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The History of Boogie Dance

Couple swing dance in Central Park, NY
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Boogie dance, or boogie-woogie, is a form of swing dancing. It is called boogie-woogie in Europe, but this dance is more commonly known as East Coast swing in the United States. It's most often seen now in dance competitions, which are run by the World Rock 'n' Roll Confederation.

The Facts

People swing dancing outdoors
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Swing dance dates back to the 1920s, when the black community began dancing the lindy hop and Charleston to jazz music. When the Savoy Ballroom opened in New York in 1926, it became the swing center of the world. In the 1930s, a new style called the jitterbug was introduced, followed in the1950s by the boogie-woogie, or East Coast swing.


U.S. stamp with 1950's couple dancing
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Boogie-woogie was originally called "barrelhouse" dancing. During the 1950s, today's boogie-woogie would have been known as "rock 'n' roll." Although the dance can go with boogie-woogie music, it's more often paired with rock music. Because rock 'n' roll dance was already established in dance competitions, boogie- woogie had to find an alternate label. It adopted a name based on the music with which it was often paired: fast-paced, piano boogie-woogie.

Famous Contacts

American jazz band leader and singer Cab Calloway
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In 1938, Cab Calloway and The Whitey's Lindy Hoppers performed at the Cotton Club Review. The Hoppers danced to a fast blues song called "A Lesson in Jive." This was the legendary start of the boogie dance. Boogie dance is best danced with rockabilly music, as performed by such artists as Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis.


Couples swing dance in honor of legendary Lindy Hop pioneer Frankie Manning
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The step variation for boogie dance is six or eight count with sharp, quick movements. Boogie-woogie can be danced in social situations (mostly in Europe), or in competitions (worldwide). As a competitive dance, boogie-woogie is a "led" dance, without any choreography or acrobatic movement. Boogie-woogie can be slow or fast. When fast beats are used, boogie-woogie often moves into East Coast swing, Hollywood style and jitterbug.


Couple Boogie dance
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Boogie-woogie is a distinct form of swing dance. Although it originated in the '50s after other forms of swing, it does have its own set of steps. Many people confuse it with the lindy hop, which it closely resembles. The two are not interchangeable, however. Another misconception is that as a form of swing dancing, boogie-woogie must be fast paced. Boogie-woogie dance and music can, however, be slow.

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