What is swing dancing?
The short answer: It’s an energetic partner dance done to swing (jazz) music . Swing dancers on TV are known for doing cool acrobatic tricks like lifting their partner over their head.
The long answer: Swing dancing is an umbrella term for a variety of partnered social dances that share a common history and some fundamental techniques. The most recognized swing dance (and the one that most dancers start with nowadays) is called the Lindy Hop.
It was invented in the 1930s by Black American dancers in the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, New York City and took America by storm. It grew in popularity and was danced throughout the 1930s and 1940s before decreasing in popularity in the 1950s as music trends moved away from jazz music and towards rock and roll.
After a long period of decline, the Lindy Hop experienced a renewed popularity in the 80s and 90s as new generations of dancers became curious about old jazz dances, and especially when swing music made a reapparance in mainstream popular culture. These days, Lindy Hop is danced by thousands of people in communities across Canada, North America, Europe, and the globe. Many of the original steps, stylings, and techniques have been retained, thanks partly to studies of old video clilps, and especially to “old timers” who danced in the original swing era and taught young dancers starting in the 1980s. Key features of the lindy hop (and many other swing dances) include synocpated triple steps, a relaxed body posture and partner connection, and mainly improvised movements chosen on the spot.
Lindy Hop is generally danced to swing music that can vary in tempo and style but is defined by certain kinds of syncopated rhythms and ways of playing the music.
Do I need a partner? How do I find someone to dance with?
During the lesson, teachers will ask students to rotate partners every few minutes so that you get a chance to try dancing with different people. During the dance, typically, at the beginning of a song, someone approaches someone else in the room and says, “Hey, do you want to dance?” Then you try things out until the end of the song, thank your partner, and find someone new to dance with. You can dance every song or pick and choose. Some folks like to watch for a while to get a feel for things and that’s cool. But if you’re there, don’t be surprised if someone comes up and asks you to dance! It’s totally normal and encouraged to approach someone you don’t know and ask for a dance, and if you are asked, you’re encouraged to give it a try and also welcome to say no. It’s quite different than how you might interact with people in a dance club or on the metro, and for some folks it takes some getting used to, but often meeting new people is the best part!
Do I need to be a follower of the dance if I am a lady and a leader if I am a man?
No. Those are traditions only, and the modern swing community is very open to have those roles exchanged and have female leaders and male followers. It is also common to have more advanced dancers learn the opposite role, because it also helps you understanding your partners better and develop complementary skills.
What kind of shoes should I wear?
All dancers are asked to change from their street shoes into clean, indoor shoes. New dancers are encouraged to wear shoes that are flat (no heels) and comfortable, since you’ll be trying out lots of new and energetic moves. You’ll see lots of Keds, sneakers, oxfords, ballet flats, and dress shoes. Most people find it more comfortable to dance in shoes that are a little more slippery and a little less sticky on the bottom, but don’t worry if you don’t have the perfect pair. Bring something clean and comfortable and you’ll be more than ready for your first steps.
What should I wear on the rest of me?
Whatever you want! We recommend something you can move comfortably in and something you feel good-looking in! You’ll see lots of jeans, t-shirts, dress-shirts, blouses, skirts and dresses. Some people like to wear vintage-y type clothes inspired by the swing era. Some people come straight from work or school. Some people like to be fancy. You choose!
What should I know about hygiene?
You’ll be within conversation distances or closer to lots of people throughout the night. Bad breath or body odors can make it hard for your partner to enjoy a dance or engage with you, so please plan accordingly. Many people brush their teeth before leaving the house, bring chewing gum or breath mints, and avoid certain foods before a dance. Many people shower the morning or the evening of the dance and avoid vigorous activity earlier in the day. The dance space is air conditioned but still heats up when there are a lot of people, so consider how much you typically sweat during physical activity and that your partner may be putting their hand on your arm, your back, or your shoulder during the dance. Dancing with other people when you’re a bit sweaty or they’re a bit sweaty is just part of dancing. However, your partner may find it uncomfortable if your clothing gets soaked with sweat, if you send a sweat drop flying, or if your bare shoulder or arm is wet to the touch. Some people are fine in the clothes that they came in and others bring a change (or even two or three).
I have some previous Lindy Hop experience, what level of class should I sign-up for?
If you have previous Lindy Hop experience but are new to Lindy Hop Revolution please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a free level check and we will let you know what classes will be the best fit for you to build on the skills you already have. A level check usually takes 5-10 minutes and consists of dancing to a few different songs with an instructor - we make it as low-stress and fun as possible! We want you to be in the level that will be best for your own learning! If you have previous experience in another style of dance (Ballroom, Salsa, etc.) we recommend starting at Swing 0 so you learn all the key fundamentals of Lindy Hop.
Where else can I dance?
Check Toronto Lindy Hop website, follow them on Facebook, or sign-up for their email newsletter for all the info about Swing dancing in Toronto! They put out a great weekly event listing of all the opportunities to go dancing! www.torontolindyhop.com
How can I get better at dancing?
Dance! the more you dance the more you will love it and the more you will improve. Remember to have an open mind and always look for new challenges .We can help guide you to to try new kinds or ways of moving, to increase your vocabulary of dance steps, to have clearer communication and stronger connections with your partner, and to increase your familiarity with jazz rhythms and music.