Can You Explain the Different Types of Swing?

Like Salsa there are at least seven styles of Swing- Lindy, Jitterbug (and its Ballroom counterpart, Jive), Balboa, Shag, Boogie Woogie, East Coast and West Coast Swing. There are three prevalent styles around the world- East Coast/Jive, West Coast, and Lindy. Some lesser trained teachers will try to tell you that one style is better than the other, or that one is for competition and the other for social dancing. Once again-BS! All of them are great.

We have been dancing Ballroom for 30+ years each. We have trained with the best in each of the styles. We don't tell you that there is only one style because that is all we know like many teachers do. We don't try to tell you that one style is better than another style. They are all great in the right situation.

Because of the limited space and times we start everyone with West Coast Swing. Why? Because it is the most versatile. It works to Blues, Rhythm & Blues, Motown, Rock, Jazz, Foxtrot, Pop, Country and even Hip Hop! (Basically most music from the 50's-through today's music.) Lindy, on the other hand, is danced mostly to big band sounds from the 1920's-1940's plus some recent retro Swing music from the 1990s. Finally East Coast Swing is danced to the faster pop tunes closer to West Coast but is really kind of a hybrid.

Examples of Swing Dancing

  1. West Coast Swing
  2. East Coast Swing
  3. Boogie Woogie
  4. Shag
  5. Lindy
  6. Balboa
  7. Jitterbug
  8. Jive

How Swing Changed My Life

Fresh from winning the US Amateur Latin Championship and dancing in two World Championships, I thought I was hot $#!+. So when I heard that Lionel Hampton (40's Swing Band star) was playing at Disneyland, I decided to go have fun. When I got there I noticed the majority of the crowd was 55 and up. I thought to myself, "I'm going to show them how it should look." As the band opened with Hamp's Boogie Woogie, I thought "This is a little fast- That's ok I can handle it." At about 3 minutes into my jumping about doing Jive, I thought to myself, "This is kind of a long song! That's ok I'm an athlete." At about 4 1/2 minutes, my lungs searing and my legs like rubber, I slinked off the floor and sat down at a nearby table. As I sat, I noticed the older dancers still in cruise mode and grinning at me like, "What's the matter kid? Too fast for you?"

I could have done what many other dancers would do- high tail it out of there and never mention it again. Instead I approached them afterwards and asked how it was that they seemed to be doing a different dance that worked better to the band. One of the couples nicely explained that they were doing Balboa and could go all night at that speed. Up until then I only knew East Coast Swing and Jive, and even those had to be played at a certain tempo or the song was no good. What I learned that night has served me for 35 years. It is never the music that is too fast or too slow, it is the dance that you are doing that is ill-suited for the music being played. So opening my mind I began to search out the best dancers. Soon after I attended a Swing Workshop with the legend Kenny Wetzel and in a 3-hour workshop he introduced me to Charleston, Lindy, Flying Lindy, West Coast Swing, Balboa, Jitterbug, and Shag.

Over the next 3 years I discovered that it was like having multiple gears in a car. Some gears are great for slow and some for fast. That's why a Ferrari has a whole bunch more than a Volkswagen. Aha! I had been in the wrong gear that night.

Swing Misconceptions

Many ballroom professionals have been incorrectly taught that there are 3 kinds of Swing- East Coast, West Coast and Jive. In essence they have 3 gears. In the Swing Community there are no such limitations or barriers. A great dancer can West Coast to fast music and dance without breaking a sweat. At the US Open in 1995 dancing in the West Coast division we opened to Mitch Wood's Rocket 88 at 183 beats per minute and closed with Baxster's Boogie at nearly 195 beats per minute.

Swing Origins

While the origins of any dance form always has its various theories and myths, there are many great websites and research papers that have good documentation. Yet I always stand by music evolves regionally based off the preferred local dancers and types of music so they all have some basis of fact. But here are a few great links if you want to explore. Remember some are written from a regional point of view, some from a ballroom world point of view.

  1. http://chnm.gmu.edu/courses/hist409/swing.html
  2. http://www.just-the-swing.com
  3. http://www.centralhome.com/ballroomcountry/swing.htm
  4. http://www.streetswing.com/histmain/index.htm

Some of Our Accomplishments

In the dance world many people know the Cordoba name. While Enio is known for Salsa, in the Swing World, Enio's younger brother Robert Cordoba, won 7 US Swing Championships and is a member of the Swing Dance Hall of Fame. Yet many do not know that in the Ballroom World, both Enio and Robert competed very successfully. Enio made the quarter finals of the British Open and was acclaimed as "Terrific in the Jive!" by Jack Reavely in the Dance News while Robert danced with future British Champion Karen Hardy in the Amateur Latin. For a few years Enio and Terryl also competed in the US Open Swing Dance Championships in the Classic, Team, and Cabaret Divisions.


Professional Dancing

Enio & Terryl performing at the US Open Swing Championships


Marcus Koch and Barbl Kaufer

West Coast Swing:

Robert Cordoba and Deborah Szekely