What is Shuffle Dance?

Shuffle dancing originated in the underground rave and dance club called the “Melbourne Shuffle” in Australia in the late 1980s. The basic movements of the Shuffle consist of fast movements of the heels and toes, with electronic music.

Shuffle Dance became a worldwide trend or fashion thanks to the internet. In 2006, along with the birth of YouTube, dancers from all over the world began to upload videos of their performances, thus starting the shuffle fever that spread among different countries in Europe and Asia, such as in the UK, Germany, Malaysia and Thailand. Today it is already popular in the United States and Latin America.

To record oneself dancing is an ancestral tradition of the adolescents since the technique allows it. Any novice can take courage and dive into the depths of Youtube, buried more and more every minute, and find hundreds of millions of granulated videos dancing C-Walk, Techtonik, Jumpstyle or any other underground style from those who obtained their moment of glory during these years.

With a lot of bad luck, especially if there are people in front of you, you can even find yourself.

Now it’s the turn of the shuffle, although in reality this dance style has existed since long before those who now popularize it on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram were born. Centuries before, in fact. In fact, these young people are following a tradition that emerged in the 18th century within the tap dance genre.

In its origin Shuffle was the name given to a tap dance step of the XVIII century, which was executed simultaneously with both feet, with prolonged strokes.

The dance step was adapted by the African-American slaves in the so called ring shouts, and later included in the minstrel shows, although already then one of the two feet was dragging and a great number of variants were developed: soft-shoe shuffle, double-shuffle, side-shuffle, heel-and-toe shuffle, etc.

It was quite popular in the 1920s and gave its name to a number of songs and a Broadway musical show, Shuffle along, with music by Eubie Blake. The most popular of the shuffle dancers was the British Eugene Stratton.


The rhythmic effect of the step, whose sound when dragging the foot produced a result similar to that of a brush on a drum, caused it to be imitated by the drummers of some orchestras in the 1920s and also incorporated into boogie woogie, played by the pianist’s right hand. It was called eight-to-the-bar, as it contained eight low notes in each bar, and became a prototypical rhythmic device of the Chicago style.

Some swing drummers, such as Sam Woodyard, Sonny Payne or Chris Columbus made abundant use of this rhythmic resource, and some big bands, as early as the 1930s and 40s, based their popularity on the use of the shuffle (Louis Prima, Louis Jordan…).


Schematically, a “shuffle” rhythm involves the presence of eight unequal quavers per bar, played in a “ternary” manner. Playing shuffle was, in a way, equivalent to playing “atresillado”. This is to phrase a pair of notes of the same length that generally fit into a beat (e.g. two quavers in a beat of quarter note) so that the length of the first is longer and the second is shorter.

In general, the length of the first note in the typical “swing” phrasing is assumed to be longer than that of the “shuffle” phrasing. Therefore, instead of ‘atresillado’, the ‘swing’ phrasing is also called ‘dotted’ in English, the translation of which would be ‘apuntillado’.

That is to say, in musical terminology, if the pulse is marked in black and we want to phrase two quavers, the value of the first figure should be equal to or greater than a dotted quaver and that of the second should be equal to or less than a semiquaver, in the phrasing “swing” or “dotted”.

On the other hand, in the “shuffle” or “atresillado” phrasing, the first note should be worth exactly two thirds of the beat and the second one one third, that is, a quarter note and an eighth note, both figures within an eighth note triplet.

In Chicago jazz, the melodic sections themselves played in a “shuffle” during the last chorus, creating a sense of delay and control of tension, before the final burst.

In the 1940s, the vast extent of this rhythmic resource led, in Chicago as well, to its incorporation into the performances of many blues musicians.