Below is an incomplete list of Early American Social Dances, together with related line dances, followed by a brief description of each.
The Balboa was created in Balboa Island, California during the 1930s. Balboa is built on smooth, tight footwork and is ideal for fast tempos. It is also very adaptable and can be performed to slow music as well. According to Jonathan & Sylvia (Balboa Pros) from Santa Barbara, CA., the Balboa is danced almost exclusively in closed dance position and most closely resembles a dance the natives of 1930s Chicago called the Shag. Influence of The Charleston can also be seen in this dance. The Balboa originated in a large ballroom on Balboa Island in southern California. It's common belief that when the ballrooms began getting so overcrowded, this dance naturally evolved since there was literally no place to swing out your partner. According to Sylvia, It takes on a cartoon like quality, close together, with lots of footwork, although the feet hardly leave the floor. The upper body remains still and the dance doesn't travel much around the room. At one time it was popular up and down the west coast, from Seattle to southern California. Incidentally, the Balboa is the dance done by the popular cartoon character Popeye. read more
The Big Apple was a popular group dance that was primarily done in a circular format. Its origins can be traced to a Southern club called The Big Apple where dancers gathered to hear the big bands that came through town. The dance moves fast and is another standard for the true Lindy Hop enthusiast.
Jitterbug Stroll The Jitterbug Stroll is a line dance based on early jazz steps tracing back to the swing era. It was created specifically for Lindy Hoppers and was choreographed by the extraordinary dancer Ryan Francois who is credited with the choreography in "Swing Kids", and "Malcolm X". It is danced to a Blues Format (6 bars per phrase). Woodchoppers Ball was the tune chosen by Ryan himself for this dance.
Madison Time The Madison is an amusing line dance that originated in the late 1950's. According to Lance Benishek (dance historian), "The Madison probably started in Chicago, although it may have been Detroit or Cleveland. The Baltimore Colts learned it in Cleveland and brought it to Baltimore in 1959". It is danced to the Ray Bryant tune, The Madison Time, with calls for the particular dance sequences provided by Eddie Morrison. Eddie was a Baltimore disc jockey who started calling the steps live on the air. Based on a six count chorus step, The Madison contains several dance sequences which make playful references to the big stars of that time period. The Dance resurfaced in 1988 in the John waters film "Hairspray". According to Ryan Francois, there is also a Madison partner dance that is still danced today in England. Instructional DVD Madison
The Lindy Hop Considered the Grand Daddy of Swing, the Lindy Hop evolved in Harlem ballrooms such as the famous Savoy in the late 1920's. It is most recognizable for its low to the ground, whirly and bouncy style. It was danced to big band music and was characterized by "breakaways" in which partners in a couple separated and improvised steps individually. Later called the "Jitterbug", it exploded in popularity across the country throughout 1930-1950. The Lindy Hop owes much to African American influence, particularly Charleston, Jazz and Tap steps. In 1943, Life Magazine characterized Lindy Hop as "America's National Folk Dance." read more. Instructional DVD Lindy Hop
St. Louis Shag This unique dance can be traced back to St. Louis. Sherry Lawson (known as the Queen of the St. Louis Shag) describes it as a dance with a bouncy step that swivels in and out very much like the Charleston. It has patterns with kicks and jumps, patterns that are traditional, dating back more than twenty-five years. The St. Louis Shag, like the Balboa, is described as a non-swing dance. Also like the Balboa, the Shag is done to very fast music: 165 beats per minute and faster. The other related dance native to St. Louis is called Imperial Swing. So called because it was nurtured in the Imperial Dance Club on Florescent Street in St. Louis, it is a variant of east coast swing with a six-count step which includes eight-count steps similar to the Lindy. Furthermore, the Saint Louis Shag is more of a Speed dominated/ Competition shag, which is different than the Collegiate, Carolina and Murray Shags.
Carolina Shag (also known as FLORIDA BEACH BOP and NEW ORLEANS JAMAICA) - According to Ace Asip of the North Atlanta Beach Club, the Carolina Shag originated in Myrtle Beach, North Carolina. It is a smooth dance done to medium and slow music. The upper body and hips hardly move as the legs do convoluted kicks and fancy footwork. The man is the center of attention (sometimes lending the appellate peacock dancing to the Shag) and the woman's steps are either mirror steps of the mans or a sort of marking time while he does spins and other wildness. Traditionally the music was rhythm and blues, mostly from the 1950s. In Atlanta, Georgia, the Carolina Shag dominates the swing dance scene.
Collegiate Shag The collegiate Shag was huge in the early 1920's and predates the Lindy Hop. It's a fast moving dance, upright and originally danced to Ragtime. It is popular today with swing dancers from Southern California to Washington DC.
The Collegiate Shag originated in the South (New Orleans) and has been known
at times as the "Flea Hop". There were many Intercollegiate Dance
Contests held in NYC in the 1920s-1930's which held a "Shag Division. The
"Shag" Arthur Murray taught was actually a newer version of the "Collegiate
Shag" that was done in the 1920's by the College kids but slightly different
than the "Collegiate"as done today. It was originally called the "Flea-Hop"
in New Jersey and in North Carolina as the "Sugar Foot" and only in
the deep south as the Shag in 1931 (Look Mag-1938).
It is basically a Slow-Slow-Quick-Quick, similar to the "belly roll" of the Carolina Shag but a lot faster. The lead holds the follower very closely with very fast feet (stomping) movements, and a few body moves. The Murray Shag may have influenced the "Balboa". A good film clip of this is "Arthur Murray and his Shag Dancers"- this short film is not available, but many swing dancers have copies of this tape. It is basically a quick instructional video on how to do the shag and a few performances by his students at the end they do a team type routine for the audience. Note: Arthur Murray's 1937 Let's Dance book breaks it down as a Hop-Hop-123 (kicking on 3). The Movie Swing, Swing, Swing has a good musical short of this dance. The 1937 and 1938 Harvest moon ball featured a Collegiate Shag Division. The resource for some of this information is from StreetSwing.com
is a line dance based on early jazz/tap dance steps. Lindy Hoppers have taken
this original Tap Routine and made it there own. The dance is divided into 10
musical phrases with specific steps such as; the Shim Sham, the Cross Over,
the Tacky Annie, and the Half-Break. These steps are repeated and then followed
by Boogie Backs, Boogie Forwards, and Shorty George steps, after which you grab
the nearest person and dance until the song is finished. The version we teach
is heavily influenced by Frankie Manning.
In 1927, two song and dance men, Leonard Reed and Willie Bryant, took four popular steps of the 1920's, strung them together and created the now legendary tap dance "The Shim Sham Shimmy." In February 1994, at age 87, Leonard created the Shim Sham II. To his utter joy, he has lived to see his dance become the official "National Anthem" of tap. If you've been tap dancing for years or are just putting on your first pair of tap shoes, you'll be able to learn the Shim Sham Shimmy. In the Introduction, you will see a demonstration of the dance by a group of talented and ageless (7-75!) tappers and hear an introduction by Leonard Reed himself. In the lesson, tap dancer and preservationist Rusty Frank breaks down the Shim Sham Shimmy, the Freeze Chorus and the Shim Sham II, using the same accessible methods she's used in hundreds of tap classes. Now it's up to you, put the tape in your VCR and start tapping.
From the Director
Rusty Frank -- As a tap dancer, and the author of the book "TAP! The Greatest Tap Dance Stars and Their Stories 1900-1955," I have always had a great love and interest of the history of tap and especially those individuals who brought it all to life. The first interview I did for my book was with Leonard Reed, himself. I found him to be utterly amazing. He started in show business in 1922 as a Charleston dancer, began tap dancing in the mid 1920's, and then switched to producing and directing shows in the 1930s. He is the only living producer of the famous Cotton Club shows, and, believe it or not, continues to be active in show business to this day! At 93 (as of January 7, 2000), he is vibrant, full of an astounding wealth of information from his years in the business, and a genuine joy for anyone interested in the past of America's cultural history. It was really at a friend's urging (insistent nudging!) that I get together with Leonard Reed and record his version of the Shim Sham. It was my pleasure. So I gathered 60 of my nearest and dearest tap friends and fans for cast and crew, and the result is a delight for all. Not only did I "recruit" some wonderful young children from Alred Desio's classes, but also got two show business legends themselves to participate, tap dancer and legomania dancer Glenn Turnbull, and tap dancer and choreographer Miriam Nelson. Enjoy.
The Dean Collins Shim Sham see above for details. This version is influenced by Dean collins
The Trunky Doo is another line dance which dates back to the early Thirties, however this one was created by the Lindy Hoppers themselves. It has a more challenging and complex set of patterns. The version we teach has been more recently rearranged and tends to be the popular version throughout the swing circuit. see youtube sample
If you want to learn any of these dances, See CLASSES.