What’s Swing Dancing?

Swing Dance is an umbrella term for several different dance styles. At Swing Ann Arbor, “swing dance” means 6- and 8-count Lindy Hop, but you’ll also see us doing related dances such as Balboa, Charleston, St. Louis Shag, and Collegiate Shag. Here’s a quick run down of the primary dance styles in the SAA scene:

Lindy Hop
Lindy Hop is the primary dance you’ll see at Swing Ann Arbor. It’s an American dance that was created by African American communities in Harlem, New York City, in the 1920s and 1930s, and evolved alongside jazz music. It was very popular during the Swing era of the late 1930s and early 1940s. After almost disappearing, Lindy Hop was revived in the 1980s-90s, and today is danced all over the world!
Lindy is a fusion of many dances but is mainly based on jazz, tap, breakaway, and Charleston. It’s a member of the “swing dance” family. It can be danced to a wide range of tempos, and is danced both socially and competitively! Check out these amazing examples of Lindy Hop:

Remy Kouakou Koame & Alice Mei performing at the International Lindy Hop Championships 2018.


Dee Locke & Josh Mclean social dancing at Plenty Hot 2018.

Charleston is probably what comes to mind when you think of the 1920’s, speakeasies, and “flappers“. However, Charleston continued to evolve into the 1940’s and beyond. We teach lessons in a variety of solo & partner Charleston styles. Many swing dancers seamlessly blend Charleston and Lindy steps.

Solo Charleston finals at the International Lindy Hop Championships 2013.

Balboa is a dance that developed, separately from Lindy Hop and Charleston, in the packed dance halls of Southern California, where partners had to dance in close embrace. It is typically danced to fast music (190-300 bpm).

Kelly Arsenault & Mickey Fortanasce competing at the International Lindy Hop Championships 2013.

St. Louis Shag
St. Louis Shag grew out of the 1930s dance halls in, you guessed it, St. Louis, Missouri! This dance was intended to be danced with Lindy Hop, such that partners might switch between styles during a single song. It’s a “stationary” dance, so couples stayed in one spot on the floor (just like with Balboa, it keeps you from dancing into anyone else!). St. Louis Shag is danced to fast swing, jump blues, and boogie woogie.