Lesson #1, Basic Beach Bop
By Michael Payne
General: Beach Bop is a laid-back adaptation of the old Jitterbug dance
of the Thirties an Forties. It is a form of Swing Dancing. It is called
Beach Bop in South (Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas), Shag in the
Carolinas, Whip or Push in the Mid-West (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas), West
Coast Swing in the West (California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Nevada),
Lindy in the North (New York in particular), and various branches of Swing
(Imperial, East Coast, Supreme etc.). All of these dances are similar in
that all of them do eight counts to six beats of music. Shag and East
Coast Swing do a triple... triple... double, while all of the rest do a
Rules: There are precious few rules in Beach Bop because we are
"Street Dancers or Bar Dancers" as compared with studio dancers,
but we do have three...
1) Dance on the heavy beat of the music.
2) Do the Basic step. Because this is partner dancing, it is necessary
for both partners to know what the other is doing. This is done thru the
basic step which controls balance and weight shifts. Without the basics,
it could become a contact sport!
3) Have fun! After all, why do this if your not having fun? It's hard
to have fun while you are learning because learning is work, but it's a
blast once you get the hang of it.
Basics: Beach Boppers do a double...triple...triple, where the count is
one-two, three and four, five and six. The men start out on the left foot,
while the ladies start out on the right foot. As the partners face each
other, the man's left hand holds the lady's right hand. This is called a
mirror step (if you were to stand in front of the mirror with your left
hand extended, the image in the mirror would be one of you with the right
hand extended.) There are exceptions to the basics, but we won't cover for
a while so that we don't confuse you.
Dancing in the Slot: All forms of Swing started out dancing in the
round, but as dance floor space shrunk, most forms of Swing went to the
slot. (Old time Boppers still dance in the round). There is not a right
way or a wrong way. We teach the slot because of space considerations and
because you can dance better in the slot.
So, what is the slot? If you mentally draw a straight line on the dance
floor, say North to South, you create a path for the lady to follow. She
will only dance in this path. No exceptions! If the lady owns the slot,
then obviously the man has to be the one who gets out of the way as the
lady passes back and forth in the slot.
It is critical that the lady determines two reference points somewhere
in the room that conforms to her slot. As the lady completes a turn or
pass thru, she should always see one reference point or the other.
Coordination: Some of you may find our dance easier than others. The
reason is that you will be asked to do coordination that many of you have
never done before. This is to be expected, and not cause for concern. As
soon as your body gets used to the various turns and spins, the new
coordination will be apparent. If you were learning to play the piano,
cheerlead, play sports etc., you would have also to learn new
Laws of Physics: Partner dancing cannot defy the laws of physics or it
will become a contact sport! Balance-counterbalance, resistance-
counter-resistance, and weight shifts are very important to our dance.
Everything that we teach you will have these laws of physics in mind.
Styling: Because we are Street Dancers, there is really no right or
wrong when it comes to styling. That's why all Beach Boppers look
different. We do have a few suggestions, however:
1) Stay in close. Your balance goes to hell in a hand cart when you
take wide paths.
2) Take short steps. This will help you stay in close.
3) Dance with your elbows hinged at the waist.
4) Bend your knees slightly. Our dancing is done from the waist down.
5) Keep your feet on the ground. Many of our lady dancers want to dance
on their toes, but only a few can do it without losing their balance. Your
balance is at its best when both feet are on the ground. (Try standing on
your toes and see how you teeter).
6) Slide your feet, as opposed to lifting your feet off the ground.
Slide on the balls of your feet.
7) Lady's shoes: Most Beach Boppers wear flats (see balance above), but
some wear heels. Most West Coasters wear heels. Again, your balance will
be better in flats, but it's the lady's choice. Another consideration is
how someone would feel after being stepped on by flats compared with a
All of the above styling tips are optional, but good tips to remember.
One of the beauties of our dance is the smoothness and grace of motion. We
took the Jitterbug and made it smooth, laid- back.
Basic Turns for Lesson #1
First of all, it is best to only show you three or four moves in each
class. We do not want to overwhelm you to the point that you lose
confidence and quit in frustration. Better to go slowly, but surely. Next,
the man leads in all turns. That's the good news! The bad news is that you
will have to learn the leads! Ladies, you will have to learn how to
follow. Your job is much easier.
Change position turns: All three of the initial turns we teach are
change position turns. That is to say that the man and woman will change
positions from where they start. If the man starts on the left and the
woman on the right, they will wind up replacing each other. The man will
be on the right and the woman on the left, all done in the slot.
Basic change position turn: (Remember guys, the woman owns the slot,
which means that you will have to clear). Here is a point to remember
while learning turns:
1) You initiate the turns on one, two. (The double)
2) You execute the turns on three and four. (The first triple)
3) You recover from the turns on five and six. (The second triple)
In the basic change position turn, the guys and gals will change
positions in the slot. Guys, you will have to clear the slot as you make
your turn. On one, two, guys, your lead is to step forward and to the left
of your partner. At the same time, your left hand will lead the lady's
right hand forward in the slot, and you will drop her hand on two. You
have now changed sides, but not positions. On three and four you execute
the turn. Ladies will turn counter clockwise
in the slot, while the guys will turn clock wise and get back into the
slot. On five and six the guys will regain the lady's hand, while both
partners recover from the turn and set up for the next turn.
Under-arm turn: This turn is almost like the basic change position turn
except the man will not let go of the lady's hand. On one, two, guys, your
lead is to step forward and to the left of your partner, while leading her
forward in the slot. Do not let go of her hand. On three and four the lady
will execute a half turn in a counter clockwise manner, while the guy
holds your hand. In other words, you will turn under the guy's left arm.
That's what makes it an under-arm turn. You will have changed positions
after completion of the turn.
Change Hand Turn: The last turn that we will show you in the first
class is the change hand turn. This turn is similar to the change position
and under arm turns. Lady's, you will do exactly the same as you did
before. You will walk forward in the slot on one, two, execute your
counter clockwise turn on three and four, and recover from the turn on
five and six. Guys, you will do the same as the other turns except when
you recover on five and six, you change hands so that your right hand is
holding the lady's right hand. Whether you switch hands on one, two...or
five and six will be determined by which turn you have in mind next.
Switching on one, two prepares you for the Lady Behind turn.
About our music: The music we dance to is the old style Rhythm &
Blues, or the black music of the Fifties. We generically call it Beach
Music because the only place you could hear it in the Fifties was at the
beach in the juke boxes. We dance to more recent music, but generally
speaking, we like the boogie and bluesy stuff.
Recap of Lesson #1: In lesson number 1, we discussed:
1) General: What Beach Bop is, and isn't.
2) The rules: Dance on the heavy beat of the music; stay with the basic
step; and have fun.
3) The basic step: one, two...three and four...five and six. (Double,
4) Dancing in the slot: The woman dances on a fixed line going North
and South, and she owns the slot. The man must clear the slot during
5) Coordination: Dancing is about coordination, and just like it takes
practice to learn to play the piano, it takes time and practice to learn
to dance. Have patience.
6) Laws of physics: Balance and counterbalance, resistance and
7) Styling: Stay in close; Take short steps; Hinge elbows at waist;
Bend knees slightly with most of the movement coming from the waist down ;
Slide you feet, don't clomp; Styling tips are optional. You make of the
dance what you want.
8) Turns: a) Initiate turns on one, two.
b) Execute turns on three and four.
c) Recover from the turn on five and six.
9) Change position turns:
a) Basic change position turn: (drop hands while turning; Ladies, you
will turn counter clockwise: Guys, you will turn clockwise).
b) Under-arm turn: Exactly the same as the change position turn above
except you do not drop hands. By not dropping hands, guys, you are
indicating to the woman that you are going to execute a turn. The woman
passes under your arm each turning the same as above.
c) Change hand turn: Same as as regular change position turn except,
guys, you will change from your left holding her right to your right
holding her right.