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How to Swing Dance: A Beginner’s Guide

Published on Mar 23rd 2022
how to swing dance

Have you ever wanted to know how to swing dance? While learning how to swing dance certain variations are more complicated than others, all of the dances begin with a few basic steps that aren’t too hard to learn.

Lace up your dancing shoes and read further to discover how simple and fun it can be to learn how to swing dance!

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Learn How to Swing Dance

Is Swing Dance Hard to Learn?

If you’re a complete beginner to dancing, don’t worry. Learning how to swing dance isn’t overly complicated, and with some practice learning a few basic steps, you’ll be ready to incorporate variations and a flair of your own in no time.

So, when it comes to learning how to swing dance, is swing dance hard to learn? The short answer is: no! But it becomes even easier with the guidance of a highly rated dance instructor.

Swing Dance Lessons

As with learning anything new, it helps to have an expert guiding you through the process. The same goes for dancing. If you’d like to learn how to swing dance, look for dance classes in Colorado Springsdance classes in San Diego and dance classes in Las Vegas wherein a talented dancer will lead an engaging, fun course designed to ease the transition into learning these new steps!

You’ll get a unique and exciting workout in whilst learning something new: how to swing dance with style. Both beginners and experts alike will find that these dance classes near you are a fun way to switch up your routine and one of the best ways to learn to dance.

You may decide to sign up for online dance classes, where you will still receive some of the best dance instruction around, right from the comfort of your own home, so there’s no pressure!

how to swing dance lessons
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Swing Dance History

Do you know that the swing dance has influenced countless popular dancing styles since the 1920s? When you think of the roaring ‘20s, images of rowdy speakeasies, jazz bands, swanky parties and swing dancing likely come to mind.

As jazz music began to develop in the 1920s, so did the swing dance and others like it, as crowds of people learned how to swing dance. Certain forms of jazz music are actually referred to as “swing music” for this reason.

According to the Chicago Swing Dance Society, majorly influential artists, including Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday, are known for their impact on swing music throughout the early 1900s.

The dance has evolved since its pioneering days, and now encompasses numerous variations, including the Lindy Hop, the Jitterbug, the East Coast Swing, the West Coast Swing, Country Swing and others, which makes learning how to swing dance a popular hobby from coast to coast.

Swing Dance Basic Steps

Whether you decide to sign up for dance classes with a professional to learn how to swing dance or you’d like to give swing dance a try on your own, it helps to understand the basics of the dance before you actually get moving. Read on for some simple ways to get started. 

Swing Dance Count

Before you can master how to swing dance, ffirst you must learn to count to the swing dance beat. These dances typically follow a six- or eight-count rhythm. The basic count is a rock step (1, 2), a triple step (3 and 4) and another triple step (5 and 6).

Five Basic Steps of Swing Dance

  1. To start with the rock step, step backwards with your left foot moving behind you, and step forward with your right foot.

  2. For the first triple step, you’ll step to the side with your left foot, the same way with your right foot, and again with your left foot. So, to the beat of 3-and-4, you’ll step left, right, left.

  3. Then, you’ll repeat this triple step in the opposite direction, so that you are moving right, left, right.

  4. If this dance is being done with a partner, the leader typically starts on the left foot while the follower starts on the right foot.

  5. Next, it's time to incorporate the swing! All this means is that after doing the basic steps (rock step, triple step, triple step), you’ll pivot 1/4 of the way to your left, while your partner pivots 3/4 to their right, and then you’ll do a triple step.

couples' feet swing dancing in the street
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Country Swing Dance

As aforementioned, the swing dance has been adapted in various ways to a variety of music forms. One popular swing variation is the country swing dance. When it comes to how to swing dance in the country variation, you’ll learn to incorporate more twists, turns and other fun moves as you dance with your partner. Read further to learn how to swing dance the country swing dance.

Country Swing Dance Moves

  1. First, it’s important to distinguish who is the “leader” and who is the “follower” in your dance. As you join hands to dance, the leader will have their hands facing upwards while the follower’s hands are facing downwards.

  2. After your first rock step, you’re going to walk towards each other rather than moving side-to-side. As your partner steps forward with their left foot, you’ll step forward with your right, and then repeat with the opposite feet. This dance is done with an eight-count beat, so you’ll be taking eight steps.

  3. Once you’re comfortable with those basic swing dance moves, you can incorporate a spin, wherein you are still doing the basic steps, but as you both hold hands, you are turning your bodies rather than staying in one place. Then you can start to incorporate some of the following moves into your dance.

Tip: Don’t forget to stay loose when learning how to swing dance! There’s no room for stiffness, especially in the country swing dance.

father and daughter dancing in field
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East Coast vs. West Coast Swing Dances

What is the Easiest Swing Dance to Learn?

The East Coast swing is likely the easiest for when it comes to learning how to swing dance. It contains the most basic steps, and many other variations are built off of this version.

In fact, the basic steps listed above are exactly what the East Coast swing dance is. It consists of a rock step followed by two triple steps. However, you can make the dance your own by deciding whether to step side-to-side with your partner or front and back.

What is the West Coast Swing?

When learning how to swing dance in the West Coast version, you will usually have to dance to a slower tempo than in the East Coast swing. This doesn’t mean that the West Coast swing is by any means a slow dance — it will just work well with a slightly slower tempo.

The key difference between East Coast and West Coast swing is that East Coast swing is done at a pace of around 136-144 beats per minute, while West coast is done around 102-114 beats per minute.

West Coast Swing Steps

A West Coast swing dance incorporates a “sugar push,” which means that your partner and you will be facing each other and walking forward and backward together. While you take two steps backwards, your partner will take two steps forward, then take two steps in place at the same time before repeating the move in the other direction.

After the sugar push, you and your partner will perform a “sugar tuck.” After the last step in place of the sugar push, the follower will turn away instead of simply stepping back. Then, they’ll triple step their way into a half circle, and face the leader once again.

The biggest distinction for the West Coast swing is that the entire dance is performed in a sort of linear way, whereas the East Coast dance follows a more circular pattern. Either of these styles are a greta starting point for those in the beginning stages of learning how to swing dance.

couple dancing swing on the beach
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Fun Swing Dance Moves

Hammerlock

The hammerlock comes from doing turns with your partner. Rather than holding one hand while your partner turns around, you will both hold both of each other’s hands.

This way, once one partner turns, you’re in a sort of, well, hammerlock, wherein one hand will be held down and the other hand will be raised above your partner’s head as the turn. Once the turn is completed, the lower hand will be behind your partner’s back.

Cuddle

The cuddle is kind of exactly what it sounds like. In this move, you and your partner will do the beginning of a hammerlock, but in the end, your partner will be in front of you, facing the same direction as you, while your hands are held in front of your partner’s body.

Lean

While in the cuddle, you would typically simply reverse the move so that your partner turns out of the cuddle back into facing you.

For a lean, you (as the leader) would instead turn your body to open up to allow your partner to continue their turn all of the way until you are both only holding hands with your inside hands, and your outer hands are free and you are both facing forward.

Then, your partner would simply lean against you, so that your sides are touching.

Jumpin’ Joe

The Jumpin’ Joe move is great for upbeat tempos and lively dances. It’s very simple, and works best when the leader is shorter in height than the follower. In the move, leaders will spin their partners and then bring their arm over their head while jumping in the air. 

Tunnel

For those of you who want to learn how to swing dance and how to incorporate some intricate, impressive moves, the tunnel is for you. This will take some practice with a partner, so be patient!

The tunnel is a move that involves several inward twists while you and your partner are holding hands, so that it sort of looks like one partner is going through a “tunnel,” which refers to the other partner’s arms. 

how to swing dance fun moves
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How to Swing Dance Solo 

When learning how to swing dance, you might ask yourself: can you swing dance solo? When it comes to practicing the dance or taking online dance classes, a partner may not always be available to you. Don’t worry, we’ve got the answers.

Can You Swing Dance by Yourself?

Although swing dancing is typically performed and practiced between two partners, it can certainly be practiced with just one person. Learning how to swing dance by yourself is simply a way to practice and master the basic swing dance steps.

When you are swing dancing alone, it does help to act as if you are dancing with a partner. What that means is that you should dance with your arms out and in position as if a partner were with you, so that when you do do the dance with a partner, it will feel practiced and natural.

When practicing how to swing dance on your own, pay attention to your footsteps and decide whether you’re dancing as a leader or follower, as your moves will differ slightly, and you want to be ready for when you do end up dancing with a partner.

Solo swing dancing is great for learning to master your posture, footwork, rhythm and overall confidence in the dance!

woman in red dress dancing by herself
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Now that you know how to swing dance, get out on the dance floor to test your moves! As you learn how to swing dance, you’ll see that it simply takes practice of simple steps in order to feel more comfortable including some fun variations of your own.

Don’t forget to check out dance classes near you if you think you could benefit from some extra help to learn how to swing dance.

For even more creative ideas and inspiration, check out other experiences happening on Classpop!