The East Coast Swing was invented in 1942 by the American Society of Teachers of Dancing (the ASTD). After the Lindy Hop became popular in the late twenties, the ASTD dismissed it as a fad and refused to teach it. Some fifteen years later, they realized the fad was not disappearing, but in fact was growing. They were losing potential students to street teachers and independant studios teaching the Lindy and the Jitterbug. In 1942, the Association announced that "The Jitterbug, a direct descendant from the Lindy hop, could no longer be ignored ---- IT'S (sic) CAVORTINGS COULD BE REFINED to suit a crowded dance floor". The ASTD's refinement of the Jitterbug resulted in East Coast Swing.

The East Coast Swing is a six count dance. The dance is done in typical dance frame, in an open two-handed hold, a sweetheart position, or various single hand holds. Arials are not used. There are three styles of footwork used in East Coast. Which one you use depends on the tempo of the music available. Seeing as how I am a woman, I will attempt to describe them from the woman's point of view. If you are of the masculine persuasion, everything I say is the opposite for you. These steps are best done on the balls of your feet rather than flat-footed.

  • The single step. In this style, you step once to the right for the first two counts, once to the left for the second two counts, and throw in a rock step for the final two counts. A rock step is done by placing the right foot slightly behind, rocking back on that foot, and then returning your weight to the left foot. The step backwards takes one count, the weight shift forward takes one count. The single step is useful when the music is very up tempo. It's easist to learn this footwork, but lots of the fancier moves can't be done with it because there simply isn't time.
  • The double step. This is similar to the single step except that you insert a dig before both of your side steps. Firmly touch your right foot next to your left before stepping to the right. Firmly touch your left foot next to your right before stepping to the left. Then throw in the rockstep. This way, each count gets its own step. The result is a dig-step-dig-step-rock-step rhythm.
  • The triple step. The triple step is used when dancing to less up-tempo music. It also allows for a lot of fancy moves because it gives you the most time. Each triple step is really three small steps. For the first two counts, step to the right using a right-left-right pattern, accenting the steps taken with the right foot. For the second two counts, step to the left using a left-right-left pattern, accenting the steps taken with the left foot. Finally, throw in the rockstep.

East Coast is easily learned. I learned it last fall in preparation for a dinner theater I was involved in. We had three weeks of lessons in the garage of my friend's father, Dave, prior to performance. This summer, my boyfriend has had four garage lessons with Dave and is already holding his own quite well. It is an excellent dance to begin learning for those interested in swing prior to moving to its more complex counterpart, West Coast Swing.


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