“Swing dance” is most commonly known as a group of dances that developed with the swing style of jazz music in the 1920s-1950s, although the earliest of these dances predate “swing era” music. The best known of these dances is the Lindy Hop, a popular partner dance that originated in Harlem in 1927 and is still danced today. While the majority of swing dances began in African American communities as vernacular African American dances, some swing era dances, such as the Foxtrot and the Balboa, developed in white communities. Swing dance was not always used as a general blanket term for a group of dances. Historically, the term Swing applied with no connection to the Swing era, or its Swing music. The Texas Tommy Swing dance first appeared in print in 1910 in San Francisco (Barbary Coast). Into the 1920s and 1930s every major city had their own way to dance, based on regional roots, and influences.
Los Angeles had its own form of what they called “Swing dance” which came from Charleston, Fox Trot, and Jig Trot influenced footwork. In Chicago and in the south they had their own style of Swing, which was more two-step based, and most of these regional swing dances gave way to various influences, such as other dance forms of dance but also the decline of dance bands and partner dancing after WW2.
Swing jazz features the syncopated timing associated with African American and West African music and dance — a combination of crotchets and quavers (quarter notes and eighth notes) that many swing dancers interpret as ‘triple steps’ and ‘steps’ — yet also introduces changes in the way these rhythms were played — as a distinct delay or ‘relaxed’ approach to timing.
Today there are swing-dance scenes in many countries. Lindy Hop is often the most popular, though each city and country prefers various dances to different degrees. Each local swing-dance community has a distinct local culture and defines “swing dance”, and the “appropriate” music to accompany it, in different ways.