Description of the East Coast Swing
This dance (and all contemporary Swing) has its roots with the Lindy Hop dances done at the great Savoy Ballroom in Harlem in the 1920’s and 1930’s. East Coast Swing is an energetic, fast dance, done usually with triple steps and rock steps to Big Band or contemporary music that ‘swings’.
Characteristics of the East Coast Swing
East Coast Swing is a happy, fun, upbeat dance. Distinguished by its bounce, rock step (back break), Swing hip motion and triple steps, East Coast Swing is also a non-progressive dance. The Swing frame is typically in Closed Promenade position with the leader’s left hand at the waist level and the right hand is on the follower’s left shoulder blade.
East Coast Swing Music
Time signature: 4/4
Tempo: 34-36 measures per minute
Timing: 1, 2, 3a4, 5a6 (a is equal to 1/3 of a beat of music) or 1, 2, 3&4, 5&6
Beat value: 1-1, 2/3-1/3-1, 2/3-1/3-1 or 1-1, ½-½-1, ½-½-1
ECS came from Lindy Hop which was the original dance to swing music. Swing music came from New Orleans in the form of Jazz. In the 1920s, Jazz migrated to big band format made up of elements of ragtime, black spiritual, blues and European music. Big band Jazz such as Duke Ellington, Ben Pollack etc were early big bands playing hot music and provided the start for future big band leaders like Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, etc.
The formation of big band jazz created the need for the “arranger”. In small groups of Jazz players, they can just get together and blow for their solos, however, in large groups, structures were given to the solos. At the same time, hotel dance bands such as Paul Whiteman, The California Ramblers, Ted Lewis, Vincent Lopez etc played to ballroom dance crowds and radio broadcasts. This arranged easy style of flowing jazz is called swing.
In 1926, the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem opened – the dance floor was 1 block huge and the weekly dance competitions with top big bands created radical dance moves. “Shortie George” Snowden is credited with naming this dance the Lindy Hop after Charles Lindberg’s solo flight across the Atlantic. Lindy Hop was popular in the US and Europe to the mid 1930s. In 1936, this dance became known as Jitterbug and was danced until the end of WWII.
In the 1930s, Arthur Murray was grappling on how to tame “swing” for the white ballroom crowd and sent his instructors to the local dance halls to see what they were dancing and then to teach a modified form in their studios. As a result, there were many different regional versions of swing being taught. In 1942 the American Society of Dance Teachers published a syllabus for the Jitterbug/Lindy/American Swing. In 1951, Laure Haile (Arthur Murray instructor) unified the swing syllabus called Eastern Swing and in the late 1970s, it was renamed to East Coast Swing.