The Charleston is a dance named for the harbor city of Charleston, South Carolina. The rhythm was popularized in mainstream dance music in the United States by a 1923 tune called "The Charleston" by composer and pianist James P. Johnson. The song was composed for Broadway show Runnin' Wild, and became one of the most popular hits of its decade. Runnin' Wild ran from October 29, 1923 through June 28, 1924. The peak year for the Charleston as a dance by the public was mid 1926 to 1927.
The characteristic Charleston beat, which Johnson said he first heard from Charleston dockworkers, incorporates the clave rhythm and was considered by composer and critic Gunther Schuller to be synonymous with the Habanera and the Spanish Tinge. Johnson actually recorded several "Charlestons," and in later years derided most of them as being of "that same damn beat." Several of these were recorded on player piano rolls, and a number of them have survived to this day.
The Charleston was one of the dances from which Lindy Hop and Jazz Roots developed in the 1930's.
In this later Charleston form, the hot jazz timing of the 1920's Charleston was adapted to suit the swing jazz music of the 1930's and 1940's. This style of Charleston has many common names, though the most common are Lindy Charleston, Savoy Charleston, '30s or '40s Charleston and Swing/Swinging Charleston. In both, '20s Charleston and Swinging Charleston, the basic step takes eight counts and is danced either alone or with a partner.