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A line dance is a formation dance in which a group of people dance in one or more lines (British English, "rows"), executing the same movements. Certain line dances may be considered variations of circle dances, where people are joined by hands in chain, e.g., the Dabke dance of the Middle East. In fact, most circle dances may be danced in a line formation, rather than in a circle; this is most common when only a small number of dancers are available.
In a small group there may be only one line, but usually there are several parallel lines, one behind the other. In this parallel line formation, the dancers dance in a synchronized manner, but independently of each other. There are usually no moves that require any interaction between the dancers, other than they execute the maneuvers at the same time.
Although line dances can be fairly simple, as with the 18 count 4 wall beginner "Electric Slide," increasing complexity can be created through several means. In general, higher-count sequences are more difficult. (One "count" corresponds to one musical beat.) The inclusion of unusual or unfamiliar sequences of steps also makes a dance more challenging. Body movements other than steps, such as hand gestures, can add complexity. "Phrased" line dances are written to go with specific versions of songs. Tags, bridges, and skipping over, or repeating portions of the dance, are all devices that are used to follow the phrasing in the music. These phrased dances require dancers to be more conscious of the music and not simply repeat the same sequence of steps for an entire song.
There are several variations to the parallel lines set-up. There may, for example, be two sets of lines where the dancers face in directly towards each other. In larger groups these will become several sets of in-facing parallel lines. In these "contra" line dances, the dancers will dance with the others in the facing lines. The dancers often weave in and out, exchanging places, or dance up to each other, and make momentary contact, such as a hand clap, or a swing, or take hold in Promenade position for a few counts, and then move on. This has it roots in Square or Round Dancing.
These contact maneuvers are more likely in the variation where line dancing takes place in two concentric rings with dancers facing either down the line of dance, such as Cotton-Eye Joe or El Paso or each other, such as a Barn Dance or Indian Outlaw. The Barn Dance exemplifies the mixer type of dance, where after each iteration of the routine, each dancer moves one partner to the left or right before beginning again.
In some paired line dances, such as the El Paso or the couple's version of the Cowboy Cha-cha, the lead and follow stand in sweetheart or cape position, each of the lead's hands holding the follow's corresponding hands, with his right arm over her shoulder.
Line dancing has had a cowboy image, and it was danced predominantly to country-western music. This has been changing since the 1970's, when the hustle line dance became popular. Line dancing became even more popular with a wider range of music in the 1990s, as more young people took up line dancing (largely due to several pop bands releasing songs with videos featuring what later became line dances). Today, country music may make up the minority of a line dance DJ's playlist, with the balance spread over a variety of musical styles both new and old. Genres including Celtic, Swing, Pop, Rock, Big Band, Folk, and almost anything else that has a regular beat.
History and culture
Line dance is sometimes thought of as originating in the Wild West. In fact, it has a much more diverse background and there is a popular saying that "real cowboys don't line dance". Many folk dances are danced in unison in a single, nonlinear "line", and often with a connection between dancers. The absence of a physical connection between dancers is a distinguishing feature of country western line dance. Line dances have accompanied many popular music styles since the early 1900s, including swing, rock and roll, and disco. The variety and popularity of line dances in the late 20th, and early 21st century is, however, noteworthy.
Line dancing's current popularity grew out of the disco period, when the country-western dance and music communities continued to explore and develop this form of dancing.
At least five line dances that are strongly associated with country-western music were written in the 1970s, two of which are dated to 1972: "Walkin' Wazi" and "Cowboy Boogie". This was five years before the disco craze created by the release of Saturday Night Fever in 1977. Two non-country line dances from the 1970s are "The Bus Stop" and "Nutbush". Over a dozen line dances were created during the 1980s for country songs. "Boot Scootin' Boogie" was choreographed by Bill Bader in October of 1990 for the original Asleep at the Wheel recording of the song of the same name.Billy Ray Cyrus' 1992 hit Achy Breaky Heart, helped catapult western line dancing back into the musical mainstream's public consciousness. In the mid 1990s country western music was influenced by the popularity of line dancing. This influence was so great that Chet Atkins was quoted as saying "The music has gotten pretty bad, I think. It's all that damn line dancing."
In 1994 choreographer Max Perry had a worldwide dance hit with "Swamp Thang" for the song of the same name by The Grid. This was a techno song that fused banjo sounds in the melody line and helped to start a trend of dancing to forms of music other than country. Max Perry, along with Jo Thompson, Scott Blevins and several others, began to use ballroom rhythms and technique to take line dancing to the next level. In 1998, the band Steps created further interest with the techno dance song "5,6,7,8". In 1999 the Gap retailer debuted the "Khaki Country" ad on the Academy Awards ceremony. Line dancers performed to the 1999 version of Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Dwight Yoakum.
Line dancing is a popular recreation activity and is practiced and learned in country-western dance bars, social clubs, dance clubs and ballrooms worldwide. It avoids the problem of imbalance of male/female partners that plagues ballroom/swing/salsa dancing clubs. It is sometimes combined on dance programs with other forms of country-western dance, such as two-step, shuffle, and western promenade dances, as well as western-style variants of the waltz, polka and swing.
Two popular dances that technically classify as line dances are the Nutbush (performed to "Nutbush City Limits" by Tina Turner) and the Macarena.The Chicken Dance, although danced in a circle, may be considered to be a line dance.
Line dancing in the late 1990s, and so far through the 2000s, has changed in some line dance clubs with the main bulk of the dancing done to pop music. This has brought with it a renewed interest in this form of dancing.
The main organizations for the line dance competitions include United Country Western Dance Council (UCWDC), Masters in Line (MIL) and a recently established organization - World Country Dance Federation (WCDF).
Masters in Line (www.mastersinline.com) run competitions all over the world, from Asia to America and feature a World Championship in Blackpool, UK during August each year. Competitors compete throughout the year at a number of events to qualify for the finals which are held in December, named the 'British Masters'. Competitors compete in divisions, including 'Newcomer', 'Division 4', 'Division 3', 'Division 2' and 'All Stars'. Competitors must follow strict guidelines and rules related to each particular division. Normally competitions run over a number of days, featuring line dance workshops, socials and demonstrations from the Masters themselves as well as the competing. Another type of Line Dance instruction and competition is called "LineDanceSport". This is the first syllabus created especially for studios to use as a programmed learning system for solo or line dancing. The syllabus mirrors the ballroom rhythms and is considered to be the standard for teaching in a studio environment. This form of line dancing has its own competitions where students compete using "school figures".
A basic is one repetition of the main dance from the first count to the last not including any tags or bridges. In competition if this is danced "as written" with no variations, it is called "Vanilla" stop
Dancers who have progressed beyond beginner status will often replace a section of a dance (say 8 beats) with a compatible set of steps which is called a variation. This is often required in competitive line dancing.
A dance will have a number of counts, for example a 64-count dance. This is the number of beats of music it would take to complete one sequence of the dance. This is not necessarily the same number of steps in the dance as steps can be performed on an and count between two beats, or sometimes a step holds over more than one beat.
A restart is a point at which the basic dance sequence is interrupted and the dance routine is started again from the beginning. Restarts are used to fit the dances to the music.
A dance is made up of a number of movements called steps. Each step is given a name so teachers can tell dancers to perform this step when teaching a dance. The most well-known is the grapevine (or vine for short), a four-count movement to the side. There can be any number of movements in one step.
Descriptions of some dance steps in their typical form are below. They are subject to variations in particular dances, where a stomp or a point may occur instead of a touch, for example, in the grapevine.
Chasse: One foot moves to the side, the other foot is placed next to it, and the first foot moves again to the side.
Grapevine: One foot moves to the side, the other moves behind it, the first foot moves again to the side, and the second touches next to the first. There are variations: the final step can consist of a hitch, a scuff, placement of weight on the second foot, and so forth. The name of the step is sometimes abbreviated to vine. Originally created in the 1920's, the pattern is designed to blend the diagonal alignments in the room.
Weave: To the left or the right. This is a grapevine with a cross in front as well as a cross behind. Creates a slight zig zag pattern on the floor.
Triple Step: This is 3 steps being taken in only 2 beats of music. Can move forward, backward, left or right.
Shuffle step: A triple step to the front or the back, left or right side, starting on either foot. The feet slide rather than being given the staccato (short and sharp) movement of the cha-cha. There is a slight difference in the interpretation of the timing to give the element its distinctive look. It is counted as 1 & 2, 3 & 4, etc. However, the actual amount of time devoted to each of the 3 steps in the shuffle is 3/4 of a beat, 1/4 of a beat, then one full beat of music.
Lock step: A triple step backwards or forwards, starting on either foot, with the second foot slid up to and tightly locked in front of or behind the first foot before the first foot is moved a second time in the same direction as for the first step.
Other steps include applejack, botafogo, butterfly, coaster step, heel grind, hitch, jazz box, kick ball change, kick ball step, lunge, mambo step, military turn, Monterey turn, paddle, pivot turn, rock step, sailor step, scuff, spiral turn, stamp, stomp, sugarfoot, swivet and vaudeville.
Tag / Bridge
A tag or bridge is an extra set of steps not part of the main dance sequence that are inserted into one or more sequences to ensure the dance fits with the music. The term tag usually implies only a few additional counts (e.g. 2 or 4), whereas bridge implies a longer piece (e.g. 8 or 16). The terms are generally interchangeable, however.
Each dance is said to consist of a number of walls. A wall is the direction in which the dancers face at any given time: the front (the direction faced at the beginning of the dance), the back or one of the sides. Dancers may change direction many times during a sequence, and may even, at any given point, be facing in a direction half-way between two walls; but at the end of the sequence they will be facing the original wall or any of the other three. Whichever wall that is, the next iteration of the sequence uses that wall as the new frame of reference.
In a one-wall dance, the dancers face the same direction at the end of the sequence as at the beginning.
In a two-wall dance, repetitions of the sequence end alternately at the back and front walls. In other words, the dancers have effectively turned through 180 degrees during one set. The samba line dance is an example of a two-wall dance. While doing the "volte" step, the dancers turn 180 degrees to face a new wall.
In a four-wall dance, the direction faced at the end of the sequence is 90 degrees to the right or left from the direction in which they faced at the beginning. As a result, the dancers face each of the four walls in turn at the end of four consecutive repetitions of the sequence, before returning to the original wall. The hustle line dance is an example of a four-wall dance because in the final figure they turn 90 degrees to the left to face a new wall. The steps of the hustle line dance are preserved in an instructional video. See external links below.
A step sheet describes the dance step sequence. Each step group (often eight counts for 4/4 music or six for a waltz) appears as a heading consisting of calling cues that the instructor may use to direct the class, followed by a list of the individual foot or hand movements meant to accompany each beat or half-beat in the music.
Major line dance events and competitions
Barcelona (Spain)- The Spanish Event
Boston - Line Dance Showdown
Chicago - Windy City Line Dance Mania
Raleigh-Durham - JG2 Line Dance Marathon
Las Vegas - Vegas Dance Explosion
Orlando - Florida Masters
Line Dance Resources
World Line Dance Newsletter
San Diego N Line Dancers
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