This is an old summary written back in 2014. For newer references, please check out our friends at iLindy.com and Dance Sage.
Swing dances are a family of dances that originated in the 1920’s and carry on to this day. Swing dancing can arguably be traced back to the charleston, the popular dance of the roaring 20’s, this dance style was based on a rhythm originating from the song with the same name.
In the 1930’s social dancing was revolutionized when partners began to “break-away” or “swing-out” as its more commonly called today (before this point social dances were danced in a closed position) and the popular swing dance – the Lindy Hop was born. Lindy Hop had its beginnings in the ballrooms of New York City – most notably those located in Harlem; the Savoy ballroom being the most famous and significant of them all. It is a lively dance created to match the swing rhythms derived from the big bands of the time and is most notable for its use of triple steps and “Airsteps” – the acrobatic dance steps which were invented in 1935 by Frankie Manning.
Lindy Hop also made its way to the west coast where it was featured in several hollywood movies; many of the dancers from the west coast began to dance in their own unique way creating other styles of Lindy Hop and even entirely new dances. One of these dances was born of necessity – Balboa, named after the dance halls of Balboa Peninsula in California where the dance floors were so crowded that “break-aways” were banned.
Lindy hop remained popular right up until the end of WWII; many of the soldiers returned from the war and settled down. The youths’ taste in music began to shift away from swing and began to centre on rock ‘n’ roll. Although this marked the end of the “Swing Era”, the steps of earlier swing dances were adapted to form a new dance, rock ‘n’ roll (rock ‘n’ roll dance is also known as boogie woogie in Europe).
There were several swing dances that came later adapting the steps of earlier dance forms to fit the music of their time and many off-shoots have been created since. Other dance styles include Collegiate Shag, West Coast Swing, East Coast Swing, Carolina Shag, and many more.