On Let’s Swing

When think of the emerging music of the 1920s and 30s in the USA, swing music come to mind. The initial craze led into the Big Band era that continued into the 1950s.

From the likes of African-American giants as Louis Jordan, Cab Calloway, and Louis Prima to Big Band icons as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Benny Goodman to the new generation of swing of Elvis, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard, then onto the more contemporary sounds of Brian Setzer, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, swing has maintained a presence for many years.

Even within a generation, not all swing music is the same. Different music with different rhythms at different tempos also means different dances. Swing dance broke the rules of dance as it was fast, loose, and free … so the purpose of this post is to examine a few of the mainstays of swing dance.

Lindy Hop
Lindy Hop’s roots a traced back to the Harlem community of New York City, and influential dancer George “Shorty” Snowden. Life was a buzz with Charles Lindbergh’s successful solo flight over the Atlantic, and his name became attached to many things.

The dance, a fusion of Charleston and Foxtrot, moved out of Harlem and became popular – and also took on another name – the Jitterbug. Interestingly, this dance remains popular today – especially in clubs specializing in Lindy Hop/Jitterbug. Enjoy this classic movie clip that includes dance legend Frankie Manning.

 

Jive
As a variation of Lindy Hop, Jive became popular in the late 1930s, then American GIs took the dance to Europe. Although variations as boogie-woogie, swing boogie, and modern jive exist, today’s jive is a competitive ballroom dance.

 

East Coast Swing
East Coast Swing evolved as a simpler version of Lindy – that is, East Coast was easier to do and easier to teach. Arthur Murray Dance Studios were instrumental in popularizing this dance, which also became part of the competitive ballroom dance circuit.

Because of tempo variations in the music, one could subdivide this dance into single-time swing (fastest music, slower steps), double-time swing, and triple-time swing (slowest music, fastest steps).

 

West Coast Swing
With a Lindy style that was more anchored and whippy, dancer Dean Collins left Harlem and took the Lindy Hop to the California. From this, West Coast Swing developed into a slotted dance where dancers are either on or off the slot (track). West Coast Swing music is typically slower than East Coast Swing music with more of a smooth, blues, R&B, cool jazz sound. This video involves two good dancers dancing improv (not choreographed).

 

Shag
As another variation of swing that developed from the upbeat music of the 1930s. Shag developed in the African-American communities of the Carolinas, and then spread across the country. DIfferent variations include Collegiate, Carolina, and St. Louis. This video is interesting because is uses multiple dancers.

Swing dance isn’t limited to the above as other variations include Balboa (Bal), Rock and Roll, Western Swing, Imperial Swing, Jazz Dance Swing, Rock and Roll Swing, Acrobatic Rock and Rock, Washington Hand Dancing, Push and Whip, DC Swing, and Charleston. Even in competitive dance, American Style Ballroom Swing is different that International Style Ballroom Swing.Swing dance is also the foundation other modern dances as disco and country line dancing.

Speaking of line dances, let’s end the post with a classic. Shim Sham originally appeared as a tap routine in Harlem during the 1930s – but it morphed into a swing dance, then into a line dance for today’s swing dancers. Let’s bring back the great Frankie Manning for some Shim Sham.

Any favorites? Which of these do you wish you could do? Better yet, can you dance any of these swings?

Which of these dances should have its own dedicated post?

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On Rumba

Some say Rum’-ba, others say Room’-bah – some spell it as Rumba, others Rhumba.

Real interest in Latin music began about 1929. In the late 1920’s, Xavier Cugat formed an orchestra specializing in Latin American music.

Some dances accentuate the relationship between a man and woman. Rumba is a woman’s dance as she uses her rhythmic, sultry moves to charm her partner. Yep, Rumba is foreplay by dance with the woman controlling the signals.

Rumba first appeared in Cuba during the 1880s as an energetic dance that was a blend of Spanish, West Indian, and African cultures.

It’s initial lewd nature caused it to be restricted to private events.

Forerunner dances of Rumba are Son, Danzon, Guagira, Guaracha, and Naningo. In the 1940’s, Son was a popular dance of middle-class Cubans while Danzon was the dance of wealthy Cubans. Today’s American Rumba is a modified version of Son.

Although Lew Quinn and Joan Sawyer introduced Rumba (the dance) to Americans in 1913, it was a movie of the same name that caused promoted the dance to many – Rumba (1935) starring George Raft and Carol Lombard.

Monsieur Pierre and Doris Lavelle popularized Rumba in Europe during the 1930s – which helped Rumba become a competitive dance in 1955.

Today, Rumba is a popular competitive and social ballroom dance.

The match between the musical rhythms and the body expression of the dancers make Rumba one of the most popular ballroom dances throughout the world.

American-style basics

  • Music: Repeatable 4-beat pattern in 4-beat music
  • Pattern: slow (2 beats), quick (1-beat), quick (1-beat)
  • Steps: Short, compact
  • Hips: Expressive hip motion called Cuban motion

Basic Rumba box step …

… and the basic box with Cuban motion.

Rumba styles today include American ballroom, International ballroom, Cuban, Catalan, Flamenco, African, Yambú, Guaguancó, and Columbian. In general, differences are based on choreography and the music’s tempo.

Night Club-Two Step and Bolero are different dances, but actually variations of rumba

As a “dance of romance”, polished Rumba is a beautiful dance.

… and we end with a Dancing With the Stars version of rumba.

Any thoughts? Which videos did you watch? Have you danced Rumba? Do you think you could learn?

On a Close Encounter of …

I recall hearing and reading about the hub-bub between John Hurley and Kelly Monaco in Season 1 of Dancing With The Stars (DWTS) – but I didn’t watch. As a sports fan, having ESPN anchor Kenny Mayne in the Season 2 cast caught my attention – so my wife and I watched DWTS for the first time on January 5, 2006.

We watched the entire show. The next day was the results show, and my wife asked, “Don’t you want to see what happens?” I had seen the first night with Kenny, and that was good enough, but she was curious – so we watched the elimination of Kenny Mayne.

Season 22 (of the 2 seasons per year) starts later this month. Since that first episode we watched, DWTS was the first domino that led us into the world of ballroom dance. We’re still watching the show and still dancing. Who knows how much money we’ve spent on lessons, dances, and shoes – at least I can blame Kenny Mayne.

Long-time watchers may remember Season 2 as it included guests Drew Lachey (a Cincinnatian who won), Stacey Keibler, Jerry Rice, Lisa Rinna, Tia Carrere, George Hamilton, Tatum O’Neill, Giselle Fernandez, and Master P, It also introduced us to professional dancers Tony Dovolani, Maksim Chmerkovsky, Louis Van Amstel, Cheryl Burke, Anna Trebunskaya, and Edyta Śliwińska – the Polish-born dancer who easily catches the eye. Besides, many of us would love an opportunity to dance with the partner of our choice …. Just once! Did you hear that Edyta? Anna? Sharna? Peta?

To those of us old enough to remember the variety shows on television, DWTS is a blend of a reality show of today and the variety shows of yesteryear – especially on the Results Show when top artists perform – such as this appearance by Michael Bublé in Season 9.

Like any business, dance studios aim at making a profit. Every studio has their way of increasing sales, which may include providing coaching sessions. The “coach” is usually an experienced dancer/teacher from out-of-town who is part of a normal lesson – of course with an extra fee. Yes, coaches are an outside perspective providing a new set of eyes for suggestions, but it’s never interested us – after all, we are social dancers who don’t compete.

As part of one of the sales promotions are our current studio, we earned the right for a drawing – and what did my wife select? … a free coaching session. We talked with our regular instructor about the upcoming coaching possibilities, so we selected Agnes. Plus, I took a group class with her last year, so I knew she had a pleasant demeanor … as well as being an attractive woman. (At least I’m honest.) 😉

Early this past February, we had our coaching with Agnes. A wonderful lesson – and I had a few steps with her. In our chit-chat time, I discovered that she’s Polish and now lives in Los Angeles … but why I didn’t wonder if she knew Edyta is beyond me! After all, look at the connections – Polish, dancer, Los Angeles.

Two weeks later, my wife was gone on her girls’ cruise – which meant too much time on my hands – so I searched Agnes. On her website I discovered her personal story of dance and journey to the USA – her dance accomplished as a winner or finalist in the most prestigious dance competitions, and her appearances on Dancing With The Stars.

WHAT? I had in my arms and danced a few steps with someone who has been on the show! My wife and I had a coaching lesson with someone who probably knows cast members – including Edyta! … and yes … in the video above, that was Agnes and her partner dancing to Michael Bublé … and odds are, we watched that episode!

With YouTube doing what it does, I saw other videos, of Agnes and her partner Urs … including the entertaining, unique dance video below that demonstrates grace, variety, speed, strength, versatility, control, and probably more. TIP: After watching up to 2:50, save yourself time by forwarding to 4:50 … and enjoy watching the lady I think of as my Close Encounter of the Dance Kind.

Dance the Musical – Act 4: The Dances

The Story
Whether as a ritual, a tradition, or the sign of the times, dance is an expression that crosses many cultures. Dance is social, ceremonial, and competitive. Whether at a club, in a ballroom, on a gymnastic mat, in water, on a stage – dance is personal – dance is fun – dance is energy on display. Dance expresses and it entertains.

From the time we are babies bouncing along in someone’s arms or on a lap, dance has played a role in everyone’s life in some way. Dance: The Musical aims to capture the essence of this activity that brings DancePlaybilljoy to many.

Program (Past Posts)
Act 1: Dance
Act 2: Dancing
Act 3: Dancers

Act 4: The Dances
There are many forms of dance – the formal, the trendy, the cultural, and more. Whereas previous acts focused on different aspects of dance, Act 4 is about the dance – but not “dances”.

Although dances is in the title, dances is not the keyword for this act – actually, it should not be used. This act is about the name of a dance.

  • Song titles with a dance in the title (ballroom type or popular) (EX: Waltz is a dance, so “waltz” must be in the title
  • There are so many, the “only one song per dance” rule will be applied (EX: Once waltz is used, no more songs with waltz in the title)
  • No children songs or dances
  • Beware of 2-word dances as Square Dance. This requires both words together, thus not automatically qualifying square or dance.
  • “Dances”, on its own, is NOT acceptable, thus agitates The Producer. (EX: She Dances, Josh Grobin)

Production Note
To prevent browsers crashing from loading too many videos, please 1) include the song title and artist in your text, and 2) paste the URL as part of your last line (not a new line). The latter will provide a link, thus not embed the actual video … but I don’t mind unembedding, so apologies are not necessary.

Announcement
Welcome to the closing act for Dance: The Musical. You, the audience have helped gather 112 songs in the previous 3 acts. A toast to your efforts, but now you face the greatest challenge in aFa Productions history.

Our theme is The Dances, and the guidelines are stated above in the program. Because many possibilities exist, we hope to see performers from Strauss to Chubby – from Offenbach to Lou Bega – from The Diamonds to Baauer – from Freddie and the Dreamers to Rufus Thomas.

The production team went gone back to 1989 for the opening act. Although a worldwide hit, this song and dance (the lambada) was most popular in Latin America. Some of you may not know the song or the dance, but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it. Let’s hear it for Kaoma with The Lambada.

Dance: The Musical – Act 1: Dance

The Story
Dance: A rhythmic movement to music

Dance: Shake a leg, cut the rug, trip the light, get down, groovin, jivin’

Dance: Sways, twirls, gyrations, dips, whirls, hops, spins, swings, shimmiesDancePlaybill

Dance: Ballet, Disco, Club, Boogie, Ballroom, Contemporary, Belly, Square, Hip-hop

Dance: An expression of feelings – a story – a style

Dance: As a metaphor – When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way. (Wayne Dyer, psychologist)

Whether as a ritual, a tradition, or the sign of the times, dance is an expression that crosses many cultures. Dance is social, ceremonial, and competitive. Whether at a club, in a ballroom, on a gymnastic mat, in water, on a stage – dance is personal – dance is fun – dance is energy on display. Dance expresses – Dance entertains.

From the time we are babies bouncing along in someone’s arms or on a lap, dance has played a role in everyone’s life in some way. Dance: The Musical aims to capture the essence of this activity that brings joy to many

Program
Act 1: Dance
Dance: The Musical starts with dance – that is all songs must have Dance in the title.

Caution: Other forms of the word (dance) as dancer, dances, dancing, dancin’, dancefloor, dancehall, and any other form of the word are excluded from this act.

Production Note
To prevent browsers crashing from loading too many videos, please 1) include the song title and artist in your text, and 2) paste the URL as part of your last line (not a new line). The latter will provide a link, thus not embed the actual video … but I don’t mind unembedding, so apologies are not necessary.

Announcement
Welcome to Opening Night of the latest aFa Production – Dance: The Musical. High school dances on the weekends were big back in my day. In honor of those days in my past and for your opening entertainment – ladies and gentlemen – it’s time to Dance to the Music with Sly and the Family Stone.

On the Floor

(This is my first attempt at fiction, so this is for the fiction writers have encouraged me through the years to try it. It was fun and I tried, but I don’t think writing fiction is me. However, that doesn’t mean I won’t try again. Thanks for the encouragement; and I’ll accept positive and negative feedback.)

The music starts. Although some DJs announce the dance, the music’s tempo and rhythms define the dance. He approaches her table, and then extends a hand as an invitation. She accepts, so they take to the floor. He offers a hand and a frame. Again, she accepts, but looks away while in hold as if to say, “I’ll dance – but I’m not interested.”

They begin to move to the music’s sharp, fiery rhythms that are intertwined with sensuality. Their eyes gaze in opposite directions to avoid a visual connection, yet their bodies touch. They dance – they move – sometimes slow – sometimes fast – but always sharp and to the music.

He rolls her out – they flick in unison. He tugs to rolls her back into his arms, but she shrugs him off by returning to hold with her head turned away … yet, the steps continue.

He steps back as a lunge – a corté – she comes forward and raises leg against his, then slowly moves it downward as a caress. He notices – she got his attention. As he returns them upright, their eyes connect through a glimpse – yet they each look away.

The pace seeming hastens, but the musical beat remains steady. Their moves remain sharp, yet their eyes are starting to communicate to the other through glances.

Her body now has more of a lean, and she no longer faces away – thus her eyes and face speak to him when they lock their eyes for the first time. She places her head on his chest. The normally sharp fans are now slow and smooth – yet still to the music’s rhythm. As she turns, his right hand naturally slides along her sleek frame, thus noticing the curvature of her hips. His head is not as high – but starting to look down in hopes of connecting again.

Her eyes are closed, but only she knows why – yet to him, her face displays desire. They are now in another place. To him, they are in the midst of passion. To her, she is the seductress who has succumbed to his desires.

He responds to the music’s fire with 8 fast steps down the floor. He rolls out as before, but on her return, she is close – and her right hand slowly caresses his face.

The music ends. They pause, and then smile to each other. She says, “Great dance”. He responds, “Absolutely” as they high five.

They giddily walk off the floor to sounds of the different tempo and rhythms of the next song now filling the hall – yet they walk without knowing the thoughts of the other – and then one looks at the other saying, “Now that’s a tango.”

On Quickstep

Quickstep – not the passion of Tango, not the aristocracy of Viennese Waltz, not the sexyness of Bolero – but Quickstep’s characteristics are quick, joyful, energetic, light-hearted, smooth, glamorous, flowing, cheerful, graceful, exuberant, playful, weightless, spontaneous, and carefree

The History
Music of the 1920s played the slow-Foxtrot too fast – thus Quickstep became the faster version

Roots lie in the strides of Foxtrot and the quickness of Charleston, but without the kicks

Quickstep is also influenced by dances Shag, Peabody, & One-Step, plus ragtime music

Quickstep called “the QuickTime Foxtrot and Charleston” at a 1927 dance competition

Performed in Ziegfeld Follies (Running Wild) in 1923

The Dance
Quickstep – the fastest tempo of all the ballroom dances

Appears dancers’ feet are barely touching the ground

Quickstep is danced in 4/4 time

Dancers stay in hold (no breaks)

The movement of the dance is fast and powerfully flowing and sprinkled with syncopation

Quickstep moves across the floor with quick steps, quarter turns, chasses, hops, runs, pivots, tipples, fish tails, swivels

Quickstep and it’s music are both happy and lively

The Basics
Quickstep involves fast movement, but the basic pattern is easy to learn

The basic pattern progresses down the floor in a zigzag pattern

The basic rhythm is slow-quick-quick-slow or slow-slow-quick-quick

Repeating pattern: slow, slow, quick, quick, slow, slow, quick quick, slow, slow, quick, quick, slow, etc

Quick is one beat, slow is two beats

Heel leads on forward steps important

Both the leader and follower should maintain an upright posture throughout the dance

The basic, but with a spin-turn for corners

Closing
Quickstep is not for everyone because it’s not an easy dance. However, there’s no doubt that the audience loves watching Quickstep at its finest.