You may have seen this on a swing evening: the crowd is dancing, the music is playing, it’s fun. Then, a new song comes on, and suddenly half the crowd is doing a routine. What’s going on?! Probably, it’s a jazz routine.

There are various well-known and lesser-known jazz routines. Each jazz routine is a dance with more or less prescribed figures, usually danced to a particular song. Then again, if there is any set rule in swing dancing, it is that there ain’t no set rules. Below we describe a few that we know.

The Shim Sham

The Shim Sham is the canonical solo swing dance routine – it’s not a swing dance party without a shim sham! It’s usually danced to Tain’t what you do by Jimmy Lunceford, but occasionally also to I wanna learn Shimsham by Billy Elliot. The routine is comprised of Jazz steps moves, and ends halfway through the song. At that point, everyone is supposed to find a partner and dance on!

The video shows Frankie Manning leading the Shim Sham.

Steps

  • 3x shim sham (right, left, right)
  • break
  • 3x push+push+crossover, 2x push+crossover
  • 3x tacky annie
  • break
  • 2x half break + half break + break
  • repeat all the above with freezes instead of breaks.
  • 2x boogie back + boogie forward
  • 2x Boogie back + shorty george
  • Grab a partner and start dancing!

Detailed online instructions

Lindy Hop Moves: Shim Sham.

The Big Apple

The Big Apple routine finds its origin in a dance game, where the dancers stand in a circle and perform solo jazz steps. As Catrine Ljunggren taught us, for the game, the specific steps don’t matter: anyone can invent their own Big Apple routine! Today Big Apple routine is mostly known as a choreographed routine which was originally performed by Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers in the movie Keep Punching (see video).

The routine is danced to fast music – in the video, “Big Apple Contest” by the Solomon Douglas Swingtet, though it can be (and is) danced to other quick songs. The routine covers a lot of different jazz steps. As such, it’s a challenging routine to learn. Then again, once you know the routine, you’ve got a good grip on a lot of jazz steps.

Steps

  • Shouts – Break step
  • Lock Turn – Stomps – Transitions – Hallelujha’s
  • Boogie Back’s – Apple Jacks´s – Gaze-a-far
  • Susie Q – Rusty Dusty – Fall of the Log
  • Spank the Baby – Jump Charleston
  • Jump Charleston – transition step
  • Fish Tails – Boogie Front – Breeze Knees – Boogie Back – Ride the Pony
  • Knee Slap’s – Fall of the Log – Run Around – London Bridge
  • Clap Sequence – Break Step
  • Transition step – Kick forward Charleston
  • Trucking – Fall of the log – Hallelujha
  • Boogie Back – Shorty George
  • Flying Charleston – Knee Slap
  • Susie Q – Jump Charleston – Pecking
  • Boogie Back – Break Step – Break a Leg

Detailed online instructions

Lindy Hop Moves: Big Apple routine

The California Routine

The California Routine was originally choreographed by Frankie Manning for the movie Hellzapoppin. Frankie interspersed quite some aerials (“air steps”) in the routine, which not everyone can duplicate. That is why even though it’s become one of the main stays of Lindy Hop choreographies, you’ll encounter variations as the dancers replace the aerials with other steps.

The routine is often danced to “Jumpin’ at the Woodside” by Count Basie, although it can be (and frequently is) performed to other (slower) songs as well.

Steps

Aerial steps (where you’ll encounter most variations) are indicated in bold.

  • Three swing-outs and a Circle
  • Kick-ups (Skip Ups); Tuck turn; Side pass; 6-count stop
  • Throw out into crazy legs
  • Tango choreography with 2-count frog jump
  • Tuck turn to the back
  • Barrel turn to the front
  • around-the-back or swing-out with jump ending
  • Slip slops; run-run; frog jump+small kick
  • Charleston transition into tandem Charleston
  • Tandem Charleston x2
  • A-frame (Charleston frog jump)
  • Tandem Charleston
  • Front flip
  • Push-out and turn into pancake aerial
  • Exit vigorously

Detailed online instructions

Lindy Hop Moves: California Routine.

Lover’s lane

We’re actually not sure if this is a “real” routine, or just a really nice routine that Marjorie taught us in 2013. Either way, it’s fun, so it should be mentioned here!

Lover’s lane is a Charleston choreography danced to the song Lover’s Lane by the Squirrel Nut Zippers. Here’s a video (can you spot Marjorie in there?) of what it looks like.

Steps

  • repeat twice:
    • 2 basic charlestons
    • 2 big kicks + down charlestons
  • singing starts; repeat starts here.
  • repeat twice:
    • Knee-slaps (right 2x; left 2x)
    • Knee-slaps (right 2x; left 2x)
    • hitchhike left: left touch + left thumb low – left step + left thumb low
    • hitchhike right: right touch + right thumb low – right step
    • 1/2 turn on first + clap clap (+kneeslap if repeating!)
  • “the sun is down, the moon is bright”
    • Flying charleston 4 times
  • (musical interlude)
    • Scare crow x2; itch x2
    • Scare crow x2; itch x2
    • basic charleston with 90 degree turn (repeat 3x)
    • paddle turn with arm in the air, end up facing inside
  • “well getting high on bourbon and champagne”
    • Repeat everything once from the knee slaps
  • “Well broadway really ain’t quite the same”)
    • Repeat everything from the knee slaps 1 time with 7 flying charlestons
    • 3 skates and hands down/on your butt/in the air
    • 3 skates around the world, final