Thursday, July 11, 2013

Line Dances From Easy To Hard

During my year in Malaysia, I stayed at a remote, jungle-ridden boarding school about a hundred miles from the nearest dance scene.  How could I possibly stay fit and keep up my dance skills?  Why, by learning all sorts of line dances in the privacy of my apartment!

Swing line dances are packed with awesome jazz moves, rhythms, and footwork.  Learning them will improve your dance vocabulary as well as your technique and body control.  And even better, the next time you hear that song come on at a social dance, you don't have to stand back and clap anymore - you can jump right in with everyone else!  Here are some of my favorite swing-related line dances, from easy to hard:

The Shim Sham


Choreographed by Frankie Manning from the original tap version, this dance is a classic and quite accessible to beginners. It features a section of partnered dancing at the end during which a caller traditionally calls out "freeze!" and "dance!"

Frankie Manning and Erin Stevens perform the Shim Sham:


Patrick and Natasha offer a series of instructional videos linked to this demo video; a great resource for learning this line dance at home!

The Jitterbug Stroll


This line dance was choreographed by Ryan Francois and is usually done to a recording of "Jitterbug Stroll" in which Steven Mitchell calls out the moves in his unique, groovy style.  It features several classic jazz moves and is also simple to learn thanks to its repetitive nature.

Here are a group of fun-loving dancers doing the Stroll:

Someone had the great idea of using this line dance for a flashmob in the Taipei Airport:

And here's an instructional video that breaks it all down (somewhat upright and ballroomy in style, but very detailed and clear):


Doin' the Jive


This line dance was choreographed by the great Mike Faltesek, who also recorded the song that it is done to (with the Careless Lovers swing band). Almost every phrase in the lyrics refers to a particular move in the dance. For this reason, a previously unnamed slow-motion, high-stepping shimmy is now called the "smarty party" (in the first video, at 1:07).

The dance crowd at Stompology VII do the Jive together:


An instructional demo video to help you learn it at home:


The Tranky Doo


This is a classic line dance, revived from an old movie clip ("Spirit Moves") in which Al Minns, Pepsi Bethel and Leon James demonstrate what is then titled the "Trunky Doo". The moves in the modern version remain largely faithful to this clip, and it is usually performed to the same music that was dubbed over the clip, the "Dipsy Doodle". However, dancers today often offer their own unique styling on its classic moves.

The original Trunky Doo movie clip:

Mike, Casey, Stefan, Bethany and Peter perform the Tranky Doo with their own unique variations:

An instructional video of the Tranky Doo, counted out slowly:

The Big Apple


Like the Tranky Doo, the modern Big Apple line dance was revived from an old movie clip ("Keep Punching"). This version was choreographed by Frankie Manning and performed by Whiteys Lindy Hoppers, back in their heyday, based off of a dance craze in New York by the same name. It is unique in that it is performed in a large circle instead of a line, only breaking out of this formation toward the end of the dance.

The original Big Apple routine (the routine ends about halfway in, but the movie clip goes on for some more dancing and a bit of plot):

Patrick and Natasha offer another great, detailed web of instructional videos for the Big Apple, linked to this one:

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