Intro To Swing - Syllabus for 12 class session
Kurt Lichtmann - Cornell University - Jan. 2009
A. Connect to History
Read the web articles on the class site. The music and dance were born in late 1920s USA , coming from New Orleans Jazz and the Charleston era. Harlem was a key center for dance development. The swing/big band era spans the early 1930s to the mid 1940s. Swing was USA 's official music during WWII. Swing music & dance are marraiges of African-American & European-American tradition, styles, & temperaments. As the decades rolled by, many distinct styles of swing music and regional dance styles evolved.

B. Connect to the Music
before you dance. Find the strong quarter-note pulse. Listen to the bass and drums. In Jump Blue and Rock 'n'Roll, feel the backbeat, the drive on the even beats (2,4,6,8 of the 8-count phrase.) Stronger grooves have a snare drum backbeat. Tune in to the 8-beat phrasing. As the song goes on, note the alternation of ensemble, and foreground-background textures. Note the instrumental solos. In big band style , soloists are backed up the whole group, or by brass (trumpet/trombone), or woodwind (sax) sections, alternating with whole group playing. Often brass and wind sections alternate in call & response. 12 bar blues, or 8 bar are common structures .

C. Connect to the Earth

Relax the hips and knees a little as if you were just about to sit. It is a “ playing readiness ” posture, common to many sports. There is a down-down pulse that is a continual background energy in your body – towards the earth. This is part of its African roots.
You are in a way receiving energy from the earth in this manner. Push off the floor into weight shifts - step is a full change of weight to the new side.

D. Connect to your own Body
Free arm
is raised roughly parallel to the earth, so it can move expressively. Free hand is relaxed, not in a “dance claw.” Elbows are in front of torso, “never” behind. Weight is a bit forward for the most part, towards the toes and ball of your feet, less frequently flatfooted (in some Charleston moves) or even towards the heel. Relax your shoulders . They can bounce a bit, too. Relax your neck muscles. Let your head be free to move.

D. Connect to your Partner
Look at your partner. A lot. Smile. In some cultures, direct eye contact is discouraged, and you don't want to stare at your partner the whole time anyway. But at least keep checking in!In both closed and open position, there is energy away from each other, as your are both sitting back a bit. Ladies: wait for the lead. Better to be late than early. If he is not dancing to the music, dance with his rhythm. If the guy is a totally baffled newbie, you could try offering to backlead for a bit. Guys: be kind, not rough, but have firm well-defined leads.

E. Connect Socially
Brush your teeth. Use mouthwash and/or breath mints. You are going to sweat, everyone does, often a lot, so don't worry about that. When you enter the room, say hello at least to both friends and acquaintances as you encounter them. It helps you and others to feel a part of the scene. It tells new people that you are a part of the scene and makes them feel more comfortable about being approached by you. (Don't be intimidated by “conspicuous social connection” - loud expressive hellos and hugs. Boisterous greeters sometimes are trying to impress themselves or others with their own imagined importance.) It is common for girls to ask guys to dance. Try to ask some totally new people to dance. Thank your partners after a dance. When you bang into or step on people on the dance floor, express concern and apologize. When you leave, It is nice to say goodbye to some people with whom you have danced.

L's = Leader's, F's = Follower's
LH = Left hand, RH = Right hand
CW = clockwise, CCW = counterclockwise

CP = Closed Position, OP = Open Position
1H = One-handed open position
2H = Two-handed open position
SH = shakehand position
CS = Charleston
C3K = 3 kick charleston

RS = rock step
S1 = step with lead foot, S2 = step with anchor foot
T1 = touch toe lead foot, T2 = touch toe anchor foot
K1 = kick with lead foot K2 = kick with anchor foot
X1 = cross S1 over anchor, X2 =cross S2 over lead
H1 = heel touch lead foot, H2 = heel touch anchor foot

1. Torsos roughly parallel.
2. L offset to left, right feet between the other's feet.
3. F's back in L's RH, as about to sit on a high stool.
4. L cups L's RH on F's closest shoulder blade .
5. F's L arm rests on L's R arm.
6. L's R arm is high enough so F's tricep rests on L's forearm.
7. When turning, L extends L's R arm to give F space.
8. L's R arm firm, but fluid– more for couples turns, then relaxing to neutral tone. let F go back for RS.

1. Sit back a bit as if on a high stool.
2. Forearms are low. L begins leverage. F matches it.
3. Arms firm, but not rock-like. A bit springy, but steady-ish.
4. Feel pull in fingers, forearm, bicep, not shoulder joint.
5. Connect with muscle tone in FINGERS: no thumbs.
6. Arm and finger muscle tone will increase and decrease for
turns and place change moves.
7. Yanking with your lead arm after a turn? Instead, bring
your elbow near your side midriff for leverage on RS.
Let L lead leverage. Use a “short rope.”
8. L's: Lead RS with a push on the beat before the RS.

TURNS: for the one turning

1. Turn under the hand connection . It's painless!
2. Use your partner's hand as a pivot point. Don't push up: leverage down slightly. L's: No cranking.
3. Step close to your partner.
4. Don't let elbow go behind you (hurts!). If your hand goes behind your head, keep it close to your head. Avoid pain!
5. Hand connections: use gliding pivot or rotating pivot

WILD DANCING (L & F): Go nuts, but...
1. Improvise funky rhythms with free hand, shoulders,
head, legs, NOT your connected hand.
2. RS with the ball of your #1 foot near your #2 heel, and keep your weight mostly forward.
3. L's: keep an eye on F during turn. You'll lose her if she gets too far. Don't yank on the RS: it hurts.

dig music, partner, bounce to pulse.
a. one-handed open: leveraged
b. two-handed: leveraged
c. CP: facing (L's RH on F's shoulder blade),
     keep turning.
d. CP: hip to hip (L's RH on F's R waist)
e. CP: belly to belly (offset & not with Auntie Em!)
f. CP hip to hip open: drop L's LH
g. Cuddle, AKA Sweetheart (from 2H, keep hands low)
h. Varsouvienne
     (from SH: side by side, LH to LH, RH to RH)

2. MOVES from 1H: extra leverage on beat 2
a. F's Inside turn (underarm) with position switch
b. F's Inside Turn with hand change (from 1H or SH)
c. L's Duck with position change
d. L's behind the back turn
e. Bring F into CP, or CS, or into 2H (offer other hand)
f.  Arm Slide (from SH, after Ls RH behind his head)
g. Twist Around (F: free arm opposite knees)
h. Frisbee free spin to open jam
i. Follow me - L leads, the F leads

3. MOVES from 2H
a. Butterfly: arms behind head
b. Cuddle to L's right side (and side to side)
c. Frisbee (single or double)

d. Frisbee free spin to open jam.
e. Accordian turns (arms low, firm, F on L's right)
f. Rope Turns (she goes IT, He goes OT)

4. MOVES from CP:
compression on RS to get space
a. small pivots clockwise (a good groove!)
b. F's outside underarm turn (L make space first)
c. L's outside underarm turn
d. F's open (hand drop) outside turn
e. Beanbag (drop L's RH to F's R waist on RS)
f. Tuck out (F's outside turn with tuck)

5. CHARLESTON : 8 count (bounce with music's pulse)
a. Side-by-side Charleston :
     6ct RS becomes 1 st C'ston RS
b. Step Charleston: Touchback1 S1 Touchforward2 S2
c. Three-kick Charleston : RS K1-S1 K2 & K2 -S2
d. Four-Kick Charleston: Kback1 S1 Kforward2 S2
e. Breakaway (Fan) Charleston : Kick (turn) step
f. Front-to-Front Charleston:
    F changes to T1 fwd on beat 1
g. Kickles: swiffle in, out, L's RH “steering wheel”
h. Kick Around: alt. Feet or #2 foot repeated
i. Velcro Leg: #2 leg. K2 frt-bk-frt-bk-frt-lift-S2 (16 ct)
j. L's Walk-out: Jbug 6 count. RS replaces touchback.
k. Jump Out: RS-down-jump-land,
L's RH on F's hip on “down.”
l. CS Play: L then F (repeat each idea at least 3X)

m. Charleston swingout (kicks on 5678 to front)

a. default: R S H1 S1 H2 S2,
spin variation:
R S S1 + S2 +
b. Slow Swing variation: R S S1 T2 S2 T1
    (feet together on T)
c. CP Variation: S1 S2 T1 S1 T2 S2
    (small back touches)
d. Fast Tempo Var 1: R S K1 S1 K2 S2
     (hop on each beat)
e. Fast Tempo Var 2: R S T1 S1 T2 S2 (hips move T)
f. Smooth Swing “East Coast” - Triple Step:
     R S 1-2-1 2-1-2
motion: open - side to side, conversation - front and back (please - no triple steps in place in East Coast.

b. Jazz Square: X1 back2 side1 front

Wedding Dance DVD   Ithaca Swing Dance    Cayuga Pro DJ  Ithaca Dance  Dancing Central NY