Essays about swing

Articles about big band swing


Articles about lindy in Life magazine


Dance: Keep off the Grass Life Magazine 8.1940 / 52 - 54

Dance: Roller-Skate Dancing Life Magazine 8.1940 / 68 / 69

Dance: Ballroom or Swing Life Magazine 10.1939 / 6 / 7

Dance: Gene Kelly Life Magazine 5.1944 / 12 - 15

Dance: Movie "The Castles Life Magazine 3.1927 / 27 - 30

Dance: Movie "Carefree" Life Magazine 8.1938 / 28 - 30

Swing: The hottest and best kind of Jazz reaches its Golden Age Life Magazine 8.1938 / 50 - 60

Swing: The Swing Shift Life Magazine 1.1942 / 86 - 89

Swing: Swing Music produces.. and Shag Life Magazine 2.1938 / 4 / 5

Lindy Hop: The Congeroo Dance Life Magazine 6.1941 / 49 / 50

Lindy Hop: Party at the Savoy Life Magazine 12.1936 / 64-68

Lindy Hop: The Aerial Life Magazine 7.1940 / 84

Lindy Hop: The Lindy Hop Life Magazine 8.1943 / 95-103

Big Apple: 1937 closes with Big Apple Life Magazine 12.1937 / 29-32

Tap: Fred Astaire Life Magazine  

Push and whip


Let's start with the Push. Quite often, but not all the time, the men give resistance through the arms the very last beat of a pattern (double resistance) to create what we call a "Rock Step". Of course the word rock has many different meanings but I am referring to a clothes line effect that stops the upper body of the lady and the lower body follows through. It is a syncopated step usually followed with a hitch and go on the first two beats of the next pattern. Done properly it has a very smooth sexy feel and look. This is a straight forward and back movement. In the Whip this movement (called a "Hesitation") has a rounded hip movement by the lady and is in HMO even sexier. The formula for Push is WCS + Rock Steps = Push. WCS + Hesitation = Whip. If a man does not lead (create) a rock step or hesitation, they are doing WCS. It is generally true in Texas there are more spins and upper body movements, but that is up to the individual dancers. Terry

From: Scott Allen

Styles of WCS differ, depending on where you are, or what kind of music you dance to. It could be said that Houston Whip and Dallas Push are in that respect the Texas interpretations of the WCS.

Texans do distinguish between Whip and Push. However, there is as much or more variation from teacher to teacher or studio to studio within one city as there is between the cities.

The *primary* difference is that traditional Houston Whip uses the hesitation frequently on 1, whereas Push usually does not. Once again, this is a generalization and can not be considered a universal truth.

The other main difference is that in Houston Whip, the hip motion is more circular, created by the hooking of the left foot on beat 5, also known as a loop triple, whereas in Push, the emphasis is on a more straight-line body motion (the rock step). Once again, this is a generalization.

One thing you will find about traditional Whip/Push is that it is VERY conservative of the man's motions. Nothing is extra. The man basically only moves his arm as much as is necessary to produce the lead - no more.

Here are some points where WCS and Push/Whip differ.

The Push and Whip put more emphasis on complicated patterns, where WCS accents more footwork and body motion. WCS usually sticks to 6 and 8-count patterns, where Push/Whip can have patterns of arbitrary lengths, for instance 12-count whip patterns created by repeating a middle section of a normal 8-count whip. Also, Push/Whip utilizes a large number of 4-beat double spin patterns (Walk-walk, spin-spin), which are not part of traditional WCS, although most national-level competitors have adopted these patterns.

Also, some people claim that in WCS the follower is allowed to do a rock (back) step coming out of closed position moves such as the starter step, where Push/Whip always has the follower stepping forward.

Furthermore, in WCS the leader and follower share the slot, whereas in Push/Whip the leader moves across the slot. This is most clear in the basic closed whip, where Push/Whip uses a 'J-lead' that has the leader stepping to the side.

Swing rhythm

All three terms, swing, shuffle, and jive, come from jazz music. They refer to the subdivision of the basic beat in two unequal parts. Whereas early jazz (ragtime and dixieland) used a division in straight eighth notes, the music of the so-called Swing Era (basically the thirties; for the perfect example of such music, listen to Benny Goodman's Live at Carnegie Hall 1938) used a subdivision that was in the ratio of 2:1.

The fact that such a division can be viewed as two notes out of a triplet does not mean that the exact triplet division was the basis for this rhythm. Rather, it is the swing feel that is essential, and melody instruments will occasionally achieve this feel more through phrasing and accenting notes, rather than through the exact positioning. Conversely, a drummer will often play a division that is closer to a 3:1 ratio, although this one too is not necessarily played precisely. It is mostly the rhythm section (bass and drums, maybe other percussion instruments, and maybe augmented by guitar or piano) that define the swing feel for as far as dancing is concerned.

Another way of seeing that no exact division is implied, is by noting that melody and rhythm instruments rarely fill in the intermediate subdivisions of the beat. When they do so, they mostly play a triplet.

Confusing the matter is that most swing music was never precisely notated. Lead sheets were either written with a straight eighths division (and sometimes the confusing note was added that this was to be played with 'triplet feel'), or as the combination of a dotted eighth and a sixteenth note. None of these interpretations is the sole truth.

After the swing era, the matter of subdivision of the beat becomes much more complicated. However, the 2:1 division persists in what musicians call the shuffle (or 'rock shuffle') rhythm. Again, the drum often plays a slightly more pronounced rhythm, if not quite a 3:1 division. The melody instruments do stick fairly closely to the 2:1 division. At slow tempos (for instance in blues music, but also in songs such as 'Stuck With You' by Huey Lewis), there is often a tendency to fill in the intermediate division. Many guitar riffs in blues music (for instance the famous 'Dust my Broom' by Elmore James) really use a 12/8 rhythm. At high tempos (160-180 bpm) such music is used for the International style swing dance, the Jive.

Music with a shuffle division of the beat often feels faster than music with straight eighth notes of the same bpm count. (VE)

It is often claimed that music used for Jive has a rhythm consisting of a dotted eigth followed by a sixteenth. This is refuted by John Patillo in the article "Giving birth to Triplets" in Dance Beat of June 1995.

Another story about the exact nature of swing rhythm can be found in .

From Peter RenzlandPeter@Dancing.Org

The swing rhythm was, in fact, 1:7:1 and 1.8:1, in the most thorough study, and this was so even when the music was *not* Jazz. Best to read up on it yourself: <p>   R.F. Rose: "An Analysis of Time in Jazz Rhythm Section Performance" PHD Diss. U of Texas 1989 <p>   Mark C. Ellis "An Analysis of 'Swing' Subdivision and Asynchronisation in three Jazz Saxophonists" Perpetual and Motor Skills, 73 (1991)

Geoffrey L Collier and James Lincoln Collier: "An exploration of the use of Tempo in Jazz" (op cit)

(The ratio isn't close enough to the golden mean, which would have been really cool :-)

The studies found other, significant results, apart from questioning the triplet myth, such as that even beats last significantly longer!

Finally, here's a quote from Winton Marsalis, excerpted from an interview in American Heritage (Oct 1995): "In jazz, swing comes out of the shuffle rhythm. The interesting thing about teh shuffle is, it's a combination of the march and the waltz, the two basic rhythm in Western music, two-four and three-four. I think New Orleans musicians picked up the shuffle out of the march tradition. "Didn't He Ramble", one of the oldest New Orleans jazz tunes, is a six-eight march."

Swing versus Rock and Roll and Boogie Woogie

From: Peter Renzland Peter@Dancing.Org

In Germany, at least,

1. Rock 'N' Roll is what Germans call the dance they adapted from the Jitterbug (=Lindy Hop) that WWII US GI's brought to Europe. The British dance sport establishment derived Jive from it, the Germans RR.

2. In Germany, largely defined, standardised, and promoted by Wolfgang Steuer, RR developed into a highly acrobatic sport!

3. Boogie Woogie is RR without aerials. Still, a competitive sport.

4. Check out www.wrrc -- follow the link on "News", and you'll find an interesting paper on judging BW, by Kari Kaksonen and Markus Koch.

5. You will also notice that in Germany BW and RR are taught in the competition-sport dance schools, alongside Standard & Latin.

7. BW and RR are taken very seriously in Germany. They are *sports*, and RR is acrobatics. People don't dance (just) for fun - they train.

8. Here are some tidbits from a German book "Tanzsport" by Christoph Burgauner:

[I'm leaving out a lot of context. If some of this sounds a bit ludicrous, it's because of my presentation. The book is well worth the money DM 24.00 ISBN 3-7679-0543-4 Copress]

"The German News Agency reports March 4th, 1921: 'Jazz is the dance in fashion today - a shaking of limbs and contortions never before seen in a ballroom'" p. 91

The U.S. City Charleston [SC] spends considerable funds on an ad campaign to tell the world that it has absolutely nothing to do with the dance of the same name." p. 92

"1934 Victor Sylvester is fed up with musicians arbitrarily dictating to dancers what to dance. He establishes -- with great success -- a Strict Tempo Band, and thus, de-couples for the first time, the development of dancing from the development of music." p. 92

"1937 -- For the Berlin Press Ball, Propaganda Minister Goebbels engages Hylton's Orchestra, which, with its "Swingtett" and its "Stage Show" presents authentic Jazz. Goebbels and Goering dance to Swing music, wearing their National-Socialist Gala-uniforms. One year later, [...] in Hamburg, a few "Swing Kids" are taken to the Mohringen youth concentration camp. On the other hand, in 1944, a survey conducted by the radio broadcast command finds that the German GI's most want to hear "Hot Music", i.e. Jazz." p. 93

"But when Alex Moore sees the Jitterbug for the first time in 1940, he realises immediately that this way of dancing can be neither accepted nor ignored, and he demands a tamed version. However, almost 30 years pass, until this, as Jive, ecomes part of the tournament program. The untamed (or less tamed) version, takes another course, as Rock 'N' Roll." p. 95

9. IMHO, RR and BW are somewhat close to Jive, but quite unlike Lindy Hop (=Jitterbug). They are quite upright. Not a Jazz dance. Not done to Jazz music, although more so than WCS. Most like what teenagers danced in the 50's. <p>   How do I know? I saw it in a movie. (Just kidding :-)

East Coast Swing, Jitterbug, Lindy, Jive

Lindy Hop is the precursor of other styles of swing. It came up in the Savoy ballroom in Harlem, and is presumably named after Charles Lindbergh, whose nickname was Lindy. The basic pattern in the Lindy is 8 counts long, but there are many 6 count patterns. The Jitterbug is a slightly later variant, named after a Cab Calloway song of 1934. The word jive comes from jazz music, but the dance of this name is the British codification of the Jitterbug. It is the swing dance in the International ballroom style. (VE) <p>  

Lift moves

  From:   This is what I would define the terms as in Exhibition or Rock'n'Roll dancing.   In all these terms, the key factor is that the lady is no longer supporting her own weight.  

Drop - the man lowers the girl towards the floor, with her feet on the floor. It can be done fast or slow, but the lady's centre goes down.  

Lift - The man takes the lady of her feet and holds her there.  

Throw - The man takes the lady of her feet and puts her down straight away - he makes no atttempt to hold the lady in the air.

Sash Lift - A low lift (shoulder height or below) with the man turning.  

Aerial lift - An overhead lift - the lady is held above the man's head.  

Aerial throw - A throw above the mans head, usually with no contact. (popular in European Rock'n'Roll)  

Wrap - The lady spins around the mans body (usually his shoulders)  

Air Step - Any lift or (more usually) throw.  

Transition - One lift into another.  

Everybody has there own names for lifts - there is no consistency between styles, countries or teachers. Individual lifts are also very difficult to describe in writing. I would define a helicopter as an angel (the lift in Dirty Dancing, and also called a bird) that is spun by the man, and thrown so that the lady does an extra 180 degree turn and faces the same direction as the man. However some people would call the lift in Strictly Ballroom (where the girl was spinning around the man's neck) a helicopter. I would call that a propeller.   The higher the lift, the harder it is (usually). The more transitions that there are also increase difficulty. Other things to watch out for are fewer supports - a one handed overhead lift is better than 2 hands, or where the girl uses her hands.  

Lifts should also move - either walked around the floor, spun on the spot, or both. A stationary lift is boring after a while.   There should also be some variety - a routine that consists of nothing but aerials is too one-dimensional.   With throws, the height is again important. (A gymnastics saying is "More height - more fright".)   As for how lifts and throws fit into dancing, it depends on the music and the style. Doing a thrown double somersault in a Waltz wouldn't go, neither would a sash lift in a Rock'n'Roll competition.

In my opinion, any lift done on a crowded dance floor is too dangerous - I don't go social dancing to get kicked in the face because somebody want to try out a new aerial lift.   In competition it is different. Most competitions ban all lifts and throws. Drops tend to be allowed, or at least ignored by the judges.

The two styles that have no restrictions are Exhibition (also called Cabaret, Showdance and Theatre Arts) and Acrobatic Rock'n'Roll. Rock'n'Roll at the highest level involves incredible throws like double somersaults, whereas Exhibition is based more around lifts. There is still a lot of dancing, you can't lift non-stop for 4 minutes, and you should still dance during a lift. I know that many people think that there are too many lifts in Exhibition dancing and that Rock'n'Roll is just like gymnastics. I look at it this way - there are competitions in International Latin, American Rhythm, International Modern, American Smooth, C&W, Hustle, WCS, Salsa, Lindy, Roc, Boogie Woogie, Ballet, Jazz, Flamenco, Irish Dancing etc etc that are pure dance competitions. You then have Latin American Showdance, Modern Showdance, Air Step Lindy (and probably Pas de deux comps in ballet and jazz?) where the rules are relaxed to allow lifts but it is still essentially a dance competition.

What is wrong with a dance style with more emphasis placed on the lifts and throws, that pushes the limits of what can be done on a dance floor while not being restricted just to dancing. Not everybody can do it, but then again few dancers can move like Marcus & Karen Hilton, or Corky & Shirley Ballas. Why turn it into yet another pure dance competition.   Pure gymnastics involves far more emphasis on the lifts and throws that have a for higher degree of difficulty than you can do on a hard dance floor. (If you can ever see a Sports Acrobatics competition -GO. It will blow your mind.) There is still a dance element, but it is not as important.

There is a discussion of falls and injuries elsewhere in this FAQ.

Last modified on: 2000, Wednesday April 12.

This file is part of the FAQ list for the newsgroup The FAQ list is being maintained by Victor Eijkhout (victor at eijkhout dot net, talk about vanity), who appreciates being sent additions or corrections on the material in this collection. Copyright 1994/5/6/7/8/9/2000 lies with the maintainer and the contributors of various parts.

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