What is Swing?

"It's a happy dance. It makes you feel good."

Frankie Manning

Hellzapoppin' (1941)

Swing is a group of dances including Lindy Hop, Balboa, Collegiate Shag and Charleston, which originated from African-American communities in Harlem, New York in the 1920s to 1940s. During the Harlem Renaissance, with the great migration of African-Americans from the South to North emerged a cultural revival of African-American arts, fueled by the joyous defiance against segregation, systemic racism and the Great Depression. They danced the night away in speakeasy bars to the swingin' tunes of big band jazz orchestras.

The Savoy Ballroom in Harlem opened its doors in 1926 with a no-discrimination policy, making it the first racially-integrated public space in the United States. The Savoy was the heartbeat of Harlem, and housed the most talented musicians such as Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie and Chick Webb, to name a few. Known as "the Home of Happy Feet", the Savoy gave birth to the Lindy Hop, which is what we dance most today in swing dance socials. It's characterised by its swingin' rhythm, footwork and the smile erupting from our faces!

Norma Miller and her Jazz Men

Frankie Manning

An important figure who pioneered the initial growth of Swing Dancing in the 30s and its later revival in the 80s is Frankie Manning, considered the Father of Lindy Hop. Frankie danced and travelled the world to teach the Lindy Hop up until the age of 94, spreading the love of swing dance to generations to follow. Frankie said, "I have never seen a Lindy hopper who's not smiling." Come and see for yourself if what Frankie said is true!

Norma Miller

Norma Miller, considered the Queen of Swing, dedicated her life to the performing arts, dancing and producing. Along with Frankie, she played a key role in the revival of Lindy Hop in the 80s. At age 14, she was the youngest dancer to be hired to perform with the well-revered dance troupe, Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers at the Savoy Ballroom. Norma said “I’m glad Swing is here to stay.” It sure is!

In tribute to Frankie Manning and Norma Miller, here's a clip of them dancing to Frankie's favourite song:

Shiny Stockings by Count Basie & Ella Fitzgerald