The Chicago Swing Dance Society (CSDS), based at the University of Chicago
is the city's longest-running non-profit organization dedicated to the expansion, promotion, and preservation of swing dancing. We serve the student body at UChicago as well as the swing dance community of the greater Chicago area through social dances and classes.
started in the Reynolds Club C-Shop on 57th and University in 1997 before moving in late 1999 to its current location at Ida Noyes Hall to accommodate growing attendance.
Our Saturday night Java Jives have been and always will be free for both students and the public. No special dance shoes, partner or swing dancing ability necessary! At every jive, we offer a Beginner Swing lesson from 7:30 - 8:30 pm and DJ-ed open dancing from 8:30 - 11:00 pm.
Our goal as a club is to ensure that our social dances and lessons are safe spaces for everyone. Discriminatory behavior is considered an offense; anyone, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, race, or ability is welcome at our events. Moreover, any form of harassment (such as stalking, unwanted physical contact, invasive conversation) on and beyond the dance floor is a direct violation of our club and the university’s Policy on Harassment, Discrimination, and Sexual Misconduct. In alignment with university regulations, we do not permit alcohol, drugs, smoking, or firearms at our events.
As a registered student organization on campus, we reserve the right to ban offenders from our events at any time. Event participants are required to comply with requests from the organizers.
Dancing with a partner
a. Do not attempt moves that make your partner feel uncomfortable; let them know if they are making you feel this way!
b. If your partner does not want to dance in close embrace or do a dip, respect their decision.
c. For safety reasons, aerials are not allowed on the dance floor.
Safety on the dance floor
a. Floor craft: be aware of the space and people around you when you are dancing so that others do not get hurt.
b. If you bump into someone, check to see whether they are okay and apologize.
Accepting and declining dances
a. You can ask anyone to dance, regardless of whether you are a lead, follower, beginner, or advanced dancer.
b. Avoid consecutive dances with the same partner unless they are okay with it—dancing with different people is what makes swing dancing a social dance, anyway!
c. It is perfectly okay to decline a dance!
d. If someone says no to you, respect their decision. They might be tired, dislike the song, or simply do not want to dance with you; all are valid reasons.
Swing has to do with the rhythm of the music where accented notes are played at roughly twice the emphasis of the non-accented notes. A simple way of explaining this is to say the word “bicycle:” it has three syllables, but the emphasis of the first syllable is roughly twice that of the last two.
Swing was the predominant style of jazz music played from the late 1920s to mid-1940s. It is usually played by big band ensembles that use a rhythm section with drums, bass, sometimes a guitar, and almost always a piano, a brass section of trumpets and trombones, and a reed section of saxophones and clarinets. Musicians who are most known for their contributions to swing music include Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Billie Holliday, Slim Gaillard, Lionel Hampton, Fats Waller, Nina Simone, Louis Armstrong...and we're just getting started. Many musicians also carried the tradition of hard-swinging rhythm past the swing era, and bring us a whole new generation of swinging jazz.
Lindy Hop, the dance that started it all, stands today as America's true folk dance. Legend has it that one of the Harlem’s best in the day, Shorty George Snowden, coined the name when he saw a newspaper headline, “Lindy Hops the Atlantic" in 1927, the year that Charles A. Lindbergh made the first ever transatlantic flight.
The dance was first created by African-American kids during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 30s. Like swinging jazz, Lindy Hop is improvisational and playful, which is what makes social dancing fun and its competitions so delightful to watch.
The Lindy Hop's renaissance period began in 1984 when Frankie Manning, a pioneer of the dance in the 1930s and choreographer for the famous troupe Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, came out of retirement. He appeared in the 1941 film Hellzapoppin’, performing a swing routine (complete with aerials) that is now universally recognized in the swing world. By the late 1990s, the swing craze was booming; many nationwide had caught the jitterbug.
These days, people dance to not only classic big band swing tunes, but also electro swing songs by artists like Caravan Palace and Parov Stelar. Modern East Coast Swing dancers are also inspired by dance styles such as West Coast Swing, Tango, and Hip Hop. Competitions that range from the International Lindy Hop Championships to the inventive and unconventional Jedi Swing Finals take place every year. As a social dance, swing continues to attract a vibrant crowd of all ages as it fosters life skills such as connection, trust, and improvisation in one of the most irresistibly fun ways possible!
Originally a tap dance routine performed during the 1930s, the Shim Sham became popular in the swing community after Frankie Manning adapted it for swing dancers. It is now often danced at social dances, usually to “Tain't What You Do (It's the Way That Cha Do It)” by Jimmie Lunceford. Since the choreography for the Shim Sham consists of ten eight-count phrases, dancers usually pair up with a random partner to dance until the end of the song, while the DJ occasionally yells out directions such as “Freeze,” “Slow Motion,” or “Dance” to spice things up.
When dancers form a Jam Circle, different couples take turns going into the center of the circle to show off their moves. However, Jams are also commonly used to commemorate special occasions, such as birthdays (there are birthday jams, visitor jams, and farewell jams, just to name a few)! The dancers in the outside circle take turns ‘stealing’ the special person (or people) in the center throughout the song. Check out the video on the left for an example of a birthday jam, and the one on the right for a great demo of jamming and stealing!
Ida Noyes Hall - Directions
All Java Jives, unless otherwise noted, are held in Ida Noyes Hall at the corner of Woodlawn Ave. The address is 1212 E. 59th St., 60637. You can find directions for car or public transit through Google Maps, but bear in mind that some public transit services stop running near midnight.
Theatre (pictured left)
The room is to the right of the stairs on the third floor (also accessible via elevator).
On the ground floor, the room is on the right as you enter from 59th Street.
On the ground floor, the room is on the left (past the main stairs) as you enter from 59th Street. The space outside the lounge is carpeted and has a fireplace.
East Lounge and West Lounge
These rooms are at opposite ends of the hallway on the second floor.
Drinking Fountains and Toilets
In Ida Noyes, drinking fountains can be found in the basement, on the ground floor, and on the second floor; toilets are in the basement and on the second floor.
In the City
Where can I dance in Chicago?
Chicago is a great city for swing dancers; there is a venue for dance every night of the week! The Calendars on Windy Hop and This Week in Chicago are great online resources for dancers in town.
Unfortunately, our regular spring 2020, summer 2020, autumn 2020, winter 2021, and spring 2021 programming has been canceled due to COVID-19 and the restraints of social distancing. To stay in touch and find out about any virtual resources we are able to offer, please follow our Facebook page and/or subscribe to our email list.
No dance experience is required at all! If you can walk and you can count to eight, you have what it takes to learn basic swing.
Our classes may be taken with or without a partner. Unless otherwise specified, we will rotate partners, as this practice reinforces the social nature of the dance. No special shoes are required for lessons, although high heels, clunky boots or sandals without a back strap are not recommended. Wear something comfortable!
Beginner East Coast Swing is the most rudimentary dance done to swinging jazz music. Beginning classes focus on six-count rhythms.
Intermediate East Coast Swing focuses on technique and increases your dance vocabulary with new swing moves.
Beginner Lindy Hop builds from the rhythms introduced in the Beginning Swing class, but introduces the basic figures and variations of eight-count swing.
Intermediate Lindy Hop refines techniques learned in Beginning Lindy Hop and study more closely the relationship between partners, connection, control, and mechanics of the dance.
Advanced Lindy Hop delves into the nuances and subtleties of the music and the dance that thrives on it. This class will focus on applying techniques to a wider range of tempos and syncopations, as well as addressing different topics within the dance such as styling and musicality. Content will vary with instructors, but this class is designed to be taken more than once.
Charleston classes teach solo and partnered steps (tandem charleston) of this energetic, eight-count dance.
Blues focuses on connection, weight placement, counterbalance, and musicality, and is danced to blues music
Collegiate Shag classes teach the footwork and stylings of this fast-paced, six-count dance that emphasizes close partner connection and clear pulse.
St. Louis Shag classes focus on this high-energy, fast-paced dance that originated in St. Louis, Missouri. It is similar to the Charleston, but involves more kicks and is sometimes danced to boogie-woogie music.
Balboa classes teach the basic footwork and method for this fast, upright, 8-count dance that easily fits into Lindy Hop patterns.
All of our classes are actually designed to be taken more than once! Different instructors bring different opinions, styles, and techniques to every lesson. This diversity is what makes swing dancing interesting. If you have been taking classes as a lead, you can also re-take them as a follow and learn how to both lead and follow; this way, you will be able to dance with more people and even switch roles during a dance with someone who can also both lead and follow.
Not so fast! Swing dancing is a social dance, so we encourage you to practice your new-learned skills on the dance floor at social dances like our weekly Java Jives! Only by dancing with other dancers will you learn to build connection with different people, get used to different styles, and learn more new moves!