Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Aishani. Aishani Wonders, “what is the jitterburg” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Aishani!
Do you like to dance? Maybe you sway to your favorite song on the radio. Perhaps you love jumping around with your friends to a new song. You’re not alone! People have enjoyed dancing for centuries. It’s also a form of art that has changed throughout time as types of music and trends change.
Way back in the early 1930s, a new style of music developed in the United States. Called swing music, it started as a form of jazz. It featured a strong rhythm section of bass and drums. This was paired with brass instruments like trumpets and trombones. It also included woodwinds (like saxophones and clarinets) and stringed instruments (such as violins and guitars).
Swing music used medium to fast tempos. Swing soloists commonly added their own unique take on the melody of the song. Swing quickly became the most popular form of music during the late 1930s and early 1940s.
A few swing bandleaders became very popular. Two examples were Benny Goodman and Count Basie. They drew thousands of young people to huge halls to dance to swing music. Many of these young people were new to both swing music and dancing in general.
How did people dance to swing music? It had an uptempo beat that led many to dance in a new way. They adopted a style of dance that grew out of African American jazz clubs during the Harlem Renaissance.
On the dance floor, people jerked and jittered to swing music. This inspired the name “jitterbug” for the dance they were doing. Over time, the jitterbug became known by several other names. It’s been called the Lindy Hop, Jive, and Big Apple. Some call it the Push or the Whip. In other places, it’s known as the West Coast Swing or East Coast Swing.
Jitterbug was the name that was most popular, though. In 1934, musician Cab Calloway recorded a song entitled "Call of the Jitter Bug.” A film called "Cab Calloway’s Jitterbug Party” also helped to popularize the dance. It also helped connect Calloway with the jitterbug name.
When World War II began in the early 1940s, American soldiers were sent throughout Europe. They taught the jitterbug dance to young people they met there. Some people thought the dance wouldn’t catch on overseas. But young people in Europe enjoyed the dance as much as Americans did.
Over time, the term jitterbug was used to describe any type of dance to swing music. Later, the jitterbug was adapted for use with the fast pace of early rock and roll. In the late 1950s, teenagers could be seen jitterbugging to rock and roll weekly on the television show "American Bandstand.”
Do you know how to jitterbug? Is there another dance you enjoy? Dancing is a great way to add even more enjoyment to your favorite music!
Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1