The History of the Jitterbug Dance


The jitterbug dance is composed of energetic, acrobatic and improvisational movements performed with a partner, solo or in a line. Under the umbrella of swing dance, its freedom of movement influenced other dance styles, including the shag, jive and push.

Name Origin

  • The jitterbug takes its name from the jerky movements attributed to the exuberance of dancers during Prohibition, who had the "jitters" from drinking too much alcohol.


  • The Charleston and Lindy Hop, two popular dances of the 1920s, influenced the movements of the jitterbug. Popular in Harlem, the Lindy Hop was influenced by African dance movements.


  • The jitterbug originated in the United States and spread throughout the country and into Europe during World War II, becoming a popular social dance in the 1930s and '40s.


  • The jitterbug is danced to syncopated rhythms in 4/4 time commonly found in jazz and swing music. It is also danced to rock 'n roll and other styles of upbeat contemporary music.


  • As swing and jazz music evolved, so did the jitterbug. When the jitterbug became an accepted form of ballroom dancing in the mid-1940s, dancers enhanced their movements with tap and jazz steps. It became a popular dance with teenagers in the 1950s.

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