Swing is a broad term for a group of social dances that are mainly danced to various kinds of jazz music. The sheer flexibility of Swing dancing adds to its richness and makes it a great social dance to learn. Swing dancing is a social dance, but unlike Ballroom dancing, it emphasizes musicality and improvisation in the sense that the mood, the phrases and the "humpf" of the music will very much affect the way you dance and the way you execute every moves. The art of swing dancing is to adapt to the mood and beat of the music.
*** It's all about the music ***
But first and foremost, Swing is Music. What is Swing music? Swing music is a kind of Jazz music. It has African roots and European roots. The classic swing dance bands were Chick Webb, Count Basie, Jimmie Lucenford, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller. Louis Armstrong... Swing music does not have a hard beat. It has a strong flow. Swing dancing is jazz dancing. You play. You improvise. You syncopate. Rock (&Roll), Rockabilly, and various other musical forms evolved from Swing music. Swing music started in the mid-1920's, and was really popular among African Americans until it entered the mainstream around 1935. It was wildly popular until about 1945, when people danced much less, and Jazz, which had always been dancing music, stopped being popular. R&B and Jump Blues, which had grown out of Swing, combined with Country & Western and gave rise to Rock & Roll. This too was started by African Americans. R'N'R eventually grew into Rock, and became completely undanceable. In the 1970's there was Disco, and later Country & Western and Rockabilly.
In the 1980's, several people rediscovered authentic Swing music and dancing, inspired by the Lindy Hop in such films as Hellzapoppin' and Day at the Races. This lead to a resurgence of real Swing music, as thousands of people learned to dance Lindy Hop from the old masters like Frankie Manning and Al Minns, and the new masters, like Steven Mitchell and Ryan Francois. The film Swing Kids, which contains Swing music and dancing, was choreographed by Ryan Francois.
At the same time, in the 1980's several Rock, Rockabilly, Ska, and Punk bands were inspired by the popularity of Swing, to call themselves Swing bands. This music is often called Neo-swing. It sounds and feels a lot more like Rock than Swing, often with a hard beat, and an angry edge. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Royal Crown Revue and Brian Setzer Orchestra are Neo-swing bands. Squirrel Nut Zipper are inspired by pre-swing music - ragtime and hot jazz.
And then there are many, many contemporary authentic swing bands -- Bill Elliott, Eddie Reed, Dean Mora, Jennie Loebel, Lavay Smith, Joe Salzano, Lindy Hop Heaven. Swing music is pure joy. It puts a smile on your face.
Swing is Jazz music. Jazz is Dancing music. Swing music is pure joy.