What is this thing called the Shim Sham?

If you’ve ever attended a social lindy hop dance event, chances are that sometime towards the end of the evening the music changed and everyone rushed to the middle of the dance floor to perform the Shim Sham. For many new dancers who have yet to dip their toes into this famous routine, it can sometimes leave you a little confused as to what is going on. Like a flash mob within a flash mob, there seems to be unspoken cues and choreography - an unspoken conversation everyone seems to be taking part in.

But what is the Shim Sham really? (beyond a routine). And why are people the world over obsessed with performing it at every social gathering?

The Shim Sham has been around since the 1920, but the one you’re likely to see today is the version popularized by Frankie Manning which is most commonly performed by swing dancers to 'Tain't What You Do (It's The Way That Cha Do It)". The Shim Sham is a mash up of part routine, part social dance. The first part of the routine is a line dance made up of choreographed moved which dissolves into social dancing with a partner as the song reaches its climax. The moves are simple enough so that everyone can learn them, but open up a lot of possibility when it comes to style and personal expression.

Arguably, one of the most enjoyable aspects of the Shim Sham is the universality of the routine. It’s popularity means that it’s regularly performed on the social dance floor, and it’s so widespread that once you add it to your repertoire you can dance it from Stockholm to Sydney - a global community of shim shammers enjoying this unique and creative form of expression.

After all, ‘tain’t what you do, it’s the way that cha do it!

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