East Coast Swing dance

(Photo of Emerald Ball Championships 2014, Pro Rhythm Final, YouTube)

The East Coast Swing dance is a social partner dance developed in the 1940’s by dance studios and dance organizations. It is categorized under the swing dance umbrella of dance genres. The name was changed to East Coast Swing from Eastern Swing in the 1950’s. Like all the swing dances, it originated from the Lindy Hop in the 1920’s.

(Gainy Ballroom Dance Arizona East Coast Swing 2008)

Other names for it over the last seven decades include:  Eastern Swing (1950’s), Jitterbug, Triple Swing, the Bop, and Rock & Roll. The most enduring name has always been East Coast Swing, which also distinguished it from the burgeoning West Coast Swing dance genre that became popular in the 1960’s.

Arthur Murray and Dean Collins were instrumental in its developement along with other U.S. dance studios during the 1940’s & 50’s. Some of the changes included eliminating eight count patterns and acrobatics used in Lindy Hop to sell it to the American masses making it is easier than its predecessors, Lindy Hop and Shag. They codified it and created a syllabus to use for dance instruction and for judging panels at competitions.

(Emerald Ball Championships 2014 – Professional Rhythm Finals)

The East Coast Swing dance became one of the dance genres included in the American Rhythm division in U.S. national ballroom competitions. The National Dance Council of America (N.D.C.A.) oversees the standards used for competition in American Rhythm and American Smooth dance genres, which includes the East Coast Swing (generally triple rhythm). 

Professional  American Rhythm Championship competitors at Emerald Ball.

  • Ilya & Mandy Velednitsky
  • Peter & Alexandra Perzhu
  • Nazar Norov & Irina Kudryashova
  • Emmanuel Pierre Antoine & Liana Churilova
  • Ronald & Katie Guillen
  • Mikhail Vlasov & Vanda Polakova
  • Vard Margaryan & Sofya Fil

At times in U.S. history, all swing dances were referred to as Jitterbug but this shifted in time as the swing dances spread across the United States. Many different styles of swing dancing evolved  and became regional dances like St. Louis Shag and Texas Push. Eventually, there were dozens of different regional swing dances including: Big Apple, Boogie Woogie, Bop,  Breakaway, Carolina Shag, Charleston, County Swing, The Creep, Foxtrot, Hand Dance, Imperial Swing, Jitterbug, Jive, Lindy, The Mooch, New Yorker, Pony Swing, Push Retro Swing, Rock and Roll, Rodeo Swing, Shag, Slop, Steppin’, Supreme Swing, Suzy Q, Texas Tommy, Truckin’, West Coast Swing and the Whip.

The Jive, an English form of East Coast Swing was developed in England around the same time that East Coast Swing was being developed in the United States. The fascination with swing dancing continued into the 1960’s. In 1970’s, a related dance, the Hustle, was developed during the Disco Era. One of the reasons that the East Coast Swing has continued to be popular for seven decades is due to its resistance to conformity. 

East Coast Swing style varies considerably across dance community’s. For instance, it is included in Country Western dance competitions and Ballroom competitions. It is also mixed in with Lindy Hoppers and at times is danced in a slot like West Coast Swing. All of the swing dances skyrocketed in popularity again during the late nineties and early two-thousands Swing Revival. Sometimes called Neo-Swing, new swing music became popular as well as retro tunes. This new interest in swing dancing was still going strong after a decade and into the 21st century.

(Vegas Showdown Open Pro Rhythm ECS 2010)

East Coast Swing Dance Characteristics

Tempo:

  • For Triple Rhythm East Coast Swing the tempo ranges from 100 to about 150 beats per minute (BPM’s) with American Rhythm competitors dancing between 136 to 144 BPM’s.
  • For single rhythm, the tempo ranges from 140 to 190 BPM’s. Delayed single rhythm (sometimes called double rhythm) works best slightly slower than single rhythm but faster than triple.

Body Movement:

  • Rib cage followed by hip transferring center of balance over supporting foot, repeat to the other side. Accent on the whole beat, e.g. 1& 2, two is a whole beat, whereas the one count is split.
  • Break step (rock step) in double rhythm either 1, 2 or 5,6.
  • Sway is used initiating the start of a triple or single step, no sway on the break (rock) step. The dance moves in a circular fashion. 

Types/Styles of East Coast Swing:

  • Triple Step Swing
  • Jitterbug (Single Rhythm ECS)
  • 4-Count Rodeo Swing
  • Retro Swing (delayed single rhythm)
  • Lindy Swing (8 count)

Read Differences Between Jitterbug, East & West Coast & Lindy Hop!

Swing Dance Rhythms:
The different swing dances use a mixture of four rhythms: single, delayed single, double, triple. It is common to mix the rhythms. All the rhythms are based on two beat increments sometimes referred to as units, so two beats = one unit.

  • Single: One weighted step on the first beat of a unit, a “slow”
  • Delayed Single: One weighted step on the second beat, e.g. touch step
  • Double: Two weighted steps on a two beats, e.g. a rock step
  • Triple: Three weighted steps on two beats of music, e.g. 1&2, 1&a2, &12
  • Mixed: touch step, triple step, rock step

Read more about the Swing Dance Elements here!

Swing Rhythms Video at Mission Bay, San Diego

East Coast Swing Dance – Pattern Composition:

  • 6-count patterns implement the various rhythms for six beats of music, e.g. rock step, triple, triple or triple, triple, rock step
  • 8-count patterns implement the various rhythms for eight beats of music, e.g. rock step, triple, walk walk, triple (a whip or a Lindy circle)
  • First weighted step start on downbeats

East Coast Swing Dance – Common Basic Patterns:

  1. Closed Position Basic
  2. Open Breaks
  3. Underarm Turns Right & Left
  4. Tuck Turns
  5. Tuck Spins
  6. Wraps, Cuddles
  7. Swivels
  8. Eight Count Basic (Lindy rhythm)
  9. Turning Sugar Push
  10. Circle Swivel
  11. Peek-a-Boo
  12. Kick Ball Change (Footwork variation)
  13. Lindy Variations
  14. Lindy Whip

East Coast Swing Dance Competition  

(Galaxy Dance Festival 2012)

East Coast Swing Dance Music

East Coast Swing music includes Jazz, Big Band, Rockabilly, Rock and Roll, Boogie Woogie, Doo Wop, Blues, C&W, Pop, R&B, Soul and Neo-Swing tunes. Since the dance includes rhythms for fast and medium tempo types of music, there are a lot of musicians, songs and bands that work well for this dance.
 

Musicians & bands include:
Big Bopper, Bill Haley & The Comets, Chuck Berry, Danny and the Juniors, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Glenn Miller, Louis Prima, Brian Setzer Orchestra, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Stray Cats, Royal Crown Revue, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, Sue Palmer (San Diego), Beach Boys, Rolling Stones and many more.
 

Watch and read more video & article East Coast Swing blogs here!