The jitterbug dance is composed of energetic, acrobatic and improvisational movements performed with a partner, solo or in a line. Under the umbrella of swing dance, its freedom of movement influenced other dance styles, including the shag, jive and push.
The jitterbug takes its name from the jerky movements attributed to the exuberance of dancers during Prohibition, who had the "jitters" from drinking too much alcohol.
The Charleston and lindy hop, two popular dances of the 1920s, influenced the movements of the jitterbug. Popular in Harlem, the lindy hop was influenced by African dance movements.
The jitterbug originated in the United States and spread throughout the country and into Europe during World War II, becoming a popular social dance in the 1930s and '40s.
The jitterbug is danced to syncopated rhythms in 4/4 time commonly found in jazz and swing music. It is also danced to rock 'n roll and other styles of upbeat contemporary music.
As swing and jazz music evolved, so did the jitterbug. When the jitterbug became an accepted form of ballroom dancing in the mid-1940s, dancers enhanced their movements with tap and jazz steps. It became a popular dance with teenagers in the 1950s.