Jitterbug Dance in San Diego

Jitterbug Dance San Diego at the Jitterbug Club San Diego

Jitterbug Dance San Diego

Jitterbug dance San Diego history started decades ago with early swing dancers in the 1930’s all the way to the birth of the Jitterbug Club San Diego by founder Pattie Wells in 1984. The word jitterbug orignally referred to a person that was a swing dancer or participated in swing dancing. Jitterbug also described the event where dancers went to swing dance. The term Jitterbug faded over time and the term swing dance was used instead for dance venues and jitterbugs were eventually were referred to as swing dancers.

In the decades from the 1920’s to the 1970’s there were many different names for swing dancing including Lindy Hop, The Bop, The Hop, Boogie Woogie, East Coast Swing, St. Louis Shag, Carolina Shag, Jitterbug, Jive and West Coast Swing.

What is the Jitterbug dance? Read All About Jitterbug Dance

The etymology of the term “Jitterbug” is elusive and dynamic changing over the decades since it came into the language. It is defined in several different dictionaries as follows:

  1. A very lively type of dance from the 1940’s” from Merriam-Webster
  2. A person fond of dancing the jitterbug” in the Oxford Dictionary
  3. From the verb “jitter” + “bug.” American Heritage Dictonary

Generally, it is believed to be derived from the term, “jitters,” as it was used to refer to a person who shook from alcohol abuse. It first appeared sometime in the 1920′ to 30’s and can be seen in some early film clips in some early movies with Cab Calloway. Here is one of the earliest known references to the world Jitterbug.

Eventually, the  Jitterbug dance became associated, most often, with a form of swing referred to as single rhythm East Coast swing. It is a six count, single rhythm (one step for two beats, one step for two beats and a rock step) form of East Coast swing. There is also a popular triple step swing using triples instead of single steps.

There is an evolution of the term Jitterbug through the decades to the present, read about the Evolution of Swing Dancing here.

1950’s Jitterbug dancing, also known as swing or Lindy hop

Jitterbug Dance San Diego

San Diego, California is a hub of Jitterbug dancing with hundreds of swing dancers attending weekly swing dance venues throughout the county. Many swing dancers mix several forms of swing like Lindy Hop, Jitterbug and Charleston to the same song. Here is some information about all the Jitterbug (Swing) dancing in San Diego.

Swing Dance Venues in San Diego.

In the mid to late 1970’s, the term Jitterbug was seldom used instead East Coast & West Coast swing were more commonly used as genres of swing dancing. These were taught in all the Arthur Murray, MacVittie’s and the Independent Dance Studios in San Diego county. Professional dance instructors often started dance students with a single rhythm East Coast swing and included the triple step rhythm then switched to an early form of the West Coast swing. In the seventies, the West Coast swing resembled the Lindy hop, the original swing dance, which had vanished over time in favor of other forms of swing dancing.

Jitterbug Dance San Diego History

In 1983, Pattie Wells and her a partner, Ron Seale, started teaching swing dance classes at the California Aerobic Dance Center located in the building that was later occupied, for years, by the Corvette Diner; publicizing them across San Diego county. The original swing classes offered West Coast swing but were quickly changed to single rhythm East Coast swing.  Pattie and Ron decided to change the name they used for the dance from East Coast swing, which had a regional connotation to the Jitterbug after asking some old time swing dancers what they called it. For the next thirty years, Pattie Wells used the term Jitterbug instead of single rhythm East Coast swing.

In 1984, Pattie and a group of her swing dance students started the Jitterbug Club San Diego with a couple of dozen attendees. It eventually grew to over two hundred dancers in the 1990’s at the Elk’s Lodge in Mission Hills, San Diego.

Pattie Wells’ DanceTime Center

In 1998, Pattie moved the Jitterbug Club to a new location at the Pattie Wells’ Dancetime Center in Baypark, San Diego. The Jitterbug Club went from twice a month to every week at that time. From that point until around the 30th year anniversary in March 2014, the Jitterbug Club was packed with over a hundred swing dancers every Sunday evening. Pattie stepped down as the director of the Jitterbug Club San Diego in 2014, but it continues at a new location under a  new management in the present at the Dance For 2 Studio in Kearny Mesa.

Read more about the Jitterbug Club San Diego history.

21st Century Swing (Jitterbug) Dancing

In the early 2000’s, swing dancing in San Diego changed with the Neo-Swing revival and many new swing dancers joined the swing dancing scene in San Diego.

Some of the new swing dancers brought Frankie Manning, one of the original Lindy hop dancers in Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, Harlem, New York at the Savoy Ballroom, out of retirement to help revive and promote the original swing dance, the Lindy Hop. The San Diego swing dance landscape was changing with all these new swing dancers doing the Lindy Hop, Balboa and Charleston dance including:

  • Joel Plys@Swingdancingsandiego.com
  • Margie Adams@2ToGroove.com
  • Meeshi@SwingDancingInSanDiego

Jitterbug Club San Diego Legacy

From the 1980’s and into the 21st century, Pattie Wells and her dancing friends and colleagues taught thousands of people to Jitterbug (swing) dance spreading swing dancing across San Diego county, many of these swing dancers can still be seen all over San Diego county dancing at swing dance venues to swing dance bands. Swing dance groups were culled from the Jitterbug Club and the swing dance classes at the DanceTime Center to form new swing groups in San Diego with names like SD SwingKats, Swing Jam, Hep Cats and more!


Jitterbug Club San Diego, May 4, 2014

Another swing dance genre was also skyrocketing in popularity in the late 1990’s and through the 21st century, West Coast Swing. In the digital age, the different Swing Dance Styles have spread across the United States  and around the world. Many different countries acorss the globe now dance Lindy Hop, Balboa, Bal-swing, Charleston, Boogie Woogie, Jitterbug, Shag, Rock and Roll and West Coast Swing.

Jitterbug Dance San Diego Resources

Watch/read more about the swing dance here!

2017-01-21T23:08:03+00:00By |Categories: Dance|Tags: , , |

About the Author:

Currently, Pattie produces article and video blogs for her world dance website, DanceTime.com and blogs for her new writing resource website at PattieWells.com. She is also working on completing a linked stories novel and translating a book of Italian poetry by Eugenio Montale. Pattie writes web content for a limited number of clients and still teaches a few private dance lessons exclusively in San Diego, California where she currently resides.

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