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Line Dance Me

By definition, a line dance is a choreographed dance with a repeated sequence of steps in which a group of people dance in one or more lines or rows without regard for the gender of the individuals, all facing the same direction, and executing the steps at the same time.

I guess as far as we all know or care, line dancing is presumed to be boot scooting type dances where folk wear leather boots and Stetson hats while dancing to tunes like  "Achy Breaky Heart".  But a 'line dance' can be  any dance done in unison by a group of people.

What Country and Western has given us is the social and cultural phenomenon that is now so common that there is likely to be a line dancing group in cooee of your doorstep.

Often line dancing sessions are aimed at retirees and the aged because while exercising bodies they are not strenuous activities.

So there's a lot of bias engineered in what we may perceive to be line dancing: it's country and western music; it's for the aged; mainly for women  (because they don't have to wait to be asked to dance) and it's ever so hokey.

I admit I shared some of that view. I used to organise local community festivals and the local line dancers who always performed fitted the stereotype to a T. The line dancers and I did many a  gig with me working as emcee. We put on a very jeans, belt buckle and boot scoot show.

But something happened -- to me anyway. I have an unbridled passion for Zydeco Music -- the bluesy dance music of Southern Louisiana Creoles -- and in my desire to dance the Zydeco dance I discovered that there  has been a major change in line dancing form: the boot scooters don't have it all to themselves.


Amen and Hallelujah! While I am a dedicated aficionado of American Old Time Roots music and used to play the clawhammer banjo in sync with the traditional music of North Carolina and West Virginia, a lot of modern  'country' music turns me right off.

It seems to live out its own caricature. But a year ago we moved to the Caboolture district here in South East Queensland and this neighborhood boasts its own Urban Country Music Festival  --  and besides, Keith Urban  comes from here. With its annual calendar of rodeos and gymkhanas, acre upon acre of horse farms and the national headquarters of the Australian Professional Rodeo Association in the main street --  our 'suburb' is consciously countrified.

So in this context, and with some trepidation that I was letting my music snobbery down, I went to  a local line dancing class.

To my delight, line dancing ain't all boot scooting. The country and western tradition has imbued line dancing with moves, forms  and techniques  that are easily adapted outside the ten gallon hat template. ... and adaption has proceeded a pace. Line dance here and you are as likely to be doing the Zorba The Greek dance as the schmaltzy beginners dance to the C and W kitschy tune, Elvira.

As well as this eclectic mix of tune and footwork, the sheer massive scale of the phenomenon -- as it now is a truly international obsession -- means that this huge community world wide gets to share its dance choreography through medium such as YouTube. 

This is where engineering and consensus rules because line dances are known by their set choreographies rather than their tunes. That means, for instance, while Elvira may be a single song -- it is also a dance that can be performed to other tunes.

This makes 'line dancing' very eclectic and potentially extremely adaptable. Flash mobs   are line dances, aren't they,  if  choro is involved? But beyond that  what seems to be happening in the United States , emanating from the Southern States like Texas and Louisiana is a very conscious attempt to adapt soul, zydeco, rhythm and blues, to the line dance format.

Here's an example: T.K Soul's Zydeco Bounce is a very conscious attempt to package Southern Soul with a Zydeco line dance delivery.

In fact when you do your homework,what used to be the on stage dance antics of performers like James Brown is now being replicated in various line dance moves by Afro American choreographers working in the community. So the permutations are endless.

This phenomenon is democratising dancing in a way that seems quite novel. After the various waves of dance fashion which have washed over us we seem to be have on offer a dance form that any one can do: whether geriatric or junior. And there's no strictly ballroom about it nor any need to compete.

Tt may be 'exercise' but it transcends the sterile focus of aerobics.

It's also gender neutral.

My family spent years ferrying our daughter to Irish Step Dancing events, competition and classes, and while the activity was always culturally significant -- my name's 'Riley' after all --  it was always exertion for the young and nimble. After a certain age,  most Irish dancers retire.

Step dancing a la Riverdance may indeed be a line dance  but it isn't something Grandma would be getting up for. 

So in an odd way, we have to dip our lid to the many aged line dancers and the c and w aficionados who have preserved an engagement that is now being offered to the rest of us despite our seeming preference for ignorance and two left feet assumptions.

We also get to  learn that group dance fun doesn't have to end with the Macarena. nor do we have to be  sentenced to the rank commercialism and fitness obsession of  Zumba.
“Dance first. Think later. It's the natural order.”
- Samuel Beckett

Want more line dancing? Check out the politically emergent comrades-- VIDEO Nepalese Maoists do Saturday Night FeverAs for the ethnic and cultural mix,  consider the Bollywood influenced Hare Ram line dance as choreographed by Malaysian  Jennifer Choo Sue Chin. So when it comes to 'Screwing the light bulb and patting the dog' (lingo for Bollywood dance moves -- you can attend Bollywood line dance classes too) -- the world is your collective oyster: Below we have a Indonesian line dance, taught in English by an Indonesian to a class of young people in Norway....

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