Swing and Rhythm Dances
Are you a fan of swing-era dance music, with its emphasis on glitz and big bands? Or maybe you like other genres, but still want to learn a fast, exciting dance style that engages your whole body and gets your blood pumping? Chances are you can find just what you’re looking for in the diverse category of styles known as swing and rhythm dances. The dance experts at Arthur Murray Dance Studios are passionate about these styles, and bring a modern touch to dances that have remained popular through decades of fads and changing tastes. You can rely on us to guide your progress and get you moving as quickly as possible.
What Are Swing and Rhythm Dances?
What exactly separates swing and rhythm dances from other dance styles? In the world of American dance, all styles are roughly divided into two basic camps: smooth dances that emphasize flowing, graceful movements, and rhythm dances that feature more pronounced body movements. Specific types of movement typically found only in rhythm dances include waving of the arms, bending at the hips, and bending or flexing at the knees.
All swing dances are rhythm dances, but not all rhythm dances are swing dances. The swing family originated in the 1920s as counterparts to the popular “swing” music performed by ballroom jazz bands. As swing music evolved over time, the swing dances evolved with them.
Arthur Murray began operation during the swing era, and our studios were instrumental in spreading the popularity of swing and rhythm dances throughout the U.S. Today, our highly skilled instructors maintain an unmatched level of enthusiasm for these dances. They also maintain an unmatched ability to transmit what they know to you, the student dancer.
Our Dance Styles
East Coast Swing
The East Coast Swing is derived from two other dances: the Foxtrot and the Lindy Hop. It features two consecutive triple-step moves, followed by what’s known as a rock step. While swing music progresses in 4/4 time, the East Coast Swing is a six-beat dance. Along with typically fast tempos (140 to 170 beats per minute), the six-beat rhythm makes the dance the most fundamental swing dance. Most beginners start with the East Coast Swing, and explore other swing forms from there. The skilled instructors at Arthur Murray make mastery of this most basic form accessible for all of our students, carefully explaining each step at a gradual, sustainable pace.
West Coast Swing
The West Coast Swing is also derived from the Lindy Hop, and still incorporates some of the rapid, tap-like steps and push-pull interactions that characterize the Lindy’s lively style. Like the Lindy Hop, the West Coast Swing is a slotted dance. This means that the lead dancer primarily stays in one spot while the following dancer moves around a rectangular area, or “slot.” Musically, the dance is quite adaptable, and you can perform it to essentially any genre that features a 4/4 beat. Arthur Murray helped develop the West Coast Swing, and our instructors are highly skilled at teaching the basics and also its advanced nuances.
The Lindy Hop, or Lindy, originated in Harlem in the jazz-era 1920s, and represents a unique combination of swing jazz and tap dance elements. It also represents a unique combination of African-American steps, a traditionally European eight-count pattern and partnered and solo moves. At its most advanced, the Lindy Hop is characterized by intricate, acrobatic and largely improvised steps that require great finesse and ability. However, Arthur Murray takes away the intimidation factor by starting with the basic Lindy step, known as the swingout, and building gradually from this solid foundation. As always, the emphasis remains on fun.
The Jitterbug, also known as the Single-Time Swing, is an energetic four-step swing dance performed in six-count time. Like most swing dances, it has its roots in the jazz-era 1920s. It features less acrobatic dance steps than the Lindy Hop, as well as a more rapid pace than the West Coast Swing. After learning the basic Jitterbug steps, dancers commonly add their own variations, including maneuvers such as the Jitterbug turn and the triple step. The instructors at Arthur Murray will begin by showing you the dance’s simplest steps. As you gain skill and confidence, you will slowly learn the Jitterbug’s more complicated elements.
The Jive is a high-energy dance commonly performed at very accelerated tempos. It began in 1940s Britain as a mashup of the Jitterbug and the Lindy Hop. The dance features a syncopated eight-beat pattern, which calls for movement only on the even beats. The Jive is centered on a spirit of improvisation. However, beginners start by learning 20 basic moves that serve as building blocks for the later freeform steps. At Arthur Murray, you will learn each of the basic moves before gradually chaining moves together into more complex and challenging sequences.
While not a swing dance, the Hustle still features the hip and knee movements common to all rhythm dances. The upbeat dance originated in the 1970s, when it helped define the heart of the disco era. At first it was only performed solo, but now it also exists in partner form. The Hustle is a four-step dance (two quick steps followed by two slow steps) performed to a three-beat pattern. The steps move the dancers backward, then forward on the dance floor. After showing you the basic steps, Arthur Murray’s skilled instructors will teach you how to vary your steps to fit different musical tempos.
Why Choose Arthur Murray?
Arthur Murray has a prominent place in the history of American dance education. The instructors at each of our studios are exceptionally skilled in the dances they teach, and know how to relay the knowledge they possess to students of all ages and levels of ability. We feature a perfect blend of private lessons, group lessons and practice sessions designed to show you the basics and prepare you for more advanced performance. At the same time, our instructors always place special emphasis on maintaining a fun, relaxed environment.
You can start learning a swing and rhythm dance for just $20 through Arthur Murray’s introductory lesson program. As your interests and abilities evolve, we’ll make sure you get the training you need to pursue any level of skill you desire, all the way up to professional performance. Contact us today to learn more about scheduling an introductory lesson and entering the fun, vibrant world of swing and rhythm dancing.