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The Breakaway dancers in a swing dance pose
Breakaway Dance History Origins Title

          The Break-A-Way ... (a Swing Dance) was originally a syncopated Two-step. The dancing couple would split or "breakaway" from each other still holding hands (open position) and perform a solo impromptu of the same rhythm/beat of the music and come back together again (closed position). The Break-Away was the name of swing before being named the Lindy Hop by Shorty George in 1927. The Breakaway was a cross between the "Texas Tommy, Two-step, Apache Dance, Turkey Trot, Cakewalk and Grizzly Bear.

     Prior dances, with the exception of the Apache and Texas Tommy did not have sections that you "Broke-away" from your

partner (or Danced in open position), they mainly danced in closed position. A popular step in all swing today as well as yesteryear is for the leader to take his left hand/ followers right hand down and behind the followers back as she turns away from the leader, this originated in the infamous "Apache Dance" and was used in the Texas Tommy a little later... (in the clip on the right its at 0:36) some dancers today still call this move the "Texas Tommy" while others call it the "Apache" Whip/ or Turn. During this time away (apart) from each other, the follower would stay out for "X" number of beats then the leader would lead the follower back into closed position. Occasionally they would show off their Tap Dance ability and syncopate their steps or grind etc. while in this "Open" position.

     The Break-Away was only danced by African-Americans at the time. Whites were just starting to find entertainment in
Harlem and were not very fond of "Race Music" (the blues), they just were not quite ready to dance those "Negro Dances" of those (unfortunate) racially segregated times. It was mainly danced to slow to medium Ragtime music and Blues. Shorty George Snowden was the "King" of the Break-A-Way in the mid 1920's.

     When the Charleston became popular in the 1920's, the Breakaway and Charleston merged, as Harlem grew, it to grew. The "Break-A-Way" was now ready to be called the "Lindy Hop" but would take a Newspaper, a Dance Contest (marathon dance actually,) a man named "Shorty George" Snowden and the "Savoy Ballroom" to do so in 1927/28.The Breakaway quickly lost a lot of the Turkey Trot and Grizzly bear, however the Texas Tommy, Charleston, Cakewalk and Apache remain in the Lindy Hop to this day!. The breakaway as a dance is no longer done today however. The Landler Dance of the 1720's also used a breakaway/ freestyle basic as a variation to the dance, it was almost described as a "solo Jam", done by the man.

     Spellings used are Breakaway (most common), Break-away, Break-A-Way


Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

n/a 1910s n/a Swing /Jazz

Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers

Video Clips (pop-up)

Music Titles

House Rent Party 1910 - That Mississippi Mooch (Hyerta Pryme) Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1929 - The Break Away
Jazz Baby Blues 1914 - Aunt Jemima Slide
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1929 - Let's Do The Break Away (Jack Hylton)
Juke Joint 1929 - The Breakaway
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1929 - Let's do The Breakaway (George Olsen Orch.)
    Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. Breakaway Blues
    Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. Once It Gets You, You'll Never Breakaway

Night Clubs



Juke Joints n/a New Orleans
Savoy Ballroom   New York

Films / Movies


Ballets / Stage

1929 - Fox Movietone Follies n/a n/a
$ At The Jazz Band Ball (DVD)    
Louis Armstrong Short    
... see Lindy (Hop) for a list of Movies/ Films  



Other Related Dances ...

Baltimore Buzz Fish Tail Mooch, the Slop, The
Big Apple Fox-trot Mooch & Sugar Stroll, The
Black Bottom Funky Butt Mule Walk * Swing
Bugg, the Georgia Grind New Yorker Tap Dance
Carolina Shag Jig Peckin' Texas Tommy
Champion Strut Jitterbug Posin' Truckin'
Charleston Jive Push (Texas) West Coast Swing
Ceroc Lindy (Hop) Shag Whip, the
Collegiate Leroc Shim-Sham-Shimmy  
East Coast Swing Mess Around Shimmy  

Dancers, Choreographers etc.


Big Bea Shorty George n/a
Buddy Bradley Shorty George Trio  
Leroy "Stretch" Jones    

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...

Book Title Author Date Publisher
Fox Movietone Follies Booklet Fox Author 1929 Fox
Dancing- The Pleasure, Power & Art of Movement Jonas, Gerald Jonas 1992 Abrams
Jazz Dance Stearns, Jean & Marshall 1994 DaCapo Press




Poets / Writers

Louis Armstrong n/a n/a n/a

Misc. Research Words that may be related ... to help your searches

Race Music Flappers n/a  
Savoy Ballroom (1925-29)      
Sheet Music Words - The Breakaway:
  • Hey Flappers ... This Way,
    Hey Flappers ... Let's do the Break Away...
    You'll Never Breakaway...
    Hot! What! "The Breakaway"
    Wow! How! "The Breakaway"
    Catch This Dance! See Sue Prance
    Once You See It, Your Feet Can't Make A Stay!
    Once It Gets You, You'll Never Breakaway!.

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