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  Get That Swing: THE STEPS
By Fritz Hahn Staff
Monday, November 9, 1998

    one-and-two, three-and-four, rock-step

This is what a basic jitterbug looks like – the woman's steps are shown above the man's steps. (By Elisa Nader/

Not only is swing retro in terms of music and fashion, but also in societal attitudes toward women. In the world of swing, men decide what moves to do and the women follow. That may take some getting used to, but hey – this was the 1930s.

However, this means that the men have to treat their partners as ladies. No shoving through turns or growling at them if they can't Charleston. If a move doesn't work, guess whose fault it is. The leader's. With power comes responsibility.

The six-count jitterbug (shown on the right), which is the most basic of steps, is not a hard dance to do. When you listen to the music, each beat is given a number. This is a six-count dance, so try counting "1-2-3-4-5-6-1-2-3-4-5-6" to the music you want to dance to without pausing between sets of numbers.

Stay on the balls of your feet, shifting weight between legs on Beat 3 (see the animation). Notice that the feet (and the body) should generally stay in place, not bounce up and down or flail wildly to the sides. Keep your feet about the width of your shoulders, and take a small "rock step" on Beats 5 and 6. Don't stick your leg as far back as it can go; the toe of your left foot (right, for the ladies) shouldn't go any farther back than the heel of your right foot. Then, on Beat 1, bring your left foot forward again.

Simple, right?

To see what the simple and advanced dance steps look like, click on the screen grabs below to download the videos (you'll need a RealPlayer G2 downloadable free from to view them). On the left you can watch dancers Steve Cowles and Naomi Yuama do a simple jitterbug, while on the right Tom Koerner and Debra Sternberg participate in an advanced group dance, or "jam."

    Steve Cowles and Naomi Yuama Dancers Steve Cowles and Naomi Yuama do a simple jitterbug and turn. (By Craig Cola/
    Experts Tom Koerner and Debra Sternberg Dancers Tom Koerner and Debra Sternberg jam away. (By Craig Cola/

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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