Social Dances & Their Histories
Rumba (circa 1914)
Tango (circa 1914)
Argentine Tango History
Samba (circa 1939)
Mambo/Salsa (circa 1944)
History of Salsa
Cha Cha (circa 1950)
Merengue (circa 1957)
Origins of Merengue
Bossa Nova (circa 1961)
2. BALLROOM Dances
Waltz (circa 1913)
Fox Trot (circa 1913)
Polka (circa 1835)
3. SWING Dances
Swing (circa 1950)
History of Swing Dancing
Hustle (circa 1972)
Rumba (circa 1914)
Originally this dance was done for amusement on farms in Cuba. The music has a seductive charm and when danced correctly the Rumba is as smooth as the Fox Trot. It became a popular ballroom dance and was introduced to the U.S. in about 1914. It is in 4/4 time, using hesitations in weight shifts that create hips to sway side to side. The purpose of learning this dance is for rhythm.
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 generally.
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.
Tango (circa 1914)
The history of the Tango can be traced back to the countyr-dance of the 17th century England. As each country learned to dance from their neighboring country they would take it back and make it their own. The chronology is as follows:
1650 Country Dance England
1700 Contre Danse France
1750 Contra Danse Spain
1800 Danza Spain
1825 Danza Haganera Cuba
1900 Habanera del Cafe
** Latin American Ballroom Tango is danced in 4/4 time.** The purpose of learning this dance is for control.
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 Adualisian Tango was later done by one or two couples walking together using castanets. The dance was soon considered immoral with its flirting music!
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 horses 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 Argentina.
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 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 turns.
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.
My references are mainly from Maria Carmen Silingo's books 1, 2, 3, and 4. She is a Profesora (accredited teacher) of Tango Argentino in Buenos Aires. Based on the very few historical records left to trace the roots of the Argentine Tango, most of the historical information contained in Silingo's books are from newspapers, books and her family roots and connection to the Argentine Tango music.
Samba (circa 1939)
This Brazilian dance was first introduced in 1917. The style is to bounce steadily and smoothly in 2/4 time. It was first introduced to the U.S. in 1939 by Carmen Miranda. The purpose of learning this dance is for flexibility.
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.
Mambo/Salsa (circa 1944)
The fusion of swing and Cuban Music produced this rhythm and in turn created a new dance. It may be described as a riff or a rumba with emphasis on the 4th beat in 4/4 time. This dance was made popular again in the 1980's by the movie Dirty Dancing. The purpose of learning this dance is for agility.
Can Mambo recapture the glory of its golden days? Can the flashy Cuban dance step find a new following in the 1990's?
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 "Mambo."
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 much.
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 side feel.
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!!!
Salsa Rueda (Circa 1950)
What is Casino Rueda?
During the late 1950's in Cuba, there was a popular dance that was done in the streets and in the clubs, and in peoples' homes. It was called Casino Rueda, or Rueda de Casino, or simply Rueda.
Rueda simply means "wheel". Casino refers to the kinds of turns and breaks you might normally see in ordinary partner Salsa Dancing. What makes Rueda unique is that the dancing is done in the "wheel", as a group, with the "followers" being passed in the wheel, rapid exchanging of partners, and many complicated moves -- sometimes done as wheels within wheels -- and all done in time with "hot" Salsa music. Each move, or "call", has a name, and is called by a leader of the Rueda, sometimes in very quick succession. Many of the moves also have hand signals as well as names, in order to be able to dance in a loud club setting. The Rueda can be as small as two couples, or as large as a space can hold -- as many as a hundred couples.
When dancing Rueda, there is a new group dynamic that happens. What is not obvious when watching Rueda, is the new level of awareness required to have a group dance flow smoothly, and look sharp AND keep it fun! Dancers learn to open their sphere of awareness, their peripheral vision, beyond the normal restricted "bubble" of solo or partner dancing. In this way, dancers coordinate and adjust their individual feel and timing and style so as to make the Rueda "click". When this happens, it is very exciting indeed! A unique group feeling develops, and you can feel the whole wheel ebb and flow, and "breathe" to this wonderful AfroCuban/LatinAmerican music. The result is an exciting Dance, exciting to do, exciting to watch!
The form of the Rueda -- passing partners in a wheel -- may reflect some influence of French Court Dances (brought to Cuba by Haitians), blended with the Afro-Cuban movements. With Cuban emigration to the US -- mainly into Miami -- the Cuban culture, music and dance blossomed, and, along with Mambo, ChaCha, and "Salsa", Rueda re-emerged and became popular in the Miami clubs in the 1970s and 1980s.
The Rueda Syllabus -- There are nearly 120 patterns listed
here in the Rueda syllabus that we will be teaching over time. Most of these
can be danced on a regular basis as club Salsa patterns, which is a great
way to increase your Salsa repertoire.
Dile que No
Adios con la Hermana
Siete (7) Doble
Siete (7) por Debajo
Exibe dos con Uno
Enchufla al Medio con Dos
Enchufa pa' Arriba
Dame con las Manos
Pa' Ti Pa' Mi
Vacilen los Dos
Dedo, Guarapo y Bota
Dedo con Derrumbe
Dame con Coca Cola
Siete con Coca Cola
Setenta (70) complicado Derecho y alreves
Enchufla y Casate
Pasea y Complicate
Juana la Cubana
Juana la Mexicana
Tocale la T
Enchufa y Puente
EL Uno Complicado
Siete (7) Loco
el Sabor de Raul
Siete Sententa (7 - 70)
Three Way Stop
Dame y no La Llegues
Sombrero por Debajo
Setenta (70) Nuevo
Siete (7) Loco Complicado
Beso por Debajo
Sombrero de Regnier
Sombrero de Regnier
Dedo por Debajo
Enchufla con Bikini
Setenta (70) Doble
Setenta con Las Manos
Ochenta y Ocho (88)
Cha Cha (circa 1950)
It was triple mambo which produced a cha cha cha sound. Cha Cha is an advanced stage in interpretive social dancing, born of the fusion of progressive American and Latin music. The purpose of learning this dance is for weight change.
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 beat.
Merengue (circa 1957)
There are 2 forms of merengue. The haitian merengue and the Dominican merengue. The dance of the Dominican Republic is 2/4 time with syncopation of the 1st beat interpreted by dancers as a slight limp. The purpose of learning this dance is for cuban motion.
by Lori Heikkila
The Merengue is the national dance of the Dominican Republic, and also to some extent, of Haiti, the neighbour sharing the island.
There are two popular versions of the 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 American, 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.
The origin of this dance, according to the Dominicans themselves, from a program shown on TV "SANTO DOMINGO INVITA".
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.
Bossa Nova (circa 1961)
The music of the Bossa Nova comes from Brazil. The dance originated in Carnegie Hall, and is nothing more than salon samba, meaning a faked version of the true Samba. This dance is a combination of Rumba and Samba. The purpose of learning this dance is for timing.
Waltz (circa 1913)
Waltz dates back to late 17th century Europe. It originated in Italy as a round dance called the "Volte". Since then it has changed very much, each succeeding decade has added something to it's charm. It was adapted in the U.S. as the hesitation waltz around 1913. It is done in 3/4 time. The steps are smooth and gliding, and include many turns. The purpose of learning this dance is for balance.
by: Lori Heikkila
Colorful flowing ballgowns! 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, were 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 today's waltz.
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.
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 Trot."
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.
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.
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 post-war bands.
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 Western dances.
Swing (circa 1950)
A hodge podge of several American dances (lindy, ragtime, jazz and blues). Today it generally refers to the ballroom version that is based on the slow and 2 quick counts of rhythm dances. It is done in 4/4 time. The purpose of learning this dance is for agility.
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 and 1951.
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 1980's.
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' feet.
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 music.
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.
Hustle (circa 1972)
This is a dance created in the discos of the U.S. The dance was popularized by the move "Saturday Night Fever". It's roots are taken from the swing. Danced in 4/4 time.
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.
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
The Twist was written by a bandleader in Georgia. He and his boys made up some twisting movements for the boys to do while playing music. Then in 1960, Chubby Checkers made his twist record and made the Twist famous.
Western dance history
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 ground.
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 partner.
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!