Lindy Hop FAQ
Lindy Hop is a swing dance. A swing dance is any dance that is done to swing music, music with a rhythm that swings.
There are essentially two versions of swing dancing, the ballroom version and the street version. Lindy Hop is the original street version of swing. It has no predetermined basic or patterns and relies heavily on the lead/follow connection leaving room for improv. Street dances like Lindy Hop, Hip Hop, and Breakdancing are freestyle "anything goes" dances giving each dancer the freedom to make it their own.
Ballroom dances on the other hand are much more structured and focused on doing things a precise way. The ballroom take on swing focuses less on connection or improvisation and more on specific predetermined patterns techniques. Lindy Hoppers occasionally avoid the term 'swing' because the ballroom version, or "movie version", is what commonly comes to people's mind.
Jitterbug is just another name for Lindy Hop. As Norma Miller put it best when saying, "Jitterbug is the white word for Lindy Hop."
East Coast is Lindy Hop but the name refers to a specific group of moves from Lindy Hop, particularly the 6 count moves. After the Big Band era and during the time of Bebop most of Lindy Hop died out from the mainstream. The 6 count moves from Lindy stuck around because that is what worked with the music and this is what lead to a separate dance later known as East Coast.
Although West Coast came from Swing and is commonly referred to as "West Coast Swing" it is not a swing dance. What makes West Coast unique is the absolute lack of swing. West Coast is the moves from Swing done to modern non-swing music, and since the music does not swing the dancing itself does not swing.
What's important is to simply wear comfortable clothing that is not too constraining. Ideal shoe wear is anything that you could jog in and won't easily fall off. In other words, not flip flops, slippers, or high heels.
Lindy Hop does not have a "basic" or a specific count. The swingout, an 8 count move, is the most popular and iconic move in the dance but Lindy Hop moves can also be 6 counts, 10 counts, or even 1 count if you really get creative. Since Lindy Hop is a street dance anything goes.
In short, Lindy Hop is a vernacular American dance that originated in Harlem, NY during the 1920s and quickly dominated dance halls around the globe. Unlike most partner dances Lindy Hop is a street dance, with a heavy emphasis on the lead/follow connection, giving the freedom to make it your own. Some have described it as the easiest social dance to pick and the hardest to master, but most importantly... it is the most fun.
To learn more, read this article on Lindy Hop by Sharon Davis.