Dance – Reading Assignment
1) Choose 3 styles of dance from the list and read about them. If they are
short, choose 6.
2) Summarize each style.
3) Compare the dance styles.
4) Which style(s) of dance would you consider learning? Why?
5) Which style(s) of dance would you not consider learning? Why?
*Please hand in your work to Ms. Kauck at the end of the period!
Argentine Tango History
Origins of Argentina Tango
by Bruno E. Romero
The antique Argentine Tango was influenced by the Tango Habanera, which bears no resemblance to the
Argentine Tango we know today. The Tango Habanera came about from two types of Tango: the Milonga with
its influence in the guajira flamenca and the Tango andaluz or Tango flamenco. The Milonga was danced and
played by country side people of Argentina. The Tango Habanera was an amalgamation of the Habanera and the
Tango Andaluz or Tango Flamenco.
The rhythm of the guitars playing the Tango flamenco or andaluz could not be reproduced in orchestra
instruments and with the piano, so the Tango andaluz or flamenco was modified with the habanera rhythm. The
Tango Habanera was heard in 1883 but died towards the end of the century. The Tango Habanera has been
entirely associated with the first forms of Argentine Tango. The flexing of the knees is associated to a dance
called Candombe which was danced by the black people from Africa living in Buenos Aires. The male
Candombe dancers danced with their knees flexed, to show their dance skills using walking steps (corridas) and
A character who lived in the very early 1900's known as the "compadrito" created the straightened out forms of
the antique Argentine Tango and invented the traditional figures of this dance. His dance style and stance
supported his macho view of his world at those times. The "compadrito" ironically imitated the Candombe
Dancers along with their flexing of the knees, walking steps, and turns. Old Tango people agree that the true
forms of Argentine Tango Dance that we see today originated in 1938 - 1940 with the short-lived Tango singer
Carlos Gardel. The Golden Age of Tango took place in in the late 1940's and early 1950's. World recording
companies set up offices in Buenos Aires, which resulted in mass recordings of Tango orchestras and singers.
The antique Argentine Tango was never danced with castanets or with a flower.
Today in Buenos Aires or Río de la Plata, there are three forms of Argentine Tango: Salón, Fantasía, and one for
scenario (stage). This has been the norm. With the internationalization of Tango, other forces have been shaping
the Tango dance. The form known for stage, sometimes is referred as "for export", was aimed at English
speaking people. Outside Argentina, people from North America had their first exposure with Stage Tango
brought by the show and dance companies from Buenos Aires. At the end of the shows, the people asked for
classes on what they had seen on stage. They wanted to learn what they saw on stage. Some of the dancers were
available to teach, but knew only show routines. Other times seasoned dancers from Buenos Aires were asked to
teach. They found it very difficult to explain that the correct form was to learn Argentine Tango from Buenos
Aires rather than what they had seen at the show or on stage.
Bruno E. Romero is an instructor at the Argentine Tango Club. Visit his website:
History of Argentine Tango
By Mike Higgins
When talking about the history of the Tango, the reader should consider that although there were many
‘influences’ in the creation and life of the Tango, it is very important not to assume that it was some form of
linear development. So the idea that you start with this dance or piece of music and along comes this piece or
step, and overnight the whole thing changes, is very wrong.
Whilst dances and music from around the world have had some influence, this rather detracts from the people
who really created and evolved the Tango into its current form. These are the people of Buenos Aires, who in the
bars, cafes and dance halls made the Tango, danced the Tango, lived, loved and occasionally died for the Tango.
It is the voice of the streets of Buenos Aires. Any suggestion that they may be dancing some sort of second hand
steps or regurgitating music taken from Europe or Africa must be rejected as some what insulting to all the great
milongueros who have danced and innovated down though years. It is equally insulting to the great Tango
maestros who have drawn on their own life experiences when composing music.
The history of the development of the Tango in Buenos Aires requires the reader to take a journey back to when
Buenos Aires was a large settlement, under the control of the declining Spanish Empire. The settlers were
primarily Spanish immigrants and the slaves which were transported from Africa. (Buenos Aires - Good Winds
in Spanish, but perhaps better translated as "Fair Winds", as in navigation).
However these settlers were for many years attacked and repulsed by the native peoples of the area. In 1541, the
settlement was abandoned but re-established in 1580 on a permanent basis. Following this, there began a much
larger battle for the area, which brought into play the Gaucho, the South American plains riders. Though initially
thought of as the South American equivalent of the “cowboy”, in fact they were seen more as freedom fighters
and fought fearlessly as a type of light cavalry. They carried out hit and run raids, usually as part of a private
army for a local land owner or caudillos, local warlords in all but name.
On May 25, 1810, the citizens of Buenos Aires ousted the Spanish Viceroy and a provincial government was
established. On July 9, 1816 independence from the Spanish Empire was declared but which was not recognized
Shortly after, the interests of big business dictated that the pampas should be cleared of the native Indian
population and the vast number of gauchos. 5 divisions of well armed troops were sent in under the control of
General Julio Argentino Roca to effectively clear the plains of the Araucanian Indians and most of the gauchos.
However, as with the industrial revolution in England, these now displaced people began to drift towards the
rapidly growing city of Buenos Aires. In this drift came the Payadores, traveling musicians from the Gaucho
stock. They would arrive at a bar, and begin to strum a simple tune with its base on the 4th string, and sing ad-
libbed lyrics, usually obscene. It's possible that this had some native Indian rhythms or tunes. This does offer a
fairly good explanation of the main input into the creation of the milonga, but by no means the only explanation.
The Africans, who had been brought across as slaves, had their own brand of rhythmic music. Most notably the
Candombe, which was an athletic dance. No doubt, somewhere along the way, the Candombe met the payadore
and his guitar. So may have been born the Milonga in a form more recognizable to the current generation. It is
also possible that the Polka, Waltz, Mazurka and Schottische, also had an influence on the Milonga.
Almost certainly, the most important factor in the evolution of the Tango was the influence brought in by the
Habanera, created in Havana, Cuba, and also known as the Andalusian Tango.
Unfortunately there is now insufficient information to assess exactly how this was originally danced. The
Habanera was based on the concept of a ’walk’, the same as the Tango.
At some point the Milonga and The Habanera were fused to form the embryonic version of the Tango. At this
point you have a dance which has influences from around the world.
From about 1880, large scale immigration, most of whom were men, increased the population Buenos Aires. One
figure suggests that at one point the ratio may have been about 50 men for every woman.
Men tempted by the idea of a better life and streets paved with gold, instead found a lonely squalid place with
muddy streets and poor accommodation. Often they were stranded on the outskirts of the city and everyday
became a struggle to survive.
The one trade that flourished above all others was prostitution. A reflection of the hardships endured by the
people, a way of survival for some, and a desperate means of earning income for others. It is unlikely the
working girls saw much of the money. For many men, owning a woman who earned good money working in a
brothel became a status symbol.
It is here in the brothels and bordellos on the back streets of Buenos Aires, that the Tango really came to life.
These illegal brothels, most became known as Academies de Dance, were the massage parlors of their day. The
dance had to be simple, so if the police raided the joint (police which hadn't been bribed), there would appear to
be "dancing instruction" going on.
It was the rise of the Compadritos and the Compadres who really launched the Tango. Compadritos - the street
man, sometimes but not always, small time villains, petty criminals and pimps. Compadres - the local men of
some means, sometimes shady dealings, slightly better off than the compadritos who tried to emulate them.
The dance probably started out as some form of acting out of the relationship between the prostitute and pimp.
This was often reflected in the titles of the first tangos which referred to characters in the world of prostitution. It
must also be noted that when written lyrics began to appear, women were often portrayed as evil temptresses,
there to lead men into sin and degradation.
At this time, the dance was totally rejected be the upper class elite of Buenos Aires society, as a dirty street
dance. Although, many of the young well-to-do gentlemen, would allegedly visit the ‘Dance Academies’ for
Around 1880, a new instrument arrived from Germany, the Bandoneon. A difficult instrument to master but its
wailing sound caught the very feeling of the Tango. It became inextricably linked to the music of the Tango,
from then to now.
From the early 1900, however, a new type of lyric began to appear. One recalling bygone times, often with a sad,
melancholia, recalling wasted lives, lost loves, unrequited love, the missing of a mother, the missing of your
barrios [district] or street but most all, the love of the Tango itself. The lyrics were written in the language of the
streets of Buenos Aires, Lunfardo, and a mixture of Spanish, Italian, Native Creole and words strangely twisted.
The change in the Tango lyrics may also have occurred at this time because it is thought that Tango was first
demonstrated by the Argentinean playboy Ricardo Guiraldes in 1910/1911 in Paris. It was so different from the
dances of the time and considered somewhat obscene. It challenged the conventions of acceptable public
behavior of the time. The Comtesse Melainie de Pourtalis stated, upon seeing a demonstration of the dance in
1912, "Is one supposed to dance it standing up".
However, the rapid acceptance by the people of Europe of the dance, invariably meant that it was re-exported
back to Buenos Aires. Now it was embraced by the upper classes, who had so vigorously opposed it only a few
The dance was banned by the Pope after a private viewing, and Kaiser Wilhelm 1 forbade his officers to dance it
whilst wearing their uniforms, effectively banning it from all state balls.
Yet the Tango survived, and evolved, thanks to the people of Buenos Aires. But its not the end of the story. In a
way, the Tango is even more threatened today than in its early years. Why? Because of the creeping
Europeanization of dance.
More than anything else, the Tango is about a connection, an empathy between two people, the need to embrace,
and be in the arms of another, to escape, albeit for just a brief moment of time, and in that moment, to live a life
The Europeans and the North Americans have no connection to this concept. It is totally alien to them. They see
the dance in terms of “how flashy can I be with the steps” and I want more steps, and more steps. All I want to do
is impress the people standing around the edges of the dance floor. This is, in a way, the very antithesis of the
concept of the Tango.
Tango must be simply danced, with immense feeling, with a sense of energy flowing
between the dancers. This energy grows or decreases as the music ebbs and flows. It is a
seduction, or a private conversation, something to be quietly shared, not publicly
We're staring down, not quite believing what we're seeing, at an athletic young man -- known to the cognizanti as
a b-boy -- spinning on his head like a child's toy, a whirling top with arms, legs and torso.
A group of his friends are gathered in a loose circle around him, urging him on to ever greater, more elaborate,
gyrations. Bass-heavy music, perhaps something by James Brown, whose 1969 song "Get On The Good Foot"
inspired a lot of it, thumps out of a boom box.
We're witnessing the birth of the break dance, right?
Wrong. The spectacular power moves we're seeing are a somewhat recent innovation -- introduced by the
legendary break dancers "Rock Steady Crew" in the late '70s and early '80s -- in what is actually a rather ancient
art form with roots extending far wider and deeper than circa-1960s Bronx and Brooklyn street people.
Though some experts trace the lineage of the break dance back to the Brazilian Frevo, a Russian folk-dance-
influenced form of martial-arts dance/march, it seems more likely that breakin', while it did originate in Brazil
approximately 500 years ago, was invented by African slaves rather than native Brazilians or their Portuguese
Their dance, still popular today, became known as the Capoeira and is, as far as we known, the first nationally
and internationally recognized dance to combine upright fighting and shadow-boxing moves with groundwork.
Mentally fast forward through the centuries, travel northward some thousands of miles, and check out the
"uprockers" on the streets of Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1967. Though the Uprock (a.k.a. Rocking), which features,
among many other movements, burns (aggressive hand thrusts) and jerks (martial-arts-inspired body motions) is
not a break dance as we envision it now, it is the true soul-beat precursor of the Toprock, which took Uprock
routines, added transition moves sometimes known as the six-step, and finished with groundwork.
Today's break dancing began to come of age in 1969 and 1970 when disc jockey, record producer and visionary
Afrika Bambaataa convinced the members of the Bronx street gang of which he was then the warlord to
challenge rival gangs to battle with macho dance routines in lieu of guns and knives.
As the '70s evolved, more emphasis was placed on groundwork involving stylized leg movements (so-called
Floor Rock or Down Rock) and moves were added and deleted as tastes in funk, soul and early hip hop music
evolved. Still, the basic form of both rocking and breakdance "cutting" contests remained the same until the
"Rock Steady Crew" and the "Electronic Boogaloo Lockers" (later renamed the "Electric Boogaloos") literally
hit the streets of New York with the spectacular hand-gliding, back-spinning, windmilling, and head-spinning
ground moves that have since become synonymous with the word breakdance.
The dance gained in worldwide popularity during the '80s and '90s with break-dance moves being incorporated
into movies and musical theater productions and European and Asian aficionados adding their own exuberant
spins and whirls to the mix.
Cha Cha Dance History
Originally known as the Cha-Cha-Cha. Became popular about 1954. Cha Cha is an offshoot of the Mambo. In
the slow Mambo tempo, there was a distinct sound in the music that people began dancing to, calling the step the
"Triple" Mambo. Eventually it evolved into a separate dance, known today as the Cha Cha.
The dance consists of three quick steps (triple step or cha cha cha) and two slower steps on the one beat and two
Disco & Hustle Origins
Most Disco dances have strong roots in Swing, Samba, Cha Cha, Mambo, Merengue, Fox Trot and Tango. The
Hustle is believed to have originated in New York in 1970. It went through many variations in the seventies, with
line dances for groups of people, solo movements that came and went, and partnership dances. These partnership
dances included The Basic Hustle, Latin, Spanish and Tango Hustle, and the most popular Street, Three-Count or
Swing Hustle that originated in California as the street Hustle by skaters in Venice and Malibu. John Travolta
and "Saturday Night Fever" made dancing the "in" thing for many people, especially men.
Popular disco music of the 70's included Bee Gees "Stayin' alive", "Night fever", "More than a woman",
"Everybody Dance" (Chic) and Donna Summer's "Love to love you baby".
Hustle is danced to the contemporary pop dance music of the last 20 years. It is a fast, smooth dance, with the
lady spinning almost constantly, while her partner draws her close and sends her away.
"Things may come to those who wait, but only things left by those who hustle." ... Abraham Lincoln.
Spanish Gypsy and Flamenco Dance History
Any discussion of Spanish Gypsies would be remiss without a consideration of Flamenco, which lies at the very
soul of these often misunderstood and misrepresented people. In the past few years, there has been an ever
increasing interest is all things "gypsy" and what is termed "Spanish-Arabic" in the Middle Eastern Dance
community. I am very happy to see this interest and believe that creative fusion of art forms can lead the way to
Although there are many theories promising to explain the meaning of the word flamenco, most lack enough
evidence to substantiate them. One commonly accepted version translates flamenco as Spanish for the Flemish
soldiers of the Spanish-Belgian Territories. These soldiers were renowned for their self-confidence, style and
ostentatious pride, all qualities that reflect the gypsy character. In fact, the term "flamenco" came to be
synonymous with "gitano" (gypsy) in Spanish Romany Argot.
Between 800 and 900 A.D., a large exodus of people occurred from the Punjabi region of India. These people are
believed to be members of the Untouchables, a group within the Indian caste system comprised of animal traders
and trainers, acrobats, dancers, musicians, palmists and metalworkers. These nomadic groups, generally referred
to as Roman and/or gypsies, divided into two major migratory routes, the most traceable moving west across
Asia and the European continent, including Spain. The first recorded account of Spanish Gitanos "Beticos" dates
from 1447 in Barcelona.
It is also believed that a second migratory route took them down to and across North Africa (including Egypt)
and up into Southern Spain "Andalusia" via the Straights of Gibraltar. This faction, known as Cale (black), has
been far more difficult to verify and trace due to the great similarity of appearance and lifestyle to the indigenous
peoples along the route. We should not forget that Southern Spain was part of the Islamic Empire for a period of
Although, the Northern Beticos immigrated to the more tolerant Islamic region of Andalusia, to this day, the
gypsies themselves maintain a great distinction between the Beticos and Cales, with virtually no intermarriage
between the groups.
During the Inquisition of the Reconquista, even this tolerance ended while gypsies from all over Spain were
herded into "gitanerias" or ghettos. However unjust and cruel, this persecution and isolation was the very
influence that safeguarded the purity of their music and dance within the family group. Finally, in 1782, the
Leniency Edict of Charles III restored some measure of freedom to the Spanish gypsy and allowed this music
and dance to be presented to and adopted by the general population of Spain. This resulted in a period of great
exploration and evolution within the art form, which continues to this day.
The most important element of flamenco music is undeniably the singing, "Cante". In fact, originally flamenco
was comprised purely of Cante, with handclapping "Palmas" or knuckle rapping percussive accompaniment. The
guitar, a variation of the Arabic Oud, was gradually incorporated in the 19th century. The strongest influences
evident in the evolution of Flamenco singing and music can be traced from:
• Punjabi singing of India
• Persian Zyriab song form
• Classical Andalusian Orchestras of the Islamic Empire
• Jewish Synagogue Chants
• Mozarabic forms such as Zarchyas and Zambra
• Arabic Zayal which themselves are the foundation for Fandangos
• Andalusian regional folk forms
• Western African influences via the slaves of the New World Caribbean, Central and South American
colonies. These include Rumba, Garotin, Guajiras, Columbianas, etc.
Although much less research has been undertaken in the field of flamenco dance than music, it has been
documented that during the Phoenician empire, in the city of Cadiz, Hindu dancers were hired as entertainers for
the festivals, aspects of which were incorporated into local processions and religious festivals.
This very strong resemblance to East Indian dance is seen in the Katak, NianiPuri, Kathakal and Bharatanatyam
forms. Elements such as the deep-seated plie, outturned leg position, sharp angles of the body and arms, splayed
fingers, rapid barrel turns and, most certainly, the percussive foot movements are all evident in flamenco dance.
As previously mentioned, the Mozarabic "Zambra" was occasionally performed for a very brief time during the
late 19th to early 20th centuries, although its role in the development of flamenco dance is minimal. This dance,
in 2/4 time, combined elements of Andalusian folk dance with Arabic elements, such as finger cymbals,
tambourines and atypical theatrical costuming. However, this bears no resemblance to the performances of
Sevillanas, Tangos and Bulerias by the commercial, touristic band of gypsies in the caves of Granada, which
Amaya identifies as Zambra in her video "Gypsy Fire". In fact, apart from some of the percussive foot
movements found in the Moroccan Shikhate, there is almost no similarity between flamenco and Middle Eastern
dance. Even the open-knee hip movements of flamenco are attributed to the African influence from the colonies
and/or Indian dance. Absent to flamenco dance are the torso undulations, pelvic oscillations, hip shimmies and
rotations, all of which are fundamental components of Oriental. Finally, the soft, fluid, feminine, sweet and
joyful external nature of Middle Eastern dance is the complete antithesis of the internal, spring-loaded, strong,
defiant, explosive, masculine character of Flamenco.
Foxtrot Dance History
The Foxtrot originated in the summer of 1914 by Vaudeville actor Harry Fox. Born Arthur Carringford in
Pomona, California, in 1882, he adopted the stage name of "Fox" after his grandfather.
Harry was thrown on his own resources at the age of fifteen. He joined a circus for a brief tour and he also played
professional baseball for a short while. A music publisher liked his voice and hired him to sing songs from the
boxes of vaudeville theaters in San Francisco. In 1904 he appeared in a Belvedere Theatre in a comedy entitled
"Mr. Frisky of Frisco." After the San Francisco earthquake and the fire of 1906, Harry Fox migrated East and
finally stopped in New York.
In early 1914, Fox was appearing in various vaudeville shows in the New York area. In April he teamed up with
Yansci Dolly of the famous Dolly Sisters in an act of Hammerstein's. At the same time, the New York Theatre,
one of the largest in the World, was being converted into a movie house. As an extra attraction, the theater's
management decided to try vaudeville acts between the shows. They selected Harry Fox and his company of
"American Beauties" to put on a dancing act. An article in Variety Magazine stated "Harry Fox will appear for a
month or longer at a large salary with billing that will occupy the front of the theatre in electrics".
At the same time, the roof of the theatre was converted to a Jardin de Danse, and the Dolly sisters were featured
in a nightly revue.
The May 29, 1914 issue of Variety Magazine reported "The debut of Harry Fox as a lone star and act amidst the
films of the daily change at the New York Theatre started off with every mark of success. The Dolly Sisters are
dancing nightly on the New York Roof. Gold cups will be given away next week to the winners of dance contests
on the New York Roof."
The Fox-trot originated in the Jardin de Danse on the roof of the New York Theatre. As part of his act
downstairs, Harry Fox was doing trotting steps to ragtime music, and people referred to his dance as "Fox's
In the rise to fame of the Vernon Castles, exhibition dancers of outstanding talent and charm, there was no doubt
that the fox-trot was the most original and exciting of their various dances.
The elite of the dancing world were soon trying to capture the unusual style of movement and when a very
talented American, G.K. Anderson came over to London, and with Josephine Bradley won many competitions,
he set the seal - so to speak - on the style of the foxtrot.
As a result of the great popularity which ballroom dancing was enjoying, it was necessary to evolve a form of
dance that could express the slow syncopated 4/4 rhythm and yet could remain "on the spot." This did not mean
that the "traveling" fox-trot was dropped, but the "on the spot" dance did provide a means of enjoying the music
in a background which large numbers of people could afford and enjoy, and where various bands were all
producing excellent and individual musicians and experimenting with and perfect all of the new sounds and beats
from America. The "on the spot" dancing was known appropriately as crush, then rhythm dancing. It is now
called "social" dancing and possibly this conveys its purpose and limitations. It would be anti-social to attempt to
stride around a ballroom crowded with dancers, to dance with only one partner when out with a party, or to be so
engrossed with the performance of figures that any conversation is taboo. It can also create a very good base -
should it be desired - for the foxtrot.
The Foxtrot was the most significant development in all of ballroom dancing. The combination of quick and slow
steps permits more flexibility and gives much greater dancing pleasure than the one-step and two-step which it
has replaced. There is more variety in the fox-trot than in any other dance, and in some ways it is the hardest
dance to learn!
Variations of the foxtrot include the Peabody, the Quickstep and Roseland foxtrot. Even
dances such as the lindy and the hustle are derived to some extent from the foxtrot.
History of Jazz Dance
By Lori Heikkila
World War I had ended and a social revolution was under way! Customs and values of previous generations were
rejected. Life was to be lived and enjoyed to the fullest. This was the era of the "lost generation", and the
"flapper" with her rolled stockings, short skirts, and straight up-and-down look. They scandalized their elders in
the cabarets, night clubs, and speakeasies that replaced the ballrooms of pre-war days. Dancing became more
informal - close embraces and frequent changes of partners were now socially acceptable.
Only one kind of music suited this generation - jazz, the vehicle for dancing the fox-trot, shimmy, rag,
Charleston, black bottom, and various other steps of the period. Jazz originated at the close of the nineteenth
century in the seamy dance halls and brothels of the South and Midwest where the word Jazz commonly referred
to sexual intercourse. Southern blacks, delivered from slavery a few decades before, started playing European
music with Afro modifications.
The birthplace of jazz has many origins: New Orleans, St. Louis, Memphis and Kansas City are just a few. But
New Orleans was and still remains an important jazz center. The ethnic rainbow of people who gravitated to the
bars and brothels were a major factor in the development of jazz. The city had been under Spanish and French
rule prior to the Louisiana Purchase. By 1900, it was a blend of Spanish, French, English, German, Italian, Slavic
and countless blacks originally brought in as slaves.
The first jazz bands contained a "rhythm section" consisting of a string bass, drums, and a guitar or banjo, and a
"melodic section" with one or two cornets, a trombone, a clarinet, and sometimes even a violin. Years later, jazz
was taken over by large orchestras; a "society jazz band" contained fifteen or more musicians. Today, there is a
renewed interest in the "big band" era, even though the music has very little to do with real jazz.
True jazz is characterized by certain essential features. The first is a tendency to stress the
weak beats of the bar (2nd and 4th) in contrast to traditional music which stressed the
first and third beats. The second feature is syncopation through an extensive repetition of
short and strongly rhythmic phrases or "riffs". The third feature of jazz is swing (regular
but subtle pulsation which animates 4/4 time). The swing must be present in every good
Can Mambo recapture the glory of its golden days? Can the flashy Cuban dance step find a new following in the
The Mambo dance originated in Cuba where there were substantial settlements of Haitians. In the back country
of Haiti, the "Mambo" is a voodoo priestess, who serves the villagers as counselor, healer, exorcist, soothsayer,
spiritual advisor, and organizer of public entertainment. However, there is not a folk dance in Haiti called the
The fusion of Swing and Cuban music produced this fascinating rhythm and in turn created a new sensational
dance. The Mambo could not have been conceived earlier since up to that time, the Cuban and American Jazz
were still not wedded. The "Mambo" dance is attributed to Perez Prado who introduced it at La Tropicana night-
club in Havana in 1943. Since then other Latin American band leaders such as Tito Rodriquez, Pupi Campo, Tito
Puente, Machito and Xavier Cugat have achieved styles of their own and furthered the Mambo craze.
The Mambo was originally played as any Rumba with a riff ending. It may be described as a riff or a Rumba
with a break or emphasis on 2 and 4 in 4/4 time. Native Cubans or musicians without any training would break
on any beat.
It first appeared in the United States in New York's Park Plaza Ballroom - a favorite hangout of enthusiastic
dancers from Harlem. The Mambo gained its excitement in 1947 at the Palladium and other renowned places
such as The China Doll, Havana Madrid and Birdland.
A modified version of the "Mambo" (the original dance had to be toned down due to the violent acrobatics) was
presented to the public at dance studios, resort hotels, and at night-clubs in New York and Miami. Success was
on the agenda. Mambo happy dancers soon became known affectionately as "Mambonicks".
The Mambo craze did not last long and today the Mambo is much limited to advanced dancers. Teachers agreed
that this is one of the most difficult of dances. One of the greatest contributions of the Mambo is that it led to the
development of the Cha-Cha.
The Mambo is enjoying a renewed popularity due to a number of films featuring the dance as well as a man
named Eddie Torres. Eddie is a New York dance pro and Mambo fanatic who has launched a crusade to make
sure the dance reigns in the ballroom once again. Torres has become the leading exponent of the style, steadily
building a reputation as a dancer, instructor, and choreographer. He has become known as the "Mambo King of
Latin Dance". Torres is determined to reintroduce dancers to what he believes is the authentic night-club style of
mambo dancing, which in the 1990's is increasingly known as Salsa.
"It's a great time for Latin American dances," says Torres. "The Mambo is hot now, like it was in the '50's. It is a
dance with many influences -- African, Cuban, Jazz, Hip-Hop, even some ballet. You'll never run out of steps."
Popular Mambo songs include "Mambo Italiano", "Papa Loves Mambo", "Mambo #5", "I Saw Mommy Do The
Mambo", and "They Were Doin' The Mambo". 'Dance City', the superb CD album featuring Hernandez and the
Mambo Kings Orchestra, stands on its own as one of the best recordings of its kind in years, an energetic big
band-style session that recalls the glory days of Tito Puente and Tito Rodriguez.
Most people treat Mambo as a very fast dance. In essence, it is a slow and precise dance that doesn't move very
By Lori Heikkila
The Merengue is the national dance of the Dominican Republic, and also to some extent, of Haiti, the neighbor
sharing the island.
There are two popular versions of the origin of the Dominican national dance, the Merengue. One story alleges
the dance originated with slaves who were chained together and, of necessity, were forced to drag one leg as they
cut sugar to the beat of drums. The second story alleges that a great hero was wounded in the leg during one of
the many revolutions in the Dominican Republic. A party of villagers welcomed him home with a victory
celebration and, out of sympathy, everyone dancing felt obliged to limp and drag one foot.
Merengue has existed since the early years of the Dominican Republic (in Haiti, a similar dance is called the
Meringue). It is possible the dance took its name from the confection made of sugar and egg whites because of
the light and frothy character of the dance or because of its short, precise rhythms.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, the Merengue was very popular in the Dominican Republic. Not only is
it used on every dancing occasion in the Republic, but it is very popular throughout the Caribbean and South
America, and is one of the standard Latin American dances.
There is a lot of variety in Merengue music. Tempos vary a great deal and the Dominicans enjoy a sharp
quickening in pace towards the latter part of the dance. The most favored routine at the clubs and restaurants that
run a dance floor is a slow Bolero, breaking into a Merengue, which becomes akin to a bright, fast Jive in its
closing stages. The ballroom Merengue is slower and has a modified hip action.
The Merengue was introduced in the United States in the New York area. However, it did not become well
known until several years later.
Ideally suited to the small, crowded dance floors, it is a dance that is easy to learn and essentially a "fun" dance.
Origins of Merengue
By Carmen Vazquez
The origin of this dance, according to the Dominicans themselves, from a program shown on TV "SANTO
Merengue is a combination of two dances, the African and the French Minuet, from the late 1700's - early 1800's.
The black slaves saw the ballroom dances in the Big Houses and when they had their own festivities started
mimicking the "masters' dances". But the Europeans dances were not fun, they were very boring and staid, so
over time, the slaves added a special upbeat (provided by the drums), this was a slight skip or a hop.
The original Merengue was not danced by individual couples, but was a circle dance, each man and woman faced
each other and holding hands - at arm's length. They did not hold each other closely and the original movements
of this dance were only the shaking of the shoulders and swift movement of the feet. There was no blatant
movement of the hips like there is today, as native African dances do not move the hips. In fact, African dances,
as well as other Indigenous dances throughout the world, consist of complicated steps and arm movements.
Tribal dancing does not have "primitive" sexual shaking of the hips, this is only done in Hollywood movies.
So, the origin of the Merengue is very similar to that of the "Cake Walk" dance of the American South.
The Peabody resembles a fast Foxtrot. Legend has it that the Peabody was created by a portly police or fire chief
- Captain Peabody - who was so overweight that he had to dance to the side of his partner, creating the style
which is so characteristic of the Peabody. It's primarily a dance with long, gliding steps. Dancers use many
intricate quick steps set against a figure called the "open box". It is popular in the larger ballrooms where dance
space is not a serious problem.
Polka is defined as a vivacious couple dance of Bohemian origin in duple time; was a basic pattern of hop-step-
close-step; a lively Bohemian dance tune in 2/4 time.
The polka was originally a Czech peasant dance, developed in Eastern Bohemia (now part of Czechoslovakia).
Bohemian historians believe that the polka was invented by a peasant girl (Anna Slezak, in Labska Tynice in
1834) one Sunday for her amusement. It was composed to a folk song "Strycek Nimra Koupil Simla (Uncle
Nimra brought a white horse)." Anna called the step "Madera" because of its quickness and liveliness.
The dance was first introduced into the ballrooms of Prague in 1835. The name of the dance (pulka) is Czech for
"half-step", referring to the rapid shift from one foot to the other.
In 1840, Raab, a dancing teach of Prague, danced the polka at the Odéon Theatre in Paris where it was a
tremendous success. Parisian dancing teachers seized on the new dance and refined it for their salons and
ballrooms. According to Cellarius, the famous French dancing master of the mid-nineteenth century: "What
young man is there, although formerly most opposed to dancing, whom the polka has not snatched from his
apathy to acquire, willy-nilly, a talent suddenly become indispensable?"
Polkamania resulted. Dance academies were swamped and in desperation recruited ballet girls from the Paris
Opéra as dancing partners to help teach the polka. This naturally attracted many young men who were interested
in things other than dancing, and manners and morals in the dance pavilions deteriorated. Dancing developed a
bad name and many parents forbade their daughters dancing with any but close friends of the family.
The polka was introduced in England by the middle of the nineteenth century. However, it did not achieve the
popularity it had achieved on the Continent. By this time, it had also reached the United States. Thomas Balch, in
his book Philadelphia Assemblies, reports that Breiter’s band composed a new polka for the occasion of the 1849
Assembly. It was evident the waltz and polka were gradually replacing the contredanse and cotillion.
The popularity of the polka led to the introduction of several other dances from central Europe. The simplest was
the galop or galoppade which was introduced into England and France in 1829. Dance position was the same as
for the waltz or polka, with couples doing a series of fast chassés about the room with occasional turns. Music
was in 2/4 time, often merely a fast polka. The galop was particularly popular as the final dance of the evening.
The polonaise, named for its country of origin, was a stately processional march in slow ¾ time, often used for
the opening of a fancy dress ball. However, it never achieved great popularity as a ballroom dance. The
Bohemian redowa consisted of three successive movements: a "pursuit" step, an ordinary waltz step, and a valse
à deux temps step. It was danced to a slow waltz. The Polish mazurka, a fairly complicated dance to waltz music,
included hops, sliding steps, and kicking the heels together. The schottische was a German folk dance that
consisted of a series of chassés and hops done to 2/4 and 4/4 music. There were also combination dances such as
the polka-redowa and polka-mazurka.
Of all the dances originating in the nineteenth-century, the only one that has survived is the polka. After the
initial enthusiasm, the polka gradually declined in popularity and reached a low point with the introduction of
ragtime, jazz, and the newer dances of the early twentieth century. After the Second World War, however, Polish
immigrants to the United States adopted the polka as their "national" dance. It is also extremely popular with
many other Americans who have succumbed to the new polka craze popularized by Lawrence Welk and other
For years to come, the polka will remain popular, with its variance in style from robust to smooth short, glide
steps and ever happy music. One of the most popular versions of the polka is the "heel and toe and away we go"
due to its ease to execute.
Polka is a popular dance in the country and western sector. Polka and schottische are competitive Country and
The word Rumba is a generic term, covering a variety of names (i.e., Son, Danzon, Guagira, Guaracha,
Naningo), for a type of West Indian music or dancing. The exact meaning varies from island to island.
There are two sources of the dances: one Spanish and the other African. Although the main growth was in Cuba,
there were similar dance developments which took place in other Caribbean islands and in Latin America
The "rumba influence" came in the 16th century with the black slaves imported from Africa. The native Rumba
folk dance is essentially a sex pantomime danced extremely fast with exaggerated hip movements and with a
sensually aggressive attitude on the part of the man and a defensive attitude on the part of the woman. The music
is played with a staccato beat in keeping with the vigorous expressive movements of the dancers. Accompanying
instruments include the maracas, the claves, the marimbola, and the drums.
As recently as the Second World War, the "Son" was the popular dance of middle class Cuba. It is a modified
slower and more refined version of the native Rumba. Still slower is the "Danzon", the dance of wealthy Cuban
society. Very small steps are taken, with the women producing a very subtle tilting of the hips by alternately
bending and straightening the knees.
The American Rumba is a modified version of the "Son". The first serious attempt to introduce the rumba to the
United States was by Lew Quinn and Joan Sawyer in 1913. Ten years later band leader Emil Coleman imported
some rumba musicians and a pair of rumba dancers to New York. In 1925 Benito Collada opened the Club El
Chico in Greenwich Village and found that New Yorkers did not know what Rumba was all about.
Real interest in Latin music began about 1929. In the late 1920's, Xavier Cugat formed an orchestra that
specialized in Latin American music. He opened at the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles and appeared in early
sound movies such as "In Gay Madrid". Later in the 1930's, Cugat played at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New
York. By the end of the decade he was recognized as having the outstanding Latin orchestra of the day.
In 1935, George Raft played the part of a suave dancer in the movie "Rumba", a rather superficial musical in
which the hero finally won the heiress (Carol Lombard) through the mutual love of dancing.
In Europe, the introduction of Latin American dancing (Rumba in particular) owed much to the enthusiasm and
interpretive ability of Monsieur Pierre (London's leading teacher in this dance form). In the 1930's with his
partner, Doris Lavelle, he demonstrated and popularized Latin American dancing in London.
Pierre and Lavelle introduced the true "Cuban Rumba" which was finally established after much argument, as the
official recognized version in 1955.
Rumba is the spirit and soul of Latin American music and dance. The fascinating rhythms and bodily expressions
make the Rumba one of the most popular ballroom dances.
History of Salsa
Salsa is not easily defined. Who invented salsa? The Cubans, Puerto Ricans? Salsa is a distillation of many Latin and
Afro-Caribbean dances. Each played a large part in its evolution.
Salsa is similar to Mambo in that both have a pattern of six steps danced over eight counts of music. The dances share
many of the same moves. In Salsa, turns have become an important feature, so the overall look and feel are quite
different form those of Mambo. Mambo moves generally forward and backward, whereas, Salsa has more of a side to
A look at the origin of Salsa
By: Jaime Andrés Pretell
It is not only Cuban; nevertheless we must give credit to Cuba for the origin and ancestry of creation. It is here where
Contra-Danze (Country Dance) of England/France, later called Danzón, which was brought by the French who fled
from Haiti, begins to mix itself with Rhumbas of African origin (Guaguanco, Colombia, Yambú). Add Són of the
Cuban people, which was a mixture of the Spanish troubadour (sonero) and the African drumbeats and flavora and a
partner dance flowered to the beat of the clave.
This syncretism also occurred in smaller degrees and with variations in other countries like the Dominican Republic,
Colombia, Puerto Rico, among others. Bands of these countries took their music to Mexico City in the era of the
famous films of that country (Perez Prado, most famous ...). Shortly after, a similar movement to New York occurred.
In these two cities, more promotion and syncretism occurred and more commercial music was generated because there
was more investment. New York created the term "Salsa", but it did not create the dance. The term became popular as
nickname to refer to a variety of different music, from several countries of Hispanic influence: Rhumba, Són Montuno,
Guaracha, Mambo, Cha cha cha, Danzón, Són, Guguanco, Cubop, Guajira, Charanga, Cumbia, Plena, Bomba, Festejo,
Merengue, among others. Many of these have maintained their individuality and many were mixed creating "Salsa".
If you are listening to today's Salsa, you are going to find the base of són, and you are going to hear Cumbia, and you
are going to hear Guaracha. You will also hear some old Merengue, built-in the rhythm of different songs. You will
hear many of the old styles somewhere within the modern beats. Salsa varies from site to site. In New York, for
example, new instrumentalization and extra percussion were added to some Colombian songs so that New Yorkers -
that dance mambo "on the two" - can feel comfortable dancing to the rhythm and beat of the song, because the original
arrangement is not one they easily recognize. This is called "finishing," to enter the local market. This "finish" does not
occur because the Colombian does not play Salsa, but it does not play to the rhythm of the Puerto Rican/Post-Cuban
Salsa. I say Post-Cuban, because the music of Cuba has evolved towards another new and equally flavorful sound.
Then, as a tree, Salsa has many roots and many branches, but one trunk that unites us all. The important thing is that
Salsa is played throughout the Hispanic world and has received influences of many places within it. It is of all of us and
it is a sample of our flexibility and evolution. If you think that a single place can take the credit for the existence of
Salsa, you are wrong. And if you think that one style of dance is better, imagine that the best dancer of a style, without
his partner, goes to dance with whomever he can find, in a club where a different style predominates. He wouldn't look
as good as the locals. Each dancer is accustomed to dance his/her own style. None is better, only different. ¡¡¡Viva la
variedad, ¡¡¡Viva la Salsa!!!
The Samba originated in Brazil. It was and is danced as a festival dance during the street festivals and
celebrations. First introduced in the U.S. in a Broadway play called "Street Carnival" in the late twenties. The
festive style and mood of the dance has kept it alive and popular to this day. Samba is a fun dance that fits most
of today's popular music.
History of Swing Dancing
By: Lori Heikkila
The history of swing dates back to the 1920's, where the black community, while dancing to contemporary Jazz
music, discovered the Charleston and the Lindy Hop.
On March 26, 1926, the Savoy Ballroom opened its doors in New York. The Savoy was an immediate success
with its block-long dance floor and a raised double bandstand. Nightly dancing attracted most of the best dancers
in the New York area. Stimulated by the presence of great dancers and the best black bands, music at the Savoy
was largely Swinging Jazz.
One evening in 1927, following Lindbergh's flight to Paris, a local dance enthusiast named "Shorty George"
Snowden was watching some of the dancing couples. A newspaper reporter asked him what dance they were
doing, and it just so happened that there was a newspaper with an article about Lindbergh's flight sitting on the
bench next to them. The title of the article read, "Lindy Hops the Atlantic," and George just sort of read that and
said, "Lindy Hop" and the name stuck.
In the mid 1930's, a bouncy six beat variant was named the Jitterbug by the band leader Cab Calloway when he
introduced a tune in 1934 entitled "Jitterbug".
With the discovery of the Lindy Hop and the Jitterbug, the communities began dancing to the contemporary Jazz
and Swing music as it was evolving at the time, with Benny Goodman leading the action. Dancers soon
incorporated tap and jazz steps into their dancing.
In the mid 1930's, Herbert White, head bouncer in the New York City Savoy Ballroom, formed a Lindy Hop
dance troupe called Whitey's Lindy Hoppers. One of the most important members of Whitey's Lindy Hoppers
was Frankie Manning. The "Hoppers" were showcased in the following films: "A Day at the Races" (1937),
"Hellzapoppin" (1941), "Sugar Hill Masquerade" (1942), and "Killer Diller" (1948).
In 1938, the Harvest Moon Ball included Lindy Hop and Jitterbug competition for the first time. It was captured
on film and presented for everyone to see in the Paramount, Pathe, and Universal movie newsreels between 1938
In early 1938, Dean Collins arrived in Hollywood. He learned to dance the Lindy Hop, Jitterbug, Lindy and
Swing in New York City and spent a lot of time in Harlem and the Savoy Ballroom. Between 1941 and 1960,
Collins danced in, or helped choreograph over 100 movies which provided at least a 30 second clip of some of
the best California white dancers performing Lindy Hop, Jitterbug, Lindy and Swing.
In the late 1930's and through the 1940's, the terms Lindy Hop, Jitterbug, Lindy, and Swing were used
interchangeably by the news media to describe the same style of dancing taking place on the streets, in the night
clubs, in contests, and in the movies.
By the end of 1936, the Lindy was sweeping the United States. As might be expected, the first reaction of most
dancing teachers to the Lindy was a chilly negative. In 1936 Philip Nutl, president of the American Society of
Teachers of Dancing, expressed the opinion that swing would not last beyond the winter. In 1938 Donald Grant,
president of the Dance Teachers' Business Association, said that swing music "is a degenerated form of jazz,
whose devotees are the unfortunate victims of economic instability." In 1942 members of the New York Society
of Teachers of Dancing were told that the jitterbug (a direct descendent of the Lindy Hop), could no longer be
ignored. Its "cavortings" could be refined to suit a crowded dance floor.
The dance schools such as The New York Society of Teachers and Arthur Murray, did not formally begin
documenting or teaching the Lindy Hop, Jitterbug, Lindy, and Swing until the early 1940's. The ballroom dance
community was more interested in teaching the foreign dances such as the Argentine Tango, Spanish Paso
Doblé, Brazilian Samba, Puerto Rican Merengue, Cuban Mambo and Cha Cha, English Quickstep, Austrian
Waltz, with an occasional American Fox-trot and Peabody.
In the early 1940's the Arthur Murray studios looked at what was being done on the dance floors in each city and
directed their teachers to teach what was being danced in their respective cities. As a result, the Arthur Murray
Studios taught different styles of undocumented Swing in each city.
In the early 1940's, Lauré Haile, as a swing dancer and competitor, documented what she saw being danced by
the white community. At that time, Dean Collins was leading the action with Lenny Smith and Lou Southern in
the night clubs and competitions in Southern California. Lauré Haile gave it the name of "Western Swing". She
began teaching for Arthur Murray in 1945. Dean Collins taught Arthur Murray teachers in Hollywood and San
Francisco in the late 1940's and early 1950's.
After the late 1940's, the soldiers and sailors returned from overseas and continued to dance in and around their
military bases. Jitterbug was danced to Country-Western music in Country Western bars, and popularized in the
As the music changed between the 1920's and 1990's, (Jazz, Swing, Bop, Rock 'n' Roll, Rhythm & Blues, Disco,
Country), the Lindy Hop, Jitterbug, Lindy, and Swing evolved across the U.S. with many regional styles. The
late 1940's brought forth many dances that evolved from Rhythm & Blues music: the Houston Push and Dallas
whip (Texas), the Imperial Swing (St. Louis), the D.C. Hand Dancing (Washington), and the Carolina Shag
(Carolinas and Norfolk) were just a few.
In 1951 Lauré Haile first published her dance notes as a syllabus, which included Western Swing for the Santa
Monica Arthur Murray Dance Studio. In the 50's she presented her syllabus in workshops across the U.S. for the
Arthur Murray Studios. The original Lauré Haile Arthur Murray Western Swing Syllabus has been taught by
Arthur Murray studios with only minor revisions for the past 44 years.
From the mid 1940's to today, the Lindy Hop, Jitterbug, Lindy, and Swing, were stripped down and distilled by
the ballroom dance studio teachers in order to adapt what they were teaching to the less nimble-footed general
public who paid for dance lessons. As a result, the ballroom dance studios bred and developed a ballroom East
Coast Swing and ballroom West Coast Swing.
In the late 1950's, television brought "American Bandstand", "The Buddy Dean Show" and other programs to the
teenage audiences. The teenagers were rocking with Elvis Presley, Little Richard, and Chuck Berry leading the
fray. In 1959, some of the California dance organizations, with Skippy Blair setting the pace, changed the name
of Western Swing to West Coast Swing so it would not be confused with country and western dancing.
In the 1990's, dancers over 60 years of age still moving their Lindy Hoppin', Jitterbuggin', Swingin', and Shaggin'
Savoy Swing: a style of Swing popular in the New York Savoy Ballroom in the 30's and 40's originally danced
to Swing music. The Savoy style of swing is a very fast, jumpy, casual-looking style of dancing
Lindy style is a smoother-looking dance.
West Coast Swing: a style of Swing emphasizing nimble feet popular in California night clubs in the 30's and
40's and voted the California State Dance in 1989.
Whip: a style of Swing popular in Houston, Texas, emphasizing moves spinning the follower between dance
positions with a wave rhythm break.
Push: a style of swing popular in Dallas, Texas, emphasizing moves spinning the follower between dance
positions with a rock rhythm break.
Supreme Swing: a style of Swing popular in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Imperial Swing: a style of Swing popular in St. Louis, Missouri.
Carolina Shag: a style of Swing popular in the Carolinas emphasizing the leader's nimble feet.
DC Hand Dancing: a Washington, DC synthesis of Lindy and Swing.
East Coast Swing: a 6 count style of Lindy popular in the ballroom dance school organizations.
Ballroom West Coast Swing: a style of swing popular in the ballroom dance school organizations and different
from the style performed in the California night clubs and Swing dance clubs.
Country-Western Swing: a style of Jitterbug popularized during the 1980's and danced to Country and Western
Cajun Swing: a Louisiana Bayou style of Lindy danced to Cajun music.
Pony Swing: a Country Western style of Cajun Swing.
Jive: the International Style version of the dance is called Jive, and it is danced competitively in the US and all
over the world.
By Lori Heikkila
Tango (the dance with the stop "Baille Con Carte") is one of the most fascinating of all dances. Originating in
Spain or Morocco, the Tango was introduced to the New World by the Spanish settlers, eventually coming back
to Spain with Black and Creole influences.
In the early 19th Century, the Tango was a solo dance performed by the woman. The Andalusian Tango was later
done by one or two couples walking together using castanets. The dance was soon considered immoral with its
Ballroom Tango originated in the lower class of Buenos Aires, especially in the "Bario de las Ranas". Clothing
was dictated by full skirts for the woman and gauchos with high boots and spurs for the man.
The story of Tango as told is that it started with the gauchos of Argentina. They wore chaps that had hardened
from the foam and sweat of the horse’s body. Hence to gauchos walked with knees flexed. They would go to the
crowded night clubs and ask the local girls to dance. Since the gaucho hadn't showered, the lady would dance in
the crook of the man's right arm, holding her head back. Her right hand was held low on his left hip, close to his
pocket, looking for a payment for dancing with him. The man danced in a curving fashion because the floor was
small with round tables, so he danced around and between them.
The dance spread throughout Europe in the 1900's. Originally popularized in New York in the winter of 1910 -
1911, Rudolph Valentino then made the Tango a hit in 1921.
As time elapsed and the music became more subdued, the dance was finally considered respectable even in
Styles vary in Tango: Argentine, French, Gaucho and International. Still, Tango has become one of our
American 'Standards' regardless of its origin. The Americanized version is a combination of the best parts of
each. The principals involved are the same for any good dancing. First, the dance must fit the music. Second, it
must contain the basic characteristic that sets it apart from other dances. Third, it must be comfortable and
pleasing to do.
Phrasing is an important part of Tango. Most Tango music phrased to 16 or 32 beats of music. Tango music is
like a story. It contains paragraphs (Major phrases); sentences (Minor phrases); and the period at the end of the
sentence is the Tango close.
For exhibition dancing, a Tango dancer must develop a strong connection with the music, the dance and the
audience. The audience can only feel this connection if the performer feels and projects this feeling. So it is when
dancing for your own pleasure -- and your partner's!
"The Tango is the easiest dance. If you make a mistake and get tangled up, you just Tango on." (Al Pacino in
"The Scent of a Woman.") Movies that featured Tango dancing include "The Scent of a Woman", Madonna's
"Evita" and "True Lies" starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis
The song "The Twist" was written by Hank Ballard in 1959. He and his boys made up some twisting movements
for the boys to do while playing music. Then in 1960, Chubby Checkers' twist record reached #1 on US charts
and made the Twist (rock and roll dance) famous.
By: Lori Heikkila
Colorful flowing ball gowns! Tails! Weddings! Beautiful music! Strong melodies!
Waltz: from the old German word walzen to roll, turn, or to glide.
Waltz: a ballroom dance in 3/4 time with strong accent on the first beat and a basic pattern of step-step-close.
Waltz: to move or glide in a lively or conspicuous manner (to advance easily and successfully).
Waltz: a dance born in the suburbs of Vienna and in the alpine region of Austria. As early as the seventeenth
century, waltzes were played in the ballrooms of the Hapsburg court. The Weller, or turning dances, was danced
by peasants in Austria and Bavaria even before that time. Many of the familiar waltz tunes can be traced back to
simple peasant yodeling melodies.
During the middle of the eighteenth century, the allemande form of the waltz was very popular in France.
Originally danced as one of the figures in the contredanse, with arms intertwining at shoulder level, it soon
became an independent dance and the close-hold was introduced. By the end of the eighteenth century, this old
Austrian peasant dance had been accepted by high society, and three-quarter rhythm was here to stay.
However popular the waltz, opposition was not lacking. Dancing masters saw the waltz as a threat to the
profession. The basic steps of the waltz could be learned in relatively short time, whereas, the minuet and other
court dances required considerable practice, not only to learn the many complex figures, but also to develop
suitable postures and deportment.
The waltz was also criticized on moral grounds by those opposed to its closer hold and rapid turning movements.
Religious leaders almost unanimously regarded it as vulgar and sinful. Continental court circles held out
obstinately against the waltz. In England, (a land of strict morals), the waltz was accepted even more slowly.
In July of 1816, the waltz was included in a ball given in London by the Prince Regent. A blistering editorial in
The Times a few days later stated:
"We remarked with pain that the indecent foreign dance called the Waltz was introduced (we believe for the first
time) at the English court on Friday last ... it is quite sufficient to cast one's eyes on the voluptuous intertwining
of the limbs and close compressure on the bodies in their dance, to see that it is indeed far removed from the
modest reserve which has hitherto been considered distinctive of English females. So long as this obscene
display was confined to prostitutes and adulteresses, we did not think it deserving of notice; but now that it is
attempted to be forced on the respectable classes of society by the civil examples of their superiors, we feel it a
duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion."
Even as late as 1866 an article in the English magazine Belgravia stated:
"We who go forth of nights and see without the slightest discomposure our sister and our wife seized on by a
strange man and subjected to violent embraces and canterings round a small-sized apartment - the only apparent
excuse for such treatment being that is done to the sound of music - can scarcely realize the horror which greeted
the introduction of this wicked dance."
A lot of the disapproval was voiced by the older generation, but seldom mentioned is the fact the reigning Queen
(Victoria) was a keen and expert ballroom dancer with a special love of the waltz!
But as history repeats itself over and over again, the antagonism only served to increase the popularity of the
waltz. The bourgeoisie took it up enthusiastically immediately after the French revolution. Paris alone had nearly
seven hundred dance halls! A German traveler to Paris in 1804 stated, "This love for the waltz and this adoption
of the German dance is quite new and has become one of the vulgar fashions since the war, like smoking."
Reportedly, the first time the waltz was danced in the United States was in Boston in 1834. Lorenzo Papanti, a
Boston dancing master, gave an exhibition in Mrs. Otis' Beacon Hill mansion. Social leaders were aghast at what
they called "an indecorous exhibition." By the middle of the nineteenth century, the waltz was firmly established
in United States society.
Music plays an important role in dance, and every dance is dependent upon the availability of the appropriate
music. The waltz was given a tremendous boost around 1830 by two great Austrian composers - Franz Lanner
and Johann Strauss. These two composers were by far the most popular during the nineteenth century: they set
the standard for the Viennese Waltz, (a very fast version of the waltz). By 1900, a typical dance program was
three quarter waltzes and one quarter all other dances combined.
Around the close of the nineteenth century, two modifications of the waltz were developed. The first was the
Boston, a slower waltz with long gliding steps. Although the Boston disappeared with the First World War, it did
stimulate development of the English or International style which continues today. The second was the
hesitation, which involves taking one step to three beats of the measure. Hesitation steps are still widely used in
Fortunately, the violent opposition faded out and the Waltz weathered an exciting and varied career, emerging
today in two accepted forms, both reflecting the main characteristics of the dance. They are known as the
Modern Waltz and the Viennese (Quick) Waltz.
Western Dance History
History of Country Western Dancing
by Lori Heikkila
Dance, along with music, has always dynamically expressed the spirit and personality of every culture. Modern
western dance is part of this global language and its roots run wide and deep. They can be traced to the taverns of
Ireland and to the ballrooms of Europe, to the Czarist palaces of Russia and further back still to the fluid tribal
rituals of Africa. Representatives from all of these cultures brought their native dances when they landed in
America. Widely differing peoples who had little or no exposure to one another gathered and danced on common
The cowboy was not the most limber of creatures. The long hours in the saddle and strenuous work produced
dancers of questionable finesse. He was not of a temperament to master intricate dance steps or to gracefully lead
a fair maiden across the floor to the strains of a fiddler's reel. Rather he would join a dance with a wild whoop
and a goat cry. Joseph McCoy, the first great cattle baron, wrote in 1874 that the cowboy "usually enters the
dance with a peculiar zest, his eyes lit up with excitement, liquor and lust. He stomps in without stopping to
divest himself of his sombrero, spurs or pistols." This dance style was not so much original as it was a
spontaneous adaptation of traditional moves brought west by various immigrant cultures.
Puritanical thought, religious prohibitions and traditional customs firmly established the in East began to move
West with the pioneers. Worldly pleasures such as dancing were often frowned upon, and when not altogether
banned, were designed to keep contact and spontaneity at a minimum. Consequently, it was the minuet, cotillion,
pattern dances, courtly processions, and "safe" folk dances that were favored by the early settlers.
The open unexplored spaces of the West both shaped the character and determined the interaction of its settlers.
People organized barn dances, husking and quilting bees, cowboy balls and get-togethers. Invitation was by word
of mouth and those who heard usually came to dance. To prevent chaos from dominating the dance floor (few
people knew the same steps), a figure who soon became legendary emerged. This hero was the caller and it was
his job to orchestrate the heterogeneous crowd into harmonious movement.
Working with the steps of formal quadrilles and folk dances, he added a "cowboy waltz" position and helped
promote the square dance. This new hybrid was considerably more casual that the traditions from which it
derived, but it still inhibited the young who were ready for a dance that would add a more intimate hold on their
A new dance called the Polka started moving West. Having "the intimacy of the Waltz and the vivacity of the
Irish jig", the Polka was embraced with enthusiasm.
The western population included such groups as Poles, Germans, French, Irish, Jews, Scandinavians, Czechs and
Russians and each still enjoyed their own folk dances, but many found common refuge in the polka. New hybrids
were also developed, creating offspring such as the Varsouvianna and the Two Step. German settlers in El Paso,
Texas developed the Schottische and line dances which were important precursors of modern western dances
such as the Cotton-Eyed Joe.
Folks gathered just about anywhere to dance -- on ranches, in barns, in the wide open spaces under the stars.
Slowly a dance that was specifically "western" began to evolve. Novelty moves and styles popular in Appalachia
and the South came west and were absorbed by the new settlers. The freed Black Americans in particular exerted
a stylistic influence that can still be seen in today's country swing dance. However, the most important influence
came from the cowboy!
The cowboy paid little attention to traditional dance forms. One observer commented in 1873, that "some
punchers danced like a bear 'round a beehive that was afraid of getting stung. Others didn't seem to know how to
handle a calico, and got as rough as they do handlin' cattle in brandin' pens."
The swing of the leg when dismounting from a horse became a mighty Polka gallop. Women were handled as if
the cowboy were throwing a beating calf to the ground to be branded. Heavy army issue boots contributed to
crude footwork. The habit of wearing spurs even on the dance floor forced the cowboy to keep his feet apart and
shuffle as he moved to the music. Several of these cowboy mannerisms, although tamed, survive in today's
modern western dance. The "double arms over" move is reminiscent of the final "tying off" of a calf's legs prior
to branding. The basic "push pull" position recaptures the rhythm of grasping the reins.
The beginning of the twentieth century brought new music and dance. In the middle of this explosion was the
Black American. Their principal source of relaxation and entertainment had been their music and dance. In the
old South, contests were frequently held on the plantation to see "who owned the fastest dancer." Fascinated and
envious of the rhythmic freedom of Blacks, Whites later "corked up" in black face and toured the country.
By the turn of the century carnivals, minstrel shows, medicine shows and eventually vaudeville routines
frequently showcased Black dancers or White imitators. The Black dance style was referred to as "jazz" or
"eccentric dancing". These fast, gyrating, acrobatic and tap dances had names like the Turkey Trot, Grizzly Bear,
Kangaroo Dip and Chicken Scratch. Black dance was viewed as a novelty, sometimes ridiculed, but the intricate
footwork and fluid motions of Black performers were slowly seeping into America's dance repertoire.
By 1916, two years after the War began, New Orleans jazz was in full bloom. Just one year later historian
Bernard Grun proclaimed Chicago the "world's jazz center". Inspired by the improvisational elements in jazz,
couples began to experiment on the dance floor: They separated, broke apart, twirled, and jigged.
Throughout the 1920's, radio brought music to the whole nation. Chicago radio station WLS began broadcasting
the "National Barn Dance" in 1924. A year later the now famous "Grand Ole Opry" from Nashville was initiated.
In the late 1920's, George "Shorty" Snowden brought the entire Savoy Ballroom audience to its feet with his
rapid, break-away solo steps. Charles Lindbergh had crossed the Atlantic in 1927 in one dramatic "hop", and
when Snowden was asked what his dance was called, he replied, the "Lindy Hop".
In 1938 Benny Goodman ushered in a new jazz style. His big band swing sound was listened to around the world
and soon the Lindy Hop gave birth to the Jitterbug, a fast moving combination of fancy footwork and elaborate
spins, twirls and turns, many of which can still be seen in contemporary country swing moves.
One of the many fascinated listeners out West was Bob Wills. When jazz hit, Bob was struck. Eventually he
formed his own western big band and helped create a genre of music known as western swing. Today's modern
country swing dance derives directly from the music Wills played and the way people danced to it.
A new musical tempo could be heard after the Second Word War. Be-bop, a kind of wild and dizzying swing
offshoot popular in big cities quickly gave birth to "pop" music. Rockabilly arrived in the '50's and by the middle
of the decade had become known as rock 'n roll.
Rock 'n roll was music of the '50's, but the dance that accompanied it was very similar to Jitterbug and Swing.
The style of dance changed dramatically in the early 1960's where partners were couples only in name and where
each allowed his body to dance directly to the sounds, lights and strobes.
Couple dancing regained popularity in the mid 1970's with the emergence of Disco. In the late 1970's as Disco
died and country music continued to rise in rapid popularity, a resurgence of interest in western dance emerged.
Older dancers suddenly became models for a new generation.
Now that swing is back, people are dancing into the 90's with a smile, a hat and a friendly attitude!