Swing – Definition

Teaching Resource for SWING

Links:   Standard Analyze Module Teach Other

CALLERLAB Program: Basic Part 1
Teaching order: After Dosado (or later)
Recently taught calls: Circle Left, Circle Right, Forward and Back, Dosado

Background: In English dance descriptions “swing around” means to circle (from two to many persons). By the late 1800’s there were several new couple dances such as the waltz introduced in Austria about 1795, the polka from Bohemia in 1830, and Scandinavian folk dances that used the buzz-step. Emboldened by these dances, North Americans used a closer hold on their partner and created the Swing. Although it takes time to master the buzz step, a good swing is one of the great joys of square and contra dancing. Traditional dances often allow 8 to 16 beats for a Swing.


Minimum number of dancers needed: Two

Starting formations: Facing dancers (man and woman).

Command examples:
— Swing Your Partner
— Swing Your Corner; Promenade
— … and Swing
— Circle Left, Swing Your Corner, Circle Left
— Swing your Corner, Allemande Left (new corner), Promenade

Dance action: Dancers step forward and slightly to their left, use a ballroom hold, and rotate clockwise as a unit for four or more beats of music. As dancers end the swing, the woman continues turning to her right (unrolling along the man’s right arm) until she is facing the same direction as the man.

Ending formation: Normal Couple, usually facing into the set, or facing appropriately for the next call (such as Promenade). Callers should not use choreography that relies on a precise ending position for Swing.

Timing: Variable, at least 4.

Styling: The actual styling varies depending on which kind of step is used. For both the walking and buzz step swing, the man’s styling is the same: left arm bent at the elbow, palm slightly up, right hand flat on her left shoulder blade.

The man should use a flat palm on the woman’s back, being careful not to dig the fingertips of his right hand into the soft part of the woman’s back near her left kidney.

For the woman using a walking step, she places her left palm on the outside of the man’s right upper arm, being careful to keep her hand relatively flat so she doesn’t grip his arm. She should lift up her left elbow a bit so she is not clamping down on his elbow. This is also a good position if the man is significantly taller than the woman. For the faster buzz step swing, her left hand is flat on the man’s right shoulder blade and she holds her left elbow slightly up, supporting herself without clamping down on his elbow. In both swings, the right hand is palm down on the man’s left hand.

The connection generated in the swing is created by centrifugal force. Each dancer is responsible for holding himself up. The faster the swing, the more each dancer will feel a slight leaning back into the partner’s arms, although this lean should not be exaggerated; quite often, it will happen naturally within the frame of a proper hold.

The force tending to pull the dancers apart will be counteracted by a supportive combination of the man’s right hand and arm and the woman’s left hand and arm. The remaining arms are held only lightly for balance — too much tension here makes the swing less fluid, and getting out of it clumsy.

Differences in height may require modifications to the above styling. For example, when the man is significantly taller than the woman, her left hand can be a flat palm on the outside of his right bicep.

Footwork for the Walking Swing: Short walking steps clockwise around the central pivot point between the two dancers.

Footwork for the Buzz Step Swing: Right foot moves forward in small clockwise circle around the pivot point between the two dancers while the left foot pushes, as in a scooter motion. Right foot is always in front of left.

Ending the Swing: The man leads the end of the swing at the proper time, so that the couple faces in the proper direction for the next call.

Ending the Swing without a twirl: The man signals the end of the swing when he is facing the correct direction by stopping his motion while releasing his left hand. The woman continues her motion as she rolls off the man’s right arm to form a couple with the woman facing in the man’s direction. Once the woman is stable, the man adjusts his right hand to its next position: couple handhold or promenade handhold.

Ending the Swing with a twirl: Swings may be ended with a twirl when the next dance action is a Promenade or there is no immediate next dance action (therefore Swing, Twirl, Circle Left is discouraged). The man raises his left hand over the woman’s head, and with a cupped hold around her right hand, he gently guides her into a clockwise twirl. She moves forward three steps, into a promenade position as he transfers her right hand into his right hand and they join left hands on the 4th step. While the woman turns, the man moves forward down the line of dance to be in position for the promenade. The twirl is at the woman’s option. See “Additional Detail: Styling: Twirls”. The twirl takes extra time, space, and control. Dancers who twirl must be aware of these factors.

Comments: The Ocean Wave Rule applies to this call.

Some dancers get dizzy when swinging. Be aware of your partner’s needs.

When two dancers who are swinging are of disparate weights (e.g., an adult man swinging a child), it is rude and dangerous to cause the lighter dancer to leave the ground.

There should be little to no vertical motion while swinging (i.e., no bouncing or hopping).
In a swing, dancers are neither side-by-side with right hip to right-hip, nor precisely facing. Instead they are offset one step to the left from facing and at a slight angle with the woman’s nose facing the man’s right shoulder.

Swings should be synchronized with the beat of the music. One step in the walking swing for each beat of music. One step on the right foot for each beat of music in the buzz step swing. Some have described this as a quick step or as two steps for each beat of music.

An experienced dancer will adjust to his partner’s type of step (walking or buzz).

The command “Swing Your Partner” is a shorthand for “Face Your Partner; Swing”. The same for “Swing Your Corner”.
If a couple is facing out of the square and asked to Swing, they should face each other and Swing. Examples include Swing from a Trade By formation (the centers swing the dancer they are facing and the ends swing the dancer beside them), and from Lines Facing, Square Thru 3 and Swing (swing the dancer beside you).

From a Squared Set, the command “Heads (or Sides) Swing” has the designated dancers face and Swing. That is, they Swing the dancer close to them, not the one they are facing across the square.

Facing Couple or Ocean Wave Rule:  The Ocean Wave Rule applies

Link to Taminations: Taminations Swing