jump retro swing, jumpswing, swing dance, Ithaca NY
Kurt Lichtmann
Faculty, Ithaca College, Ithaca NY
Founder: Cornell University Swing Dance Program 1997-2011
"The opinions expressed are my own, and not to be construed as official posiitons or opinions of the above institutions."


Ithaca Jumpswing - Ithaca's most popular Swing Dance style

What is it? Jumpswing dates to the late 1990's swing revival in southern California: Long Beach and Redondo Beach. Originally termed Retro or Jump or Neo Swing, it followed the regional post-punk, post-rockabilly enthusiasm, as many punk bands and mosh pit dancers converted to swing. The original music featured an up-tempo amalgamation of rock, jump blues, and big band swing - a strong backbeat is characteristic. The original dance style was hyper-intense, with hopping, skipping, kicking and aerials being its main features.

Here in Ithaca NY, I felt a need for an easy-access portal for energetic beginners - something more suitable than the local triple-step paradigm. And I wanted a dance style that felt really right to fast rock‘n'roll, with its strong snare drum backbeat. After experimenting a lot, I settled on a modified version of Retro, evolving the dance into a subset of the easy Lindy Hop / Charleston ideas. Following the lead of Skippy Blair and Sonny Watson, we smoothed out the rough edges, and introduced the swing-out much later in the syllabus. With all the changes, including a taste for fast pop music 60s-00s, a name change also seemed appropriate - note an interesting story about this on the "history" page.

A primary feature of Ithaca Jumpswing is that it rocks. The jumpy kick 6 & 8-count patterns segues nicely into charleston, and feels very satisfying to rockin' music in any genre, especially tunes with a strong backbeat. A quick overview: uptempo pop/rock: Footloose, Part Time Lover, Heat Wave, Walking On Sunshine, jump blues: Rock This Town, Shake Rattle & Roll, neo swing: Jump Jive & Wail, If You Can't Rock Me, and classic swing: Sing Sing Sing, Shout And Feel It, Moten Swing, One O'Clock Jump. Turn off your brain and groove, or dance fancy. Jump borrows plenty from Lindy, St. Louis Shag, Collegiate Shag, and Balboa, with a growing repertoire. Here is what the students have to say about it.

Then & Now: Retro/Neo Swing originated with a bunch of ex-mosh pit dancers and punk bands, so in its early phase, the dance & music had a reputation of being kind of coarse. But there has been major evolution! Jumpswing is NOT synonymous with crazed sloppiness. Funny, that's what the establishment was saying about WALTZ at first, and LINDY HOP, too! As a dance, Ithaca Jumpswing incorporates modern sophisticated lead-follow techniques, demands solid rhythm, lyrical movement, and musicality. Jumpswing has dynamics: from a relaxing tight groove, to the exhilaration of skipping and hopping, when it really rocks out.

Why not the classics?
I dance Balboa & I love Balboa. Balboa, with its delayed weight shift basic, segues nicely into Jump, but Bal is a tough place to start for those with no dance experience. Also, the embrace is too bold for shy beginners. Fast Lindy? A groove, but also for virtuosos. It comes into Jumpswing at a more advanced level). East Coast Swing triple-step? Triple steps are sweet at 120 bpm for some beginners. and we teach it late in our Level I class. Although do-able at fast tempi, triple-step swing is pretty darn busy at fast speeds, and certainly out of a beginner's range at 170+ and above – the music they prefer. Single-step or Tap-step ECS, like in the 1950s? OK, lots of people danced this way to Elvis, Little Richard, etc., but we like Jumpswing better – it hits the backbeat harder, and has more bounce.

Where? Jumpswing is taught and danced in Long Beach CA, Redondo Beach CA, Charleston SC, Philadelphia PA, Watertown CT, Jensen Beach FL, Bangor ME, and Ithaca NY, to name a few places.


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