Whip and SwingoutWhip and Swingout
Hi Lindy Hoppers!!!
This is Lesson 2 --- scroll to the bottom to exit
Dean Collins and Jewel McGowan
Dean Collins and Jewel McGowan
The definitive Swingout!

Prefatory Note

A long time ago, we used to teach Lindy Hop. We don't do this anymore (mainly because of work responsibilities) and we reccommend that you seek out current instructors in the DC Area. This section is included as a historic artifact that demonstrates the difficulty of developing instructions for dancing. If you can't take live lessons, video is the absolute next best thing. The best of the "dance lesson" websites is Unlimited Swing that lets you pick and choose from LOTS of instructors. If you go through our curriculum, you'll probably laugh at our attempts to use clumsy math-like nomenclature to get points across. We experimented with animated GIFs to teach Charleston (Lesson 3) because in 1998, it could take five minutes to download a grainy 20 second video. Times have changed....

So, read along and have a chuckle at our attempts at pedagogy.

Lesson Two: The Basic "Whip" or "Swingout"

The "whip" is a step where partners start out separated, move together, go around in a circle and separate. The whip and all its variants are the core of Lindy. You can't go further without a really solid whip and, conversely, you can make a long dance routine out of nothing but whips. If you were going to learn only one thing about Lindy, you would learn the whip.

Without belaboring the point, the whip is very important.

Well, maybe we ought to belabor the point for just a bit. You might ask yourself, "What do the Very Best Lindy Hoppers talk about when they discuss dancing?" You may think that it is some very complicated aerial or a very intricate jazz step, but you would be wrong! Carole and I have met and interviewed the best of the best and the subject that they talk about most often and with most passion is the Whip.

This is an easy move that you can spend the rest of your life perfecting. Everyone does it yet no two people do it exactly the same. The Whip has opportunity for endless variation and styling. It is THE signature move of Lindy Hop. Most advanced Lindy training is in the mysteries of the Whip.

We are going to begin this subject with the basic, or plain vanilla, whip. It fits right into our "mantra" of "Rock step, triple step, step, step, triple step." As you recall from Lesson one, the "Mantra" is the basic form for Lindy. In our first lesson, we replaced the "step, step" section with one of five kinds of turns; in that lesson, the Lead stayed in place and the Follower did all the turning. In this lesson, both partners are going to both MOVE, become CONNECTED, and then SEPARATE.

The Step-Around

We have found that it helps to "deconstruct" the Whip into components. The most critical component is the "Step Around".

The partners must enter CLOSED POSITION to do the "Step Around". For this, the partners face each other. The Lead holds the Follower's right hand with his Left. The Lead places his Right hand on the Follower's left shoulder blade. The Follower places the left hand on the Lead's right shoulder blade. The elbows should be in contact. This "Three Point Contact" is essential to the Whip.

Once in position, the "Step Around" is accomplished as the couple turns together clockwise. The couple should become proficient in making a half turn in two beats:

  • The Lead steps back and to the left with the right foot, planting it perpendicular to the Left. The Left is brought around in front while pivoting on the Right. This is very close to the Military drill maneuver "About Face"
  • The Follower steps forward and to the right with the Left foot, planting it perpendicular to the right. The Right is brought around in back while pivoting on the Left

This movement can only be accomplished if the Follower leans back during the pivot part. The Lead should feel the weight of the partner (and be prepared to support it!) You have to lean into it. We suggest that you practice the "Step Around" for a while. Look your partner directly in the eyes to avoid becoming dizzy. This movement should become effortless before you proceed. You should build up centrifugal force on the pivot part. (By the way, the dance move is called "the Whip" because of the similarity to the feeling given by amusement park Whip ride, or "Crack the Whip" in skating.)

Assembling the Whip

All mirror position moves in Lindy evolve from the basic Mantra of:

"rock step, triple step, step, step, triple step"

To get the Whip, we must make these modifications:
  • The Triple Steps (counts 3&4 AND 7&8) involve motion toward and away from the partner --- still triple steps, but you don't stand in place
  • The "Step, Step" (Counts 5, 6) is replaced by the "Step Around"

You use the first set of Triple Steps to GET to your partner, do the "Step Around", and then use the second set of Triple Steps to move AWAY from your partner. Here is the full breakdown:

  • Counts 1 - 2: Rock Step -- the universal beginning
  • Counts 3 & 4: Triple step
    • "Left,right,left" for the LEAD,
    • "Right,Left,Right" for the Follower)
    • In the Whip, the partners move TOWARD each other. The Triple steps are actually short steps forward. VERY short steps, but there is diagonal motion -- the LEAD slants off to the right and the Follow slants off to the left.
    • At the end of Count 4, the partners should be in closed position, ready for the "Step Around"
  • Count 5: Execute the first part of the "Step Around"
  • Count 6: Execute the second part of the "Step Around"
    • About the middle of count six, the LEAD releases the partner and by the end of the count, the LEAD holds FOLLOWER's Right hand with the Left.
  • Counts 7&8: Triple Step
    • "Right,Left,Right" for the LEAD,
    • "Left,Right,Left" for the FOLLOWER
    • The LEAD and the FOLLOWER move backward in three short steps, reversing the movement of Counts 3&4.

In brief, the basic step is modified so that both partners APPROACH on 3&4, do the "Step Around" on 5, 6 and then Separate on 7&8.

At the end of count 8, you should be back in the Open Position, ready for the rock step that starts the next bar.

The NEW MANTRA for the Whip is:
"Rock Step, Step Up Now, Step Around, Step Back Now"

This is going to take some time to perfect, so we will devote a considerable amount of class time to drill in this movement. As we said, the Whip is the most critical step in Lindy Hop.

Notation for the Whip


  • Fwd/45: Forward step at 45 degree angle
  • Bwd/45: Backward step at 45 degree angle
  • Cross/Front: Left leg crosses in front of Right
  • Cross/Back: Right leg crosses in back of Left

Beat 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
Left Back Rock Fwd/45 Fwd/45
Right Rock Fwd/45
Left Rock Fwd/45
Right Back Rock Fwd/45 Fwd/45
<>Beat 5 & 6 & 7 & 8 &
Left Cross/Fr Bwd/45
Right Rt/Back Pivot Bwd/45 Bwd/45
Left Rt/Fwd Pivot Bwd/45 Bwd/45
Right Cross Back Bwd/45

About our Photo: Dean Collins made his way to LA from the East and is credited with introducing Lindy Hop to the West. This photo shows Dean with his favorite partner, Jewel McGowan. Jewel is the lady with the fantastic swivel in Buck Privates


Dean and Jewel appear in a whole bunch of great films, including Hellzapoppin, The Horn Blows at Midnight, and Living it Up to name but a few. Photo: courtesy of Maxie Dorf


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