A Brief History of Swing Dance

Swing dancing is a dance style originating from Harlem, New York with Afro-American Roots. Today, the most common style of partnered swing dance is Lindy Hop, but there are many other forms of swing, including Charleston, Balboa and Collegiate Shag. Additionally, there is Solo Jazz, which encompasses the many styles of non-partnered swing dance. On this page we will try to give a summary of the history of swing dance and its development.

Early 1900's

Jazz music began in New Orleans and spread across the US when enterprising musicians who felt stifled by the traditionalism of New Orleans moved to Chicago and then New York.

1920's

The music inspired early Swing dances such as Charleston within African American communities, particularly within New York.

1926

The Savoy Ballroom opened its doors in Harlem, New York as a social dance venue with live music. It was here that swing became popular with Chick Webb's band as the house band.

1927

Charles Lindbergh "hopped" across the Atlantic in his groundbreaking flight, and swing dances developed around this time were named "Lindbergh Hop", or "Lindy Hop", in tribute.

1935

Herbert 'Whitey' White recruited the best dancers from the Savoy to be in his professional performance group 'Whitey's Lindy Hoppers'. Members included Frankie Manning and Norma Miller, who was only 14 at the time. 

1937

Dean Collins is credited with bringing Lindy Hop from New York to California.

1940's/1950's

Regional styles developed as the popularity for Lindy Hop and Swing music grew. New dances including West Coast Swing emerged.

Late 1950's

Swing music evolves into Rock 'n' Roll, where the Boogie Woogie dance form is popularised.

1958

The Savoy Ballroom closed.

1980's

Swedish dancers watched old footage of the 'Whitey's Lindy Hoppers' and tracked down Al Minns and Frankie Manning to teach them Swing.

2009

Frankie Manning died aged 94, having spent the last 25 years of his life teaching and spreading the joy of Lindy Hop.

Today

The dance style continues to grow around the world in social, competitive and performance settings.