How to dance charleston solo

How To Do The Charleston? • Learn The 20s Charleston

The Charleston dance was "The King of dances" in 20th century and had a huge influence on American culture.  In this blog you can find out different ways of how to do the dance, its technique and footwork.

Charleston dance history

Charleston is a name of the city, dance style, step and song. Scholars attribute the spread and invention of the geechee inspired Charleston dance to the Jenkins Orphanage Band boys from Charleston city, South Carolina. The Charleston song written by John P. Johnson, inspired by Gullah rhythms, became the signature tune for the dance.

This dance has African roots and was created by African - American people. It was first sighted in the streets of Harlem in 1903. Though it was popularised by young flappers during 1920's. It became internationally known thanks to Josephine Baker Parisian "Le revue negre".

If you'd like to learn about the origins of the dance there is a full blog on The History of The Charleston dance.  

6 version of how to do the Charleston step

In order to know how to do the Charleston “basic” step we should know that it has changed with time and place. It started as a step with twists, then transformed into a crazy wild kicking move with the swing era.
There are at least 6 versions of the “basic” step: groove walk, kicks, swinging kicks, 20’s twist, 20’s glide, and afro version “reverse twist” Charleston. Each version has its specifics.

  1. When doing groove walk, we should remember to keep a steady and strong bounce (pulse).
  2. For kicks the most important thing is to keep the right timing of the kick step and kick from the knees.  All while keeping the body inclined forward and only forward and making sure to move with the kicks and not to stay on one spot.
  3. 20’s Charleston style with twists has its thing in a constant (every single beat) energetic though light twisting of the feet with the weight on the balls of the feet. All while making the kick up in the air and accentuating the weak (off) beat.
  4. 20’s glide is similar to 20s Charleston twist but is done without lifting the feet off the floor this way creating continuous gliding on the floor.
  5. Finally, to do the reverse Charleston twist we shall keep the legs bent low and keep the whole foot on the ground with the weight mainly of the heels.

In this video you can learn 6 basic versions of how to do the Charleston “basic” step: groove walk, kicks, swinging kicks, 20’s twist, 20’s glide, and afro version “reverse twist”.

35 Charleston variations

Here is a video of two legendary dancers Al Minns and Leon James perform jazz dances talk show "Playboy's Penthouse". You can hear Marshall Stearns discusses the dance history with Hugh Hefner. This was probably filmed around 1960. Stears explains that there were 35 variations of the Charleston step. Minns and James show a few: original 20's charleston, scare crow, squat, around the world, high kick and hand to hand variations.

How to do the 20s Charleston dance style?

20s Charleston is not only a step, it’s a style. A style that is defined by music, clothing style, manner and expression. 20s Charleston was a craze during the Jazz Age. It is danced to ragtime, hot jazz and Charleston. In order to look authentic we should remember a few important technical elements on how to do the 20s Charleston:

  1. As it is danced to ragtime and hot jazz (early jazz, Dixieland, New Orleans jazz). The music is syncopated and has a “rag” rhythm though it is still quite even. The accentuation is on 2 and 4 and so will be the bounce, as the bounce always reflects the music rhythm.
  2. As the music is ragged and the body can embody this quality the best when being more “puppet” like. It is better if we use more joints rather than muscles for the light, ragged, fast movements of 20s Charleston
  3. The accentuation is on 2 and 4 and so should be the accent when doing the 20s kicks. The accent is in the air and not on the floor.

How to achieve this light yet energetic and powerful state when dancing Charleston 20s? How to handle this hell of a tempo and curvy, twisty moves? We need to adopt the right body state. The imagery for the Charleston body that I love to use is a puppet or marionette. This loose movement, fully working on release, using movement of the joints, so that every kick and move pops to every beat and syncopation in the music.

The magic of Charleston dance is as well in the feet. Every single step is a twist. They create that recognisable angular and asymmetric signature Charleston look. Imagine, you are dancing on a hot frying pan, how would you move your feet?

In this video below you can learn about the Charleston 20s body and the twists!

To dive deeper in the fury of Charleston footwork, try this class on Happy Feet move, one of the signature steps.

Aesthetics of the 20s

There is a lot to learn from seeing the connection of the Charleston dance aesthetics with cultural elements of 20th century America.

  • Deep connection to African roots reveals elements of improvisation, spontaneity as well as grounded body position.
  • There is connection with flappers and their revolutionary new image of a woman and sexually charged movements.
  • Comedy connects to 20s Charleston with its silly moves and irony.
  • We can see connection with silent movies through the exaggerated overly dramatic expressions.
  • Finally eccentric dance is a part of this dance culture with its legomania and bizarre movements.

You will look super authentic if you will include those qualities, impressions in your dance.

Its important to mention that this dance was immensely popular during the period of 1920's Prohibition as well as 1930's Great Depression. When US stock market crashed and part of the society was left in complete poverty, dancing for many was an anti - depression pill. It swept the worries away.

Look at the fantastic Bee Jackson, the “Queen of Charleston” and get ideas on how to do the Charleston! Miss Bee Jackson of the Piccadilly Cabaret and Kit Kat Club demonstrates her gimmick - dancing on a very small floor space.

In this demo video you see me demonstrating the concept of a “Silent Movie”. I am slowing down and speeding up in the real time (without FX), while searching for exaggerated overly dramatic face expressions. The idea comes from the fact that the music was layered on silent movies after the film was done. Oftentimes the music played an atmospheric role. Therefore the dance and movements looked out of time with the actual beat of the song.

Animalism and African roots

I'd like to accentuate the connection with animalism in dance movements as the Charleston dance belongs to the family of African-American vernacular dances. To know more on what are the characteristics of African-American dances that as well reflect in the this dance, read the blog on “ A brief cultural history of black dance” 

In this video class from the course Secrets of Charleston 20s, where you can learn how to do the step called the “Cow Tail”. Animalistic move, in a way it was inspired by the cows waving their tail to get rid of the flies.

All of this and more you can learn by taking a course Secrets of Charleston 20s, course with over 40 video.

Iconic Charleston dancers

Some of the iconic dancers to watch, learn and get inspired:

Josephine Baker
Ann Pennington
Bee Jackson
Al Minns
Leon James
Mildred Melrose
Joan Crawford
Jenkins Orphanage Band boys

In this video playlist on Secrets of Solo channel I collected videos of the most famous dancers, historical figures. Watch to get inspired.

The difference between 20s & 30s style Charleston

As we mentioned before the Charleston dance style has changed with time and music. I use this categories to spotlight the difference that was strongly affected by the music, more specifically rhythm section.


In 20s Charleston with hot twists and eccentric moves was danced to ragtime, hot jazz music. It has half time pulse and accentuated the 2 and 4 beat. It replicates the bass tuba or the double bass. Bass tuba line for early jazz was either 1 and 3 or 2 and 4. When double bass came to stage, the players wither played half time notes or doubled up on the same note twice. 1/2 feel reflects in half time pulse in the dancers body. The movement is more even, more vertical and ragged.

The 20s style is based on the twists and twisted kick. The most important image is the "crossed" twisted leg. The legend says, some dancers got "Charleston twist" of the knee, when they twisted too hard.

In this video you can hear a very rag song. Notice that the dancers are holding their bodies more upright. Their pulse is ragged (even jumpy at times).


In 1930's the dance changed with swing music to so called lindy kicks. You could see now dancers doing big wide kicks and travelling across the floor. The feel of the Charleston is 4/4 (4 on the floor). It reflects the double bass in swing tunes, that has a walking line. So called "walking bass".  Musicians say "the bass walks", when the player hits every single note. 4/4 feel reflects in constant pulse in the dancers body. The movement is "spreading", it is more horizontal. It looks softer and smoother.

In this video you can hear the 4/4 feel on the bass and clearly see how dancers reflect it in their smooth pulse. Note, when dancers go to lindy Charleston kicks, how much they lower their upper body and start to hover over the ground.

Music to dance Charleston


The first tune you would think to dance Charleston to is, of course, famous ragtime tune "The Charleston", written by James P. Johnson. The Charleston beat is considered a clave rhythm.

As a musical entity ragtime was, and is, an instrumental work in 2/4 time composed for the piano. The style surfaced in the early 1900's and was developed by composer Scot Joplin. It was the forerunner to jazz. It combines a syncopated series of melodies accompanied by a steady, even rhythm. The left hand plays a steady, almost march-like succession of bass notes and chords while the right hand plays syncopated melodies in a "ragged" manner. Hence, the name of the style.

Here is a Spotify playlist of ragtime tunes. You will hear the music of Eubie Blake, Scot Joplin, James P. Johnson.


Other music style that one can dance 20s Charleston is early jazz.  Early jazz, that is as well called “New Orleans jazz”, Dixieland jazz, hot jazz are the terms referring to the same style of jazz based on the music that developed in New Orleans at the start of the 20th century. Its 4 main influences were ragtime, military brass bands, the blues, and gospel music.

New Orleans jazz or Dixieland Jazz was incredibly popular through the 1920s, Jazz Age. One of the first uses of the term "Dixieland" with reference to music was in the name of the Original Dixieland Jass Band (later changed to "Jazz"). They recorded their first vinyl in 1917. What defines the sound of Dixieland music is that one instrument plays the melody (often trumpet) and all the other musicians improvise around it.

Here is a Spotify playlist with a very popular songs for 20s Charleston. You will hear music of such artists as Original Dixieland Band, Fats Waller, Sidney Bechet, King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, Frankie Trumbauer and his Orchestra, Fletcher Henderson, Bix Beiderbecke, Jelly Roll Morton, Benny Goodman and other. Or else you can listen to my  YouTube Charleston compilation.

Written by Ksenia Parkhatskaya

What is Swing Dancing – Partnered and Solo? – Swing Dance Cork

Although born in the 1920’s Swing Dancing is alive and kicking in  the 21st Century. There are various Swing  Dance styles and they were danced to Swing Jazz and Early Jazz music, for example, that of  Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Artie Shaw, and Louis Armstrong, just to name a few.

There are numerous forms of Swing Dancing; Lindy Hop, Swing Charleston, Shag, Balboa etc… At Swing Dance Cork we specialise in Lindy Hop, Swing Charleston ( or Lindy Charleston, a style of Charleston done to Swing music) and Solo Jazz. Lindy Hop, a partnered Swing dance, was born out of the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, New York and came from the Breakaway, Charleston and Tap dances, and came into being in the late 1920’s.

The earlier Jazz dances out of which Lindy Hop came…

Lindy Hop is a fun, smooth yet energetic dance with emphasis on improvisation, partner connection, and expression of the individual. Swing Charleston can be considered a part of Lindy Hop, it is the Swing version of the earlier Charleston.

And here we see a famous Lindy Hop clip from the 1940’s of some of the best Lindy Hop dancers in action…

What is Solo Jazz dancing?

Solo Jazz can refer to solo dances of the pre- Swing era, Swing Era, and post Swing era Jazz music. Nowadays, however, we usually mean dancing by oneself, that is without a partner, to Swing Jazz music. Solo Jazz can be free and improvised or structured around routines like the Shim Sham, Tranky Doo and Big Apple.

And here we see two modern dancers performing their own choreography…

Looking for more, check out the playlist below, with Partnered Lindy Hop and Solo Jazz and Charleston.

Solo jazz dance lessons for beginners in Nizhny Novgorod

Skip to content

It's not often that you can find a dance school that focuses on solo versions, and even less often - solo jazz. But you are lucky, because solo jazz dance lessons for beginners in Nizhny Novgorod are conducted by our studio.

Usually the solo format is inherent in such areas as strip plastic, hip-hop, belly dance. And now many even better imagine how the listed types of dances look like. And what are jazz movements anyway? Is it something well forgotten, something that our great-grandmothers were well versed in? No, jazz is immortal exactly as much as it has survived centuries, for example, tango dance. And even though we only know music well, jazz solo classes for adults will help to complete this picture, the attributes of which are seascapes, park rotundas, palm trees and snow-white gulls.

Perhaps only foxtrot and charleston come to mind, and solo jazz includes the same sets of movements, but the style is also enriched with modern dances, in which there is more looseness and impetuosity, even some sportiness.

  • If you have chosen to dance solo jazz with us, training is possible even for beginners who have never had to dance to a jazz melody before.
  • It's enough for you to love this style of music and feel the desire to break away into a dance as soon as you hear the characteristic chords.

The teachers of our studio will help to hone the rest. By the way, you can master not only an exclusively solo program, but also a pair version of the dance. And if you have learned to feel syncopations - rhythmic breaks characteristic of jazz music, then it will be easy for you to master any Latin American styles in the future.

First of all, this is an unlimited field for expressing oneself, for the release of energy, moreover, not so much physical, but emotional. Jazz is a direction of music where any instrument can become a soloist for a while, that is, a very democratic style. That is why a jazz solo school can be a great choice even for someone who has been used to feeling on the outskirts in life. If you take jazz solo training from scratch in our studio, you will be surprised to find that you can express your feelings openly.

The most shy are recommended to attend private jazz solo lessons. In a symphony orchestra, everything is subordinated to a common idea. Only certain instruments can solo there, and the double bass or drums rarely have such an opportunity. And in jazz there can be a bright solo on the double bass, and on percussion, and on drums. And you can easily master it too. Are you clumsy? The studio will fix everything, where you can start with individual lessons.

Why is the social dance format good?

One could call these dances folk dances, but this term was simply assigned to purely folklore movements. Our solo jazz price is as democratic as the dance itself. And with our teachers, solo jazz itself will become an easily accessible activity for you.

Our teachers

The best teachers in Nizhny Novgorod

Sign up

right now!

Solo Jazz - Swing Dance Studio

    First there was a solo
    Dancing in a pair is, of course, fun, interesting and all that 🙂 At the same time, it’s more difficult, especially for beginners, since it’s not enough to do everything yourself correctly and still somehow synchronize with a partner, lead or, on the contrary, guess , what will happen next. Partners are especially responsible. And if something doesn’t work out on your own, then it’s not up to your partner. The result is frustration and disappointment.
    Confidence and relaxation
    Jazz solo can be a good addition to other partner dances, as you can learn to listen to music, keep the rhythm, control your body and weight, all with less stress if something doesn’t work out, compared to when a partner is around. Solo classes will give confidence and naturalness to all your movements, which is so appreciated in dancing.
    Learning rate
    There are many examples of how people with great experience in solo dancing got into the Lindy Hop. At the same time, they achieved much better results and an order of magnitude faster than all the others. Just because they were well acquainted with their body, they understood how it can move, what needs to be done for this, what muscles to use, how much energy to apply, etc.
    Only music and you
    When you are one on one with music, there is no need to wait for something from a partner or to adapt to him in any way. Then the brain works in a completely different way. You get your own ideas about how to play with the music, you think, “What does the music say to _me_? What is the best thing for _me_ to do right now?” Thus, solo dancing provides more opportunities for self-expression. But the beauty is that all these ideas can be built in already dancing in a couple, and it will look much more interesting. This will already be a plus for more advanced Lindy Hop dancers.

    1. Solo jazz battle 🙂

    2. Incredible musicality!

    3. Another competition - the dancers go crazy %)

    4. Famous Big Apple routine performed by the coolest modern dancers!

    5. And finally, a little bit of Minsk Solo Jazz 🙂

    Let's dance together! Sign up for a group!

    • Wedding dance
    • Production of wedding dances in the style of rock and roll, retro, vintage or dudes (Charleston, Lindy Hop, boogie-woogie, rock and roll, blues). The most important day you will remember for the rest of your life!

November 2022

Mon W Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun


  • Lindy Hop, BI
  • Lindy Hop, IA
  • Lindy Hop, INT


  • Lindy Hop, BEG
  • Solo Jazz, BI
  • St. Louis Shag, BI


  • Lindy Hop, BI
  • Lindy Hop, IA
  • Lindy Hop, INT


  • Blues solo, BI
  • Collegiate Shag, B.E.G.


  • Collegiate Shag, INT
  • A party



  • Lindy Hop, BEG
  • Solo Jazz, BI


  • Lindy Hop, BI
  • Lindy Hop, IA
  • Lindy Hop, INT


  • Lindy Hop, BEG
  • Solo Jazz, BI
  • St. Louis Shag, BI


  • Lindy Hop, BI
  • Lindy Hop, IA
  • Lindy Hop, INT


  • Blues solo, BI
  • Collegiate Shag, B.E.G.


  • Collegiate Shag, INT
  • A party



  • Lindy Hop, BEG
  • Solo Jazz, BI


  • Lindy Hop, BI
  • Lindy Hop, IA
  • Lindy Hop, INT


  • Lindy Hop, BEG
  • Solo Jazz, BI
  • St. Louis Shag, BI


  • Lindy Hop, BI
  • Lindy Hop, IA
  • Lindy Hop, INT


  • Blues solo, BI
  • Collegiate Shag, B.E.G.


  • Collegiate Shag, INT
  • A party



  • Lindy Hop, BEG
  • Solo Jazz, BI


  • Lindy Hop, BI
  • Lindy Hop, IA
  • Lindy Hop, INT


  • Lindy Hop, BEG
  • Solo Jazz, BI
  • St. Louis Shag, BI


  • Lindy Hop, BI
  • Lindy Hop, IA
  • Lindy Hop, INT


  • Blues solo, BI
  • Collegiate Shag, B.E.G.


  • Collegiate Shag, INT
  • A party



  • Lindy Hop, BEG
  • Solo Jazz, BI