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What is Swing?
East Coast Swing Single-step Swing
East Coast Swing has a 6 count basic step. This is in contrast to the meter of most swing music, which has a 4 count basic rhythm. In practice, however, the 6-count moves of the east coast swing are often combined with 8-count moves from the Lindy hop, Charleston, and Balboa.
The normal steps can be substituted with a triple step or double step "step-tap" or "kick-step" instead of a single step. This is commonly used during songs when a slower tempo makes the single step difficult (an example progression would be "rock step, triple step, triple step").
The Lindy Hop is a dance based on the popular Charleston and named for Charles Lindbergh's Atlantic crossing in 1927. It evolved in Harlem, New York City in the 1920s and '30s and originally evolved with the jazz music of that time. Lindy was a fusion of many dances that preceded it or were popular during its development but is mainly based on jazz, tap, breakaway and Charleston. It is frequently described as a jazz dance and is a member of the swing dance family. We could write a novel about the history and present day Lindyhop... but let’s just say most of the steps are 8 count and in any given tune... lindy, east coast and balboa, get all mixed together.
Balboa is a form of swing dance that started as early as 1915 and gained in popularity in the 1930s and 1940s. It is danced primarily in close embrace, and is led with a full body connection. The art of Balboa is the subtle communication between the lead and follow, like weight shifts, that most viewers cannot see. As a result, Balboa is considered more of a "dancer's dance" than a "spectator's dance".
Balboa is danced to a wide variety of tempos. Because the basic step takes up such a small space, Balboa can be danced to fast music (over 300 beats per minute). Balboa is also danced to slow music (under 100 beats per minute), which allows more time for intricate footwork and variations.
"Shag" itself (when used in reference to American social dances) is a very broad term used to denote a number of swing dances that originated during the early part of the 20th century. Arthur Murray mentioned Shag in his 1937 book "Let's Dance". This article states that shag was known throughout the entire country under various names, like "Flea Hop". A New York writer sent to Tulsa, Oklahoma in late 1940/early 1941 noted an "...Oklahoma version of shag done to the Western Swing music of Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys at the Cain's Dancing Academy in Tulsa."