Swing Dancing

I've recently gotten into swing dancing. I'm by no means an expert at it or anything, but I enjoy it and I've been trying to get better. Annie Anton is my usual swing dancing partner, so she gets her toes stepped on a lot by me.

I've taken a couple of swing classes (and am getting ready to take a third) as non-credit courses at Georgia Tech (we call them Options classes). This page compiles some of the knowledge about swing that I've picked up, both as a helper to those who might be interested, and so that I won't forget it later!

The information below is based on handouts composed by Rita Pickleseimer, my instructor. Her stuff isn't copyrighted, so I'm reproducing it here with a few of my own additions.


Swing encompasses all fast ancing through the generations. Single-time swing gives us the jitterbug style; Double-time swing gives us rock and roll, and triple-time swing covers the 30's to the present. Unlike shag, swing is totally led by the man whereas shag is a call dance--each pertner must know his/her part. It is danced to the same music. Once you have learned the timeing it becomes second nature to do the patterns that are led. In shag the timing is part of the footwork that changes with each pattern (most difficult).


Dance Style
Relaxed and fun.

Beachball frame, still firm.

Dance Position
Closed, open, double-hand hold.

Same as ballroom, except left hand (man) or right hand (woman) is at waist level.
One or both hands holding partner, keep elbows close to body at waist, stay close to partner.

Always on balls of feet--put heel down only for balance and not weight change.

1&2, 3&4, 5, 6 -or- Left 2 3, Right 2 3, Rock step

Hold frame securely and commence moving; woman will follow. Turns are done by giving directional leads and guiding the woman.

Don't anticipate a movement. Wait for man to lead or guide you through a step. Keep arms firm so he can lead the entire body. Your hands are handles to the shoulders. If he directs your hands, he's really directing your shoulders which moves the body in the direction he wants you to go.

List of Patterns

Simple Patterns in More Detail (Man's Part)

Turning Left
Turn shoulders to left. Cary woman around you. Think of yourself as a pivot point.
Turning Right
Take left shoulder forward and travel around the woman. Now she is the pivot point.
Outside Underarm Turn
Bring left arm over woman's head turning her away from you.
Inside Underarm Turn
Bring left arm over womand head turning her to your right.
She Goes/He Goes
Lead woman in Outside Underarm Turn. Then lead yourself in Outside Underarm Turn. Go left under your left arm, being sure not to duck.
Man's Turn
Put your right hand over woman's right hand on first 123. As you turn to your left and go all the way around, switch hands behind your back. Finish step after rock step, with an Inside Underarm Turn.
Tuck Ins
Turn woman to right on first 123, then throw her to the left (she goes around) on second 123. Rock step. Man can turn also.
With double-hand hold, lead woman in Inside Underarm Turn. Keep right hand at waist. Move forward on first 123, then back on second 123. You should both rock back side by side.

Simple Patterns in More Detail (Woman's Part)

Turning Left
Starting with right root (1 & 2) travel forward around man, then back to the side with left foot (3 & 4) - rock step (which is stationary), (5 & 6).
Turning Right
Do first 1 & 2 in a spot (man travels around you), then back to the side with left foot (3 & 4). Rock step in place (5, 6).
Outside Underarm Turn
When the man leads your arm away, put your hand over the center of your head and follow your elbow around. you will be turning in a spot. Then do rock step.
Inside Underarm Turn
When man brings hand across in front of you, turn to your left starting on the right foot. Go all the way around, rock step.
She Goes/He Goes
Man will lead you in an Outside Underarm Turn, rock step. Then you will mark time as he leads himself in an Outside Underarm Turn.
Man's Turn
Man will turn in a spot and switch hands behind back. You just mark time.
Tuck Ins
On the first 1 & 2 do basic step in a spot turning slightly left. Then on the second part of the basic, 3 & 4, step left foot over right and turn completely around. Rock step, right foot back. 5 & 6. Note: Tuck Ins have different hand holds, but the footwork is the same.
With double-hand hold, man will lead you in an Inside Underarm Turn. You will turn on your first half of the basic step (1 & 2) and go back with the man on your second part of the basic (3 & 4), then rock back with the man (right foot back) (5, 6). On the way out, go forward then turn and rock step.

Any suggestions, corrections, or comments? Feel free to send them to me.

Keith Edwards

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