AniDance: Animation & Dance - The Virtual Amateur Dancing School
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The Style
The collecting term "Swing" describes a row of wild dance forms in the thirties and fourties, evoked by the spectacular performances of Big-Bands famous at that time. In principle Swing is no special dance, but rather a special way of dancing. On Swing music, dances as well as Lindyhop, East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing, Balboa, Boogie Woogie, Rock'n'Roll, Jitterbug and Jive can be danced.

The Rhythm
Swing-music is characterized by a basically shifted focal point. All accents fall no longer on the odd beats 1 and 3 in 4/4-time, but rather on the straight beats 2 and 4. Moreover, frequently even these focal points yet are syncopated i.e., preferred, left out or displaced.

Past and Present

The history of Swing starts with the outspread of Dixieland music and growing orchestra sizes after the First World War. Swing dance was a variant of the existing Jazz dances of the twenties - Texas Tommy is considered to be the eldest Swing dance - and corresponds to the American Modern Dance "Lindy Hop", which came from Harlem in 1927. It required a slack movement of all limbs and was danced by couples following the beat more or less like Foxtrot with much improvisation. However, Lindy Hop included acrobatic figures the partners were throwing each other over the head and around the hips.

The New York district Harlem and especially the Savoy ballroom are considered to be the birthplace of this dance. There are several tales how the name "Lindy Hop" was found. The most stories coincide that Charles Lindbergh's flight across the Atlantic from New York to Paris had been the reason: The headlines in the summer of 1927 were "Lucky Lindy Hops the Atlantic". Lindberghs return to New York was celebrated enthusiastically by millions of people.

The depression plagued America had no time for rousing Big-Band music. But the younger generation, searching for an alternative to Foxtrot, helped the new sound to achieve a gradual breakthrough. In 1935 Benny Goodman with his America tour got a dance enthusiasm going which fascinated the Americans until the end of the forties. In order to get heard in the huge Dance Halls, often crowded by more than a thousand dancers - it was the time before loudspeakers and amplifiers - the wind instruments of Dixieland bands, one trumpet, one trombone and one clarinet, each, were simply multiplied.

Europe wasn't affected by the 'Swing era' because of the war and Swing dancing was unwanted, especially in Germany. The Swing fever reached its climax during the Olympic games in 1936, when international orchestras were allowed to play Swing music in Berlin, as the officials intended to appear open-minded in the eyes of the foreign countries. Especially young people favoured Swing music, and Swing dance, because of the contradiction between the attractive lifestyle, of the "American way of life", and the military drill. The danced joy of life was seen as a danger for discipline and order, so that the "Swing youth" was fought harder with the beginning of the war.

In the course of the war there were dancing prohibitions again and again (for all dances) until the final close-down of the public entertainment activities in 1944. Dancing was limited to small private frameworks. After the second World War Swing dance celebrated its comeback as Boogie-Woogie by the American occupying forces in West-Germany.