Swing Dance Steps

Robin Raven
swing dancing

Swing dance is a riveting and joyful form of dance. If it is your first time going swing dancing you may be nervous, especially if you haven't ever seen or heard of a single step. Fortunately, there are a few moves you can easily master in time to feel ready to hit the dance floor.

Swinging Charleston

Named after the oldest city in South Carolina, the Charleston is one of the classic dances that you may have seen in movies like It's a Wonderful Life and The Great Gatsby. As a part of swing dancing, the original Charleston was adapted to be the Swinging Charleston. It's also known as the Savoy Charleston and the Lindy Charleston.

For help as you try to learn these dance moves, print out the illustrated guide to the Swinging Charleston below. When you click on the image you can then download and print the diagram to easily access the illustration. If you need help with Adobe printables, these helpful tips will provide all the information you need.

Partners will either do the exact same steps side-by-side or they will be a mirror image of one another. Prepare yourself to do the Swinging Charleston by keeping a loose posture and relaxed knees. Place your body weight on the ball of your foot as you lean forward.

  1. Step your right foot straight behind you, then shift your weight to the right foot. As you do this, swing your left arm forward, keeping a fluid motion.
  2. Shift your weight to your left foot and kick your right foot forward. As you do this, move your left arm back by your side while swinging your right arm back.
  3. Move your right foot and bring it directly beside your left foot.
  4. Shift your weight to your right foot and kick your left foot forward. Swing your left arm back in a fluid motion.
  5. Move your left foot back, then kick it behind you. Move your left arm forward in a swinging, fluid motion, while returning your right arm to your side.
  6. Bring your left foot in and step it behind your right foot.
  7. Repeat steps again.

Chicken Walks

Chicken walks are fun dance moves that are a part of many types of swing dancing whether your preference is East Coast or West Coast Swing. It can be combined as a part of other dances like a samba, so you may recognize this move from some past episodes of Dancing with the Stars.

Unlike many dance moves, chicken walks are primarily about the "follower."

Start by bending your knees slightly and placing your weight on your right foot. (In fact, be sure to keep your knees slightly bent throughout the dance.)

  1. On Count 1, slide your left foot straight ahead of you. Simultaneously turn your shoulders and hips to the left.
  2. On Count 2, place your weight onto your left foot. Slide your right foot straight ahead of you while you turn your shoulders and hips to your right.
  3. Repeat Steps 1 and 2 as many times as you'd like for the dance.

While the chicken walks are for the followers, the leaders typically act as though they are supporting and pulling the followers while the leaders walk backwards.

Coaster Step

The coaster step is essentially a traveling triple step done in a specific pattern. It can be used to change patterns. As you become more proficient in your swing dance steps, you can add more advanced patterns to the coaster step, even incorporating turns and jumps.

  1. Bring your right foot forward.
  2. Close your left foot to your right foot.
  3. Step back with your right foot.

Anchor Step

The Anchor Step was described by Swing Hall of Fame inductee Maxwell Ho as the period at the end of the sentence within a swing dance pattern. It is composed of three beats: danced front, back, and side. However, the traveling is very minimal, causing the illusion that the swing dancer is executing fancy footwork while remaining in the same place.

The Anchor Step consists of three steps in place. The leader dances right-left-right, while the follower dances left-right-left.

  1. Step to the side.
  2. Step back and cross.
  3. Kick ball change.

So the Anchor Step will end in one of three ways:

  • Your center point of balance will be a bit forward with a passive connection with your partner.
  • Both you and your swing dance partner will be equally centered with a passive connection.
  • Both you and your swing dance partner will not be individually centered, creating a resistance that gives you a heavy active connection.

The Lindy Hop Swingout

A beloved swing dance move is the Lindy Hop, and the swingout is a fundamental part of this fun dance. It is also referred to as the Lindy Whip or Lindy Turn. The swingout is a basic building block for other dance steps, and can also be used on its own quite often.

  1. Rock step. (Take a step back with your full weight, then transfer the weight to your front foot while keeping it in place.)
  2. Triple step. (Take a step to your side. Bring your feet together. Take another step to your side.)
  3. Walk.
  4. Walk.
  5. Triple step.

Texas Tommy

Also known as an Apache, the Texas Tommy is another Lindy Hop dance move. You will often see a Texas Tommy in not only swing dance steps, but as part of Salsa dance as well. The step is named after a well-known swing dance that was popular during the early days of swing.

  1. Rock step. (Take a step back with your full weight, then transfer the weight to your front foot while keeping it in place.)
  2. Triple step. (Take a step to your side. Bring your feet together. Take another step to your side.)
  3. Place your right hand behind your back as the leader also places his hand behind your back.
  4. Turn around and unroll your arm.
  5. Face your partner.

Jumpin' Joe

The Jumpin' Joe is a fun adaptation for leads who find themselves shorter than their partner. This very simple dance move is performed by the leader. This step adds height (not to mention impressive technique) to an otherwise simple swing move.

  1. Spin your partner.
  2. As she returns to the open-hand position, bring your arm over the head of the follower. Simultaneously jump in the air.
  3. Land and return to the open-hand position.

Mastering Swing

If you are interested in perfecting these steps, as well as others that are much more challenging, check out your local swing dance studio or visit a night club hosting a free night of swing dancing. Dancing is a great way to socialize while getting exercise and upping your mood at the same time.

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Swing Dance Steps