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 is an American dance that evolved in Harlem, New York City, in the 1920s and 1930s and originally evolved with the jazz music of that time. It was very popular during the Swing era of the late 1930s and early 1940s. Lindy is a fusion of many dances that preceded it or were popular during its development but it 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. It can be danced to a wide range of tempos. Check out this video of two great dancers, Kevin St. Laurent & Jo Hoffberg:


The Charleston is probably what comes to mind when you think of the 1920’s 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.  Check out this video of Sophie Ellis-Bextor & Brendan dancing the Charleston for “Strictly Come Dancing” BBC:


Balboa is a dance that developed separately from Lindy Hop and Charleston in the packed dance halls of Southern California. It is often danced to fast music (190-300 bpm). It is danced in close contact with your partner. While not as flashy as the other swing dances, it takes up much less space. Watch Nick Williams and Katie Hedin demonstrate the beauty of this compact, energetic dance: