The history of swing dancing had its roots in the distant past when the culture of African Africans and Europeans intertwined, and society felt an irresistible desire to erase boundaries between traditional and street choreography. The philosophy of swing is simple and attractive – it is an opportunity to improvise, to express one’s inner self, not to be afraid of condemnation, and to always have fun.
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This work is aimed at analyzing this style and its development throughout the history of existence, starting with World War II and ending with modern parties, and shows where this style is still popular. The historical development of swing not only coincided with the stages of different jazz styles formation but also played a special role in the culture of choreography, changing people’s attitude towards this extraordinary choreographic genre.
History of the Swing Era
The historical development of the swing style coincided with the stages of the formation of different jazz styles. According to Fitch, this genre was finally formed in the 1920-the 1940s and was based on movements borrowed from African American culture where swinging movements were common (64). At first, it was performed in the south of the United States of America, and later, its influence spread to Chicago, New York, Cleveland, and Detroit (Fitch 64). Even though over time, the dance began to be divided into ballroom and street ones, it remains the symbol of the freedom of movement. It also assumes a special atmosphere and even a peculiar style of clothing and shoes.
Peculiarities of Swing Dancing
The main form of the embodiment of the swing style was dancers’ improvisation based on a prepared and rather complex accompaniment. One of the hallmarks that distinguish traditional jazz choreography from swing has a rhythmic background. The syncopated rhythm of compositions accompanying this dance and a vivid harmony were typical of the era when the culture of this musical direction dictated the manner of behavior. Swing performances in their classical form are pair (a man and a woman). There is close contact between partners, although in some cases, individual space is permissible to demonstrate one’s skills.
The term swing itself combines several dances of a similar direction, for instance, Lindy hop or rock-and-roll (Fitch 64). Many types of this genre, such as rock-and-roll, are replete with acrobatic stunts. As a result, there is no general scheme that clearly defines the character of movements. Therefore, the style gained particular popularity among those who were tired of outdated dances with the same and repetitive steps.
Role of the Swing in History and Modern Trends
After the movement of the African American population from south to north at the end of the 19th century, the art of the black and white people of the USA enriched mutually. As a result, new styles and genres of music and dancing appeared. Moreover, later, closer to the middle of the 20th century, this trend spread throughout Europe and took root as one of the forms of informal art. For instance, as Dickson notes, in Nazi Germany under the authority of Hitler, these dances were generally performed by Jews. Therefore, both the music and choreography of this type came under strict prohibition and became the object of persecution.
However, a few years later, the German command took a radically different decision – to show this dance to enemies, thereby promoting the freedom of Nazi mores and liberties that they could afford (Dickson). Subsequently, the style became widespread in the Old World and was one of the most common genres. Thus, the swing was the object of political propaganda and the instrument used to establish diplomatic relations.
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Today, the swing is still one of the most common styles of dance personifying freedom and the importance of real life. Fans of this genre promote it not only at professional competitions but also in amateur contests, for example, the famous show called “So You Think You Can Dance.”
This popularity confirms that art has no time limits and is not subject to bans or persecution. Despite its originality and difference from contemporary trends, the swing retains the status of the dance that helps people relax and enjoy. As a result, its role in history is significant because it not only changed the concept of freedom in choreography but also became the symbol of the whole era during complex political disagreements and instability.
The development of jazz became one of the prerequisites for the birth and spread of swing, which, in turn, changed the idea of dance freedom and was also used as the object of political propaganda. The formation of this trend was the result of the popularization of African American music and was divided into many branches with their unique features. Today, the swing is popular for its originality and an opportunity to liberate dancers. The concept of freedom traced in this dance personifies the importance of real-life and the pursuit of personal art preferences.
Dickson, Andrew. “Swing Time for Hitler: How the Nazis Fought the Allies with Jazz.” The Guardian. 2014. Web.
Fitch, W. Tecumseh. “Dance, Music, Meter and Groove: A Forgotten Partnership.” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, vol. 10, 2016, p. 64.