HAND DANCE: A DEFINITION
Hand Dance: A Definition Hand Dance is proud to recognize its roots as one of the many offspring of the Lindy Hop. Hand Dance is a six beat dance and adheres to the basic structure of all swing dances; one double followed by two triple rhythms (Double, Triple, Triple*) with extended count variations. The basic eight count variation like other swing dances is Double Triple Double Triple. Hand Dance is a spot dance not strictly linear or circular. This simply means that Hand Dance allows the slot to change during the course of the dance. The techniques performed within this spot may consist of slotted moves, stationary moves, circular moves and position exchange moves in addition to reestablished slot moves. Thus, Hand Dance is a spot dance that consists of variable slots. This approach at first glance may appear to be confusing but in fact it allows for a flexibility and creativity that is virtually limitless.Hand Dance, like many of the swing dances that evolved from Lindy, started strictly as a street dance. Beyond the common six beat rhythms and eight beat variations, the dance was not structured. However, because of the increased popularity and the formulation of classes it is rapidly taking on structure. Hand Dance like the majority of swing dances is danced on the downbeat and the overwhelming majority of Hand Dancers also dance on the downbeat. However some dancers dance on the upbeat and some dance on both the upbeat and the downbeat during the course of the same piece of music. Fortunately, through the efforts of many of the contemporary Hand Dance schools, structure is being incorporated into Hand Dance and upbeat dancing has been virtually eliminated.As a result of classes and competitions and emphasis is being placed on structure and fundamentals are being identified, defined and taught. Distinctions are now being made between beginning, intermediate and advanced techniques, moves and amalgamations. Eight count swings (wheels in Hand Dance, whips in Lindy Hop and West Coast Swing and pivots in Shag) along with other extended variations are being taught in the studios as well as practiced on the social and the competitive dance floor.Many contemporary Hand Dancers as of this writing do not incorporate eight, ten, etc. count variations to the same degree of many of the other swing dances. Unfortunately many of the extended techniques were lost somewhere between the end of the original, popular “Fast Dance” era 1950’s – 1960’s, now called Hand Dance, and the beginning resurgence Hand Dance era 1977-78.Originally Hand Dance was a highly energetic dance simply because it reflected the music of the times with speeds ranging from 110 to 170 BPM’s and more. Today Hand Dance is fundamentally a lead/follow smooth form of swing, danced to 4/4 time music with speeds that range from 90 to 140 beats per minute (BPM) and consist of various moves, turns and spins. Speeds greater then 140 BPM are rare but do still occur. Hand Dance at the beginners level consists of basic left turns, right turns and six beat swings with different lead/hand connections (left hand, right hand, open two hand and cross hand). The turns are executed by both the follower and the leader. The six beat swing may release back to open or remain in closed position followed by a pattern ending in open position. Hand connection is usually maintained except during free spin turns. However some hand dancers will separate to add flare to their styling. The more advanced Hand Dance moves are as varied, creative and complex as the practitioner’s imagination. Hand Dance also has a four beat starter step like most other swing dances, however, the starter step may be any combination of singles, delayed singles, doubles and/or triple steps. The fundamental or basic starter step is; Step Touch – Step Touch, followed by a six beat pattern consisting of a right turn.Hand Dance is experiencing some growing pains; there is the “Old School” and the “New School.” Although the rhythms are the same the primary emphasis in execution within the two styles of dance vary significantly enough to cause a very noticeable distinction between them. “Old School” dancers place more emphasis on footwork and execute more circular and position exchange or “in place” techniques. Although footwork is still a part of “New School” Hand Dance, the dancers place greater emphasis on spins and turns and they integrate more linear executions into their dance. Contemporary Hand Dancers are also beginning to focus more on dancing to and with the music as opposed to simply dancing to the tempo of the music.Hand Dance is practiced primarily in Washington, D.C., and its suburbs in Maryland and Virginia and Baltimore; it is growing rapidly in popularity and will soon be a part of many neighboring areas. Classes are popping up everywhere; however national recognition is being achieved primarily because Hand Dancers have ventured out into the national swing community and they have competed against and worked in conjunction with many of the nationally recognized swing dancers. Hand Dance has held its own among dances like West Coast Swing, Shag, Steppin, and Lindy Hop.Over the past few years Hand Dancers have been in contact with many of the ethnic specific swing dancers such as but not limited to Stepping (Steppin’), Swing Out, Philly, Milwaukee and Detroit Bop. In fact key members of the different dances are working together to close the gap between the various communities. The down side is that it has taken so long to happen; the up side is that it is happening and happening at a rapid pace.Lawrence “Brad” Bradford*See Skippy Blair’s Dance Dictionary at for information on the Universal Unit System ®, as well as definitions of Counts, Units, Measures, Phrases and Rhythm.