The short history of Boogie-Woogie

Why would you learn about the history of Boogie-Woogie dance? Well, because this awesome dance style has a long history and some of it explains a few things about its relationship to other swing dances.

When boogie-woogie music was born

In 1928 Pinetop Smith created the first official Boogie-Woogie song called Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie. He instructed dancers in his song how to dance, but it was merely a list of figures and instructions on when to start or stop.

In the early 1930s, a new style came around called Jitterbug. This dance was much more convenient to Boogie-Woogie music; it had the necessary footwork. Because of the fast tempo, it couldn’t handle the acrobatic figures well known from lindy hop, so they started to concentrate on new or adopted figures.

In the 1940s, Arthur Murray and his dance studio created a standardized version of Jitterbug and Lindy Hop. They had to because the original Lindy Hop was too unpredictable and unstructured to teach, but at the time there was a high demand to teach swing in dance schools. Arthur Murray created East Coast Swing to emphasize the difference to the street swing dance.

And it still wasn’t called Boogie-Woogie. The Jitterbug slowly became known as East Coast Swing.

When East Coast Swing was brought into Europe

And then something happened. World War II. Millions of US soldiers came to Europe and brought swing music and Jitterbug and East Coast Swing with them. And as usual, the novelty and the free improvisation caught Europeans unprepared. They fell in love and started to adopt this new style.

Naturally, Europe, especially Germany, had a little bit stricter approach. Hence the rules of East Coast Swing were created. By the time this new dance became known in Europe, a new music style called Rock or Rock’n’Roll had been born. And it turned out that East Coast Swing / Jitterbug can be danced to Rock’n’Roll as well. Even more, it felt good; it felt appropriate to dance to rock with this dance style. East Coast Swing became the social Rock and Roll style as opposed to Acrobatic Rock and Roll and Jitterbug.

When Boogie-Woogie got its name

That was the time when dancers decided to compete with each other. The only problem was that there had been a competition dance style called Acrobatic Rock and Roll. So the World Rock and Roll Confederation needed to come up with a new name. Since this new style was danced to all kind of fast-paced music, and because it’s roots are in Boogie-Woogie, they decided to call the dance Boogie-Woogie also.

And here we are

So this is the short history of Boogie-Woogie. We can dance it to slow and fast music, to Rock and Roll and to Blues, it has its own characteristics, it is structured, it can contain aerials, it has no practised choreography. It is fun, and because of its standardized moves, you can’t really do it in a lazy way.