans.

With origins in the Charleston (according to some experts the Charleston has its origins in Caribbean dance styles), traditional West African dance styles, and a variety of European social dances, the Lindy included not only partner dancing, but also individual solos and line dancing.


Originating in the United States in the 1940s, Jive was influenced by the Boogie, Rock & Roll, African/American Swing and Lindyhop. Jive and East Coast Swing share many figures, as well as the same music style and tempo. The basic look and feel of Jive is lots and lots of energy, with the legs portraying a pumping action. Both the East Coast Swing and basic Jive consist of two triple steps and a rock step. The Jive differs in that the count begins with the rock step, which is counted "1,2." The two triple steps are counted "3 and 4" and "5 and 6."

Lindy Hop

The History of Lindy Hop begins in the African American communities of Harlem, New York during the late 1920s in conjunction with swing jazz. Lindy Hop is closely related to earlier African American vernacular dances but quickly gained its own fame through dancers in films, performances, competitions, and professional dance troupes. It became especially popular in the 1930s with the invention of aerials. The popularity of Lindy Hop declined after World War II, and the dance remained dormant until revived by European and American dancers in the 1980s.

Dance Characteristics

The Lindy Hop is a sporty, athletic form of partner dancing. Instead of dancing in an upright, elegant posture, Lindy Hop dancers maintain an active, athletic stance that keeps their legs in constant movement. There are two main styles of Lindy Hop, Savoy style and G.I. style. Savoy style is characterized by long, horizontal lines, while G.I. style is danced in a more upright position. Although achieving the look of one of these styles is usually the goal, Lindy Hop dancers also bring their own personal style into the dance. This unique and energetic dance style can be wild and spontaneous, full of frenzied kicks and body movements, or very smooth, calm and sophisticated.


The Shag started in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Wilmington, North Carolina, during the 1940s. According to Bo Bryan, a Carolina Shag historian and resident of Beaufort County, the term was coined at Carolina Beach, North Carolina. The Carolina Shag is a descendant of Carolina Jitterbug, and its predecessor, Little Apple (whose origins can supposedly be traced to Columbia, South Carolina in 1937).Carolina shag, emphasizes the man doing the rhythm breaks — the man is the show.

The guy does all the flashy stuff and the follower is just "along for the ride" more or less... hence Carolina Shag.

West Coast Swing

There are various stories of how West Coast Swing (WCS) evolved from Lindy Hop. One is that people, tired of being kicked by wild Jitterbug dancers, began to dance in a slot. Another is that the end of the Big Band era forced dancers to mvoe into blues clubs where they modified Lindy Hop to fit the smaller spaces and slower music. Others believe WCS was created in Hollywood by dancer Dean Collins, because dancing in a slot made for better camera angles.

Whatever its true origins, WCS was born in California during the 1940s. Called Western Swing, this new dance was popularized in the 1950s by Arthur Murray dance studios and teacher Skippy Blair. In 1959, the dance was renamed West Coast Swing. While WCS is the official California state dance, it is danced widely throughout the US and Canada.

Dance Characteristics

West Coast Swing is smooth (no bounce) and danced in a slot. The dance allows room for syncopated footwork and improvisation. WCS can be danced to a wide range of music including rhythm and blues, country wester, funk, disco, rock and pop.