Faculty, Ithaca College, Ithaca NY
Founder: Cornell University Swing Dance Programs
- East Coast Swing, most commonly known in its simplified 6-count triple step
form, is not a street dance - it is a ballroom studio adaptation,
derived from various street swing dancing patterns and styles (especially
LINDY HOP) at the height of the Swing Era. The American Society of Dance
Teachers, a group of independent instructors (many of whom were former
Arthur Murray teachers) debuted the Jitterbug aka Lindy aka
American Swing syllabus in 1942. East Coast Swing is its most modern
name, appearing on the scene decades later than the dance itself, as it was
being taught to movie dancers quite a bit before 1942. Since its inception,
this ballroom-style dance been variously called, by ballroom studios: Eastern
Swing, American Swing, Lindy, Jitterbug, and Western Swing. And in various
quarters, ALL those names are still used today to refer to the same. (The
modern related ballroom style, INTERNATIONAL JIVE, is a British Ballroom
It is worthwhile to note that during the swing era, street dancers used the names Jitterbug, Lindy, and Jivin' (UK) as umbrella terms to refer to any kind of swing dancing - they did not refer to any specific style or step pattern. In fact, a lot of dancers did not use ANY kind of step pattern. Just like today, the average unstudied swing era dancer (the majority) was not even terribly concerned about moving with the actual rhythm of the music. Big Band members had a name for dancers that danced in the rhythm they were playing - "Rhythm Dancers." This information comes from my own conversations with numerous old timers.
SIX COUNT? - East Coast Swing's 6-count basic pattern has 3 variants: Triple Step, Touch Step (double Lindy), Single Step (Single Lindy). Ballroom instructors tend to favor the triple step pattern, hence that is the most common form seen in the ballroom, and at swing dances attended by some ballroom-trained dancers. But note: 8-count patterns, with Lindy footwork, make up over a third of the Bronze East Coast Swing Syllabus (see below).. Most beginners in ballroom, as with other dances, don't continue with lessons beyond basics, and hence never get to the 8-count patterns. They may enjoy dancing, and show up at dances, thus contributing to the false impression, especially among many Lindy Hop enthusiasts that East Coast Swing is a 6-count dance.
Step itself is derived from the Chassé or Chase or Sashay Step, also
used in Polka - it moves freely around the floor; it is not stepped
in place, nor is it a line-of-direction dance. However, if space
is tight, it can morph into a virtual spot pattern, but that is only out
of bare necessity of the moment.
EAST COAST BASIC PATTERNS - LEADERS FOOTWORK
L and R are not just "feet" - they are directions of motion
"&" = continue in same direction with other foot
Bold = strong weight shift
|count||position||Leader's Footwork, Weight Shift|
|1&2 - 3&4 - 56||1.
closed, facing partner
2. open, 1 or 2 hands
|L & L - R & R - Rock Step|
|1&2 - 3&4 - 56||promenade (conversation)||Front & Front - Back & Back - Rock Step|
|1&2 - 3&4 - 56 - 7&8||closed, facing partner, turning||L & L - shift: LR - R & R - Rock Step|
|1&2 - 3&4 - 56 - 7&8||promenade, turning||Front & Front - shift: Front Back - Back & Back - Rock Step|
HISTORY - The contribution of Arthur Murray instructors to the development of East Coast Swing is significant. Arthur Murray (born Moses Teichman, 1895-1991) spent considerable effort investigating popular club dance styles, and distilling them into pattern dancing teachable in the Arthur Murray Studios. Some of these styles remain in today's American Ballroom Syllabus, and some fell by the wayside, notably Collegiate Shag (Murray Shag) and the Big Apple.
In the '30s, the American Society of Dance Teachers threw up their hands at the possibility of teaching any of the types of swing dancing being done in the clubs (ballrooms) of the time. They tried at first to ignore it, hoping it would go away, then to denigrate it, hoping dancers would shun it. 70 years later, entrenched in-the-box "leaders" of modern dance organizations might take a cue from history: instead of "New? No!" a more practical negative is "Adapt or face extinction." A positive might be, "Maybe there is something good here. Let's look into it."
However, just like his teachers Vernon Castle (Vernon Castle Blythe, 1887-1918) and Irene Castle (Irene Foote, 1893-1969) , the father and mother of modern ballroom instruction worldwide, Arthur Murray thought of how to tame the wild street dancing for white ballroom consumption. Regionally, there was already a proliferation of styles of swing dance. His first attempt to incorporate the varied Lindy/Jitterbug street dancing into the studio was to tell his instructors nationwide to go to the clubs, and see what people were doing, and to put together something that reflected it in their own locales. In each city, Arthur Murray studios were teaching different swing styles. There was no national syllabus. By the mid-1940s this was no longer the case, as one can see from reading Arthur Murray's books published at the time. Finally, from her dance floor observations, swing competitor and Arthur Murray instructor Lauré Haile codified and unified Swing for Arthur Murray in her 1951 syllabus. That syllabus is virtually unchanged today.
Profoundly influential Dean Collins (born Saul Cohen, 1917-1984), through his dancing and instruction, had a significant role in the development of East Coast Swing. A top dancer and competitor, he also taught for Hollywood and choreographed over 100 movies. In addition, he taught Arthur Murray instructors in Southern California through the late '40s to early '50s. He even gave Arthur Murray private lessons!
- East Coast Swing (and ballroom dance) proliferated through the popularity
of the Murray Studios. At its height, there were over 3560 Murray studios
(In 2003, there are less than 200 Murray studios worldwide). As a marketing
ploy, during the 50s, Arthur Murray tried to rename the dance Rock 'n'
Roll, to capitalize on the new popular music of Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly,
Chuck Berry, Bill Haley, etc. But the teenage public was not fooled. Crazed,
hoppin' wild and free rock 'n' roll music and ballroom dance, with all its
rules, reside at opposite ends of the universe. America's new dance models,
the American Bandstand kids, were obviously not dancing triple steps - and
they called THEIR dance "rock 'n' roll." The re-naming attempt was
NDCA SYLLABUS 2005 - EAST COAST SWING
Lady's Underarm Turn
Gentleman's Underarm Turn
Tuck-In with Underarm Turn
Tuck-In with Free Turn
8-count Basic in Place
8-count Basic Turning
8-count Basic with Open Break
8-count Underarm Turn L
8-count Underarm Turn R
Simple Sugar Push
Turning Sugar Push
Toe Heel Spin
Back to Back Swivel
to Become a Good Dancer," Arthur Murray, New York; 1938
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