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Swing Lesson 1: Swing Basic.
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East Coast Swing Introduction

Are you ready to be cool? If so, the Swing is a “must learn” dance. As a non-progressive dance, the Swing is convenient on any jam-packed floor. From its origin in 1927, the Lindy paved the way for many more swing-style dances which developed, including the American Swing, Boogie-Woogie, Hustle, Jitterbug, Jive, Rock and Roll, and West Coast Swing. With post-war exuberance filling the air, it wasn’t long before youthful energy was unleashed on the streets...dancing! Characterized by jumps, spins, turns and throw-outs, the Lindy was seen on dance floors all across America. Today, the Lindy has undergone many alterations and has been toned down and incorporated into a ballroom format known most commonly as the Swing. Click here at any point to look up a word in our Online Glossary.

Music

Like the Fox Trot, the Swing is written in 4/4 time with the first and third beats accented. There are three basic patterns that you can choose from: the Single Swing, Double Swing and Triple Swing. The main difference between the three types comes in the first 4 counts of the music. In the Single Swing, the steps are Slow-Slow-quick-quick, or Step-Step-Back-Rock. Try saying this. Remember, the Slow (S) is twice as long as the quick (q) step. On the Double Swing, the steps are quick-quick-quick-quick-quick-quick or Step-Touch-Step-Touch-Back-Rock. Say this out loud as you move your feet. Finally, the Triple Swing is quick-n-quick quick-n-quick quick-quick or Tri-ple-Step-Tri-ple-Step-Back-Rock. As you can see, you will always be doing a back rock. If the music is fast, you should probably stick with a Single or Double Swing so you don’t exhaust yourself. If the music is a little slower, try the Triple Swing. For a good practice session, turn your CD/Cassette to track 7,8,9 or 10.

Let's Dance

To begin, stand in an upright position facing your partner. You will be assuming a two-hand hold in Open Swing Position. Since this is a quick dance, steps should be small and light. The knees should be relaxed and flexed slightly.

Back Rock

You will come across terms like “back rock” and “triple step” during the Swing. A back rock will either follow a step, a step-touch or a triple step. The man, who always begins his sequence on the LF (left foot), will always rock back on the LF as well. The woman will begin and rock back on the RF (right foot). For a practice exercise, stand in place with your feet together. Take one step forward with either foot. Your feet should now be in a line with the forward foot approximately 8 inches in front of the other. Maintain your balance. Now, begin rocking back and forth, transferring your body weight from one foot to the other. When you rock forward, your back foot should leave the ground slightly but return to its original place. Likewise, when you rock backward, your front foot should leave the ground slightly and then return to its original place. Try rocking back and forth a few times.

Triple Step

Now for the triple step! The triple step consists of a series of three small steps. Let’s try it. Stand in place with your feet together. Pretend you are a child having a temper tantrum and stomp your feet in place: 1-2-3...1-2-3...LRL...RLR. Keep doing this, accenting count 1 and count 3. That’s the basic rhythm. Now for some styling. You probably have been placing full weight down over your entire foot. This makes for a heavy dance, especially if you have really fast music. What you want to achieve is a light, bouncy step. Keeping your knees soft and slightly bent (flexed) try doing the triple steps again, lightly and on the ball of your foot. It should feel a little springy, sort of like a diving board. If you have some space, try triple-stepping around. You can move any way you want: forward, backward, sideways, or in a circle.

Swing Style

There are some basic styling points that should be mentioned. The Swing is a fast, exuberant dance, so you must maintain control or you’ll wind up sprawled out on the dance floor! To maintain balance, a firm hand grip is essential. In Two-Hand Position, the man extends his arms forward with palms up. The woman then places her hands palms down in her partner’s hands. Think of your fingers as a hook. By cupping in with your fingers, a firm hold can be achieved and adequate tension and control will be maintained. In addition to a firm hand grip, it is essential that the forearm is held firmly for better body communication between the dancers. Remember, the Swing is fast and lively. Think of your arms as rudders. They must be firm in order to know which way to go. If you have floppy arms, you won’t be able to respond to your partner’s lead quickly. Don’t be flustered if you don’t “get it” the first time. Read through and practice. The “feel” of the rhythm will come and you’ll be swinging before you know it.

Click here to proceed to the Swing Lesson 1.

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