Swing, the dance that lifts the spirits

Put some swing in your step. Take more chances. Dance more dances. Just swing it.


Dance has been an integral part of ourselves from ancient times. The Ancients Greeks attributed an important role in dance and they characterized it as a ”gift from God to man”. By dancing we become aware of our body and we are given the opportunity to express and externalize our individual emotion. Dance is an activity in which the body and soul communicate and together express the inner needs of each human. It is an amazing journey that gives us beauty. As every dance was born to serve a social need, so was swing. It is a passion, a spiritual uplift, a celebration of the soul.

What is swing dance and how did it start?

Starting with the word itself, it is difficult to know the exact etymology of ”swing”, because there are many stories behind the origin of this dance. What is known is that contains intense rhythmic movement, something that becomes apparent in the way it is danced, which dominates free oscillating movements and sharp turns. But, what is the history of this famous dance?

Swing is a dance of African American origin, which despite the joy and vitality it radiates, also hides a sad story. By the 18th century, a growing number of African men, women and children had been forcibly sent to mainland America. In fact, modern researchers and historians mention that the total number of African slaves who sailed to America was between 9 and 12 million and lived under miserable conditions. These people brought with them their traditions, which undoubtedly influenced the culture of the ”New World”. According to the book Jazz Dance: The Story of American Vernacular Dance (1994), during the travels of slaves from Africa, the captors forced them to dance and offer entertainment. The slaves came from different tribes and villages, so this fusion of cultures leads to the creation of a new dance style. Many early types of dance can be considered as styles of swing but the Lindy Hop is the most famous of the swing dances even today.

There are three elements, which contributed to the development of the Lindy Hop (the earliest form of swing dance) followed by the evolution of swing. The first element is the unstable rhythm, the so-called ”syncopated rhythm”. The second element is the diffused use of humor and imitation. Imitation especially requires a variety of body movements and the use of all its parts by the dancer. The third and most important element that defines the style of swing is improvisation and expression. The above three elements contributed to the development of the Lindy Hop. This dance developed in black communities in Harlem (a neighborhood in New York) in the 1920s and 1930s and is also characterized by turns, fast rhythm and aerial jumps. The use of the term ”Lindy Hop” was widespread on the East Coast throughout the 1930s and 1940s.

At the same time lots of swing dances were developed but most of them disappeared leaving their own stamp. From the 40s swing dance began to flourish. All orchestras played swing and the youth danced, during many concerts and tours. So, swing became renowned and was loved by lots of people in many countries around the world. In fact, whilst the starting point for swing was jazz, it can be noted that swing also helped to spread jazz music and make it world-famous. It is important to also note that through great swing orchestras, many remarkable musicians such as Lester Young, Jimmy Blanton emerged, as well as very talented singers such as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzerald and Frank Sinatra, that carved out brilliant careers. It is impossible not to mention the ”King of swing” Benny Goodman. The importance here was that Benny Goodman put an end to US racial segregation, hiring white and Negro musicians in his orchestra.

The role of media and the value of swing dance today

The role of the media was also crucial for the evolution of swing. By the end of 1990 swing had caught their attention. Well-known newspapers and magazines were publishing articles about the revival of its popularity, whilst the internet was flooded with discussions about this popular dance. Swing apart from dancing was now a way of expression and behavior. Swing was fashionable. This dance was loved by people because swing is not just steps. It is all the rage. It is the emotion that arises from the human soul. It is life.

So, people of all ages began to attend classes and dance following swing steps. Although the swing dance was considered bold for the interwar period, it became a style of dance, that gave a strong punch to the conservative society and evolved into a fascinating spectacle for all people. Furthermore, swing dance is the foundation of other famous dances including hip hop and disco. It started about 100 years ago and still continues to evolve and attract new fans.


Dance is a conversation between the body and the soul and this is expressed by swing. It is the dance that overcomes fear. It was ”born” in difficult times, where there was poverty and despair, giving a breath of joy and hope to the people. In the global dance community, swing is one of the most popular dances and it is considered an American art form that came from African American roots and was developed by dancers in Harlem and the Savoy ballroom of New York. Nowadays, swing dance lists hundreds of fans and has gained a great reputation. There are also many dance classes, competitions, performances and dance nights in many cities around the world. The current situation may not allow live performances and events, but you can live the magic and the liveliness of swing dance from your own home through the Radio Art’s channel, ”Swing” and you can discover great musicians such as Benny Goodman. Don’t hesitate to live a little of the glamor of swing. So…let’s dance!

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