Mark Paroz of Swing Dance Brisbane (which is sadly no more) described swing as "the punk of the '30s". Now we don't know if these were his own words or if he was quoting someone else, but either way, it's a brilliant description of swing. Swing was a new dance style, one which defiantly broke all the rules and refinement of the waltz which had preceded it as the respectable form of social dancing for over a century.
Rather than the elegant posture and demure grace of the waltz dances, swing was danced with a slouch, with wilfully ungainly leg lines, frequently holding onto your partner with only one or two lazy fingers. It had clear roots in the music and dance of black America, and its style of movement was thoroughly at odds with the propriety of anglo-american tradition. It was a street style, which was presumably met with great disparagement and disapproval from the educated classes.
Sounds like everything a teenager wants! This rebellious new style - both the music and the dance - laid the groundwork for rock'n'roll. The swing heritage is clearly evident in the rock'n'roll and jive styles of the 50s, and even at the partner dances of the disco era. A range of different swing styles emerged over the years and we teach two of them.
East coast swing is a relaxed style suited to mid-paced swing music. (Danced much faster with a more upright posture and some tweaks to leg styling, a similar set of patterns becomes Jive.) The partners turn around each other, moving apart and together with underarm turns and hand changes.
Single swing is useful for much faster music. The step patterns are similar to those of east coast swing, but the footwork is simplified to accommodate the speed.