- $55 for two 30-minute private ballroom-dance classes for one or two including one social party and unlimited floor time for practice ($110 value)
The Jitterbug: The Lindy Hop’s Drunken Cousin
Most classic ballroom steps are European, but swing dances such as the jitterbug were born closer to home. Exterminate your jitterbug curiosity with Groupon’s guide to the style.
The history of the jitterbug is almost as frenetic as the fast footwork and hip swivels of the dance itself. The swing-style partner dance, performed to syncopated 4/4 rhythms, dates back to the emergence of the Lindy Hop in the mid-1920s. Black dancers at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom developed improvisational, acrobatic swing-dance moves to the tune of live jazz from the likes of Duke Ellington and Glenn Miller. The moniker “Lindy Hop” was preferred by the majority of swing’s founding fathers at the Savoy, including Frankie Manning, though the name began to change as visitors to the integrated club helped spread the dance to mainstream culture and the insect community. Popular legend holds that the word jitterbug stems from the tremors alcoholics would experience when they stopped drinking. Original Savoy dancer Al Minns used the term playfully to refer to the wild, out-of-control movements of novice dancers who didn’t quite know what they were doing.
Jazz singer Cab Calloway gave legitimacy to the word with his boozy 1935 hit “Call of the Jitterbug,” leading to the rise of the dance craze across America. The dance transcended racial and socioeconomic boundaries, and by the 1940s it had crossed international borders as well. American soldiers in World War II brought the dance overseas, where it was popular due to its informal nature (no training required), its scandalous gyrations, and its ability to mix well with alcohol—a mainstay of troops on leave. Although the war-era tax on “dancing” nightclubs curbed the popularity of jazz dancing in America, the jitterbug survived the early days of rock ‘n’ roll, going on to influence choreography on the 1950s TV hit American Bandstand and at the 1952 presidential debates.