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December 22, 2006

History of the Waltz

The Waltz is the oldest of the ballroom dances, dating from the middle of the Eighteenth Century. The German "Lander", a folk dance, is supposed to be the forerunner of the Waltz. During this time period a dance developed which was called the "Walzer", a word owing its origin to the Latin word Volvere, which indicates a rotating motion. Napoleon's invading solders spread the waltz from Germany to Paris; then the dance glided across the channel to England and finally made its way to the United States.

When the Waltz was first introduced into the ballrooms of the world in the early years of the Nineteenth Century, it was met with outraged indignation, for it was the first dance where the couple danced in a modified Closed Position - with the man's hand around the waist of the lady.

Beginning about 1830, the waltz was given a tremendous boost by two Austrian composers Lanner and Strauss. They set the standard for the Viennese Waltz, a very fast version played at about 55 - 60 measures per minute. The fast tempo did indeed present problems. Much of the enjoyment of the new dance was lost in the continual strain to keep up with the music.

It is not known exactly when the waltz was introduced to the United States. It was probably brought to New York and Philadelphia at about the same time, and by the middle of the Nineteenth Century was firmly established in United States society.

During the later part of the Nineteenth Century, Waltzes were being written to a slower tempo than the original Viennese rhythm. Around the close of the Nineteenth Century, two modifications of the waltz developed in the United States. The first was the "Boston", a slower waltz with long gliding steps; there were fewer and slower turns and more forward and backward movement than in the Viennese Waltz. This version eventually stimulated the development of the English or International Style which continues today. The American Style Waltz is similar to the International Style except the American Style has open dance positions and the dancers legs pass instead of close. The second modification was the "Hesitation Waltz", which involves taking one step to three beats of the measure. Although the "Hesitation Waltz" is no longer danced, some of it's step patterns are still in use today.

Today both the faster Viennese Waltz, made forever popular by the Strauss family, and the slower American and International style waltzes are extremely popular today with dancers of all ages.

Reprinted with permission of Ron & Rebecca Kellen & Bogie of the Mile High Ballroom of Prescott, AZ

History of the Viennese Waltz

The age of the minuet was followed by that of the Waltz. As the French Revolution approached, the minuet, a form that exuded the essence of earlier decades, died a natural death. The English country dances, expressing the self-satisfaction of the bourgeoisie, fared little better. The young people, whose preferences led the way in creating new forms, had lived through the revolutionary events of the 1780s and '90s. They now looked to dance as a way to unleash deeper emotion, to satisfy the needs of body and soul, and to mobilize more vital and dynamic expression than that permitted by the sober and decorous rules of the dancing masters. The overflow of feeling and the striving for horizons broader than those understood by the traditional canons of French Rationalism were among the factors that generated the Romantic movement in the arts of Europe. This new direction was clearly expressed in the Waltz, a dance filled with the Dionysian spirit.

The Waltz started as a turning dance of couples. It was especially popular in south Germany and Austria, where it was known under such different names as Dreher, ländler, and Deutscher. More than any other dance it appeared to represent some of the abstract values of the new era, the ideals of freedom, character, passion, and expressiveness. This may explain somewhat its eruption into the limelight of international popularity. This popularity was scaled in 1787 when it was brought to operatic stage. Vienna became the city of the Waltz, for there it surpassed everything in wild fury. It swept over national frontiers, and in 1804 the French were reported to be passionately in love with this light, gliding dance. "A Waltz, another Waltz" was the common cry from the ballroom floor, for the French could not get enough of the dance.

Some guardians of the public morality disapproved of the "mad whirling" of the Waltz and it did not arrive in England until 1812. At the Prussian court in Berlin it was forbidden until 1818, though Queen Luise had danced it while still a princess in 1794. The guardians could do no more than delay its total victory, and it conquered the world without sanction of courts, of dancing masters, or of other powers. After many centuries of leadership, France no longer set the fashions. In 1819 Carl Maria von Weber's Invitation to the Dance represented the declaration of love of classical music to the Waltz. Shortly thereafter began the age of the Viennese Waltz kings, most notably expressed by the Strauss family.

Reprinted with permission of Ron & Rebecca Kellen & Bogie of the Mile High Ballroom of Prescott, AZ

History of the Tango

The deep roots of Tango lie in African slavery. The Tango is a mixture of dances peculiar to Blacks in Haiti, Cuba and Argentina. Both the music and the dance were intense and erotic. Tango was first danced in Europe before World War I. It originates from Buenos Aires (Argentina) where it was first danced in the ghetto of Buenos Aires. It was then known under the name of "Baile con corte" (dance with a rest). During the Spanish American War, a popular dance called the "Habanera del Cafe" appeared which was the prototype of the Tango. The "dandies" of Buenos Aires changed the dance in two ways. First they changed the so-called "Polka rhythm" to the "Habanere rhythm" and secondly they called it "Tango".

In 1907 the dance was introduced in France; by 1912 it crossed the channel to England. The dance was so popular in France and England that Tango teas became the rage. It was danced in the United States first by the Castles who elevated it to a dance accepted in any ballroom, by purifying it of its coarse associations and turning it into a thing of beauty. The Broadway show, Tango Argentino, helped to rekindle enthusiasm for this exciting, sensual dance.

The image so often associated with Tango is that of a cat stalking its prey. This is, however, no tame pussycat; imagine the sensual movement of a wild tiger and you begin to approximate the correct movement. Tango is not as flowing as Foxtrot or Waltz; it has an intense staccato quality that makes it unique. It is a dance of stops yet it is also a smooth, fluid dance.

There are essentially three types of Tango - Argentine, American and International Style.

Argentine Tango: A dance created by the Gauchos in Buenos Aires was actually an attempt on their part to imitate the Spanish dance "Danza" except that they danced it in a closed ballroom position.

American Tango: Unlike the Argentine Tango, in which the dancer interprets the music spontaneously without any predetermined slows or quicks, the American Tango features a structure which is correlated to the musical phrasing. The dance is executed both in closed position and in various types of extravagant dance relationships which incorporate a particular freedom of expression that is not present in the International style.

International Tango: This is a highly disciplined and distinctively structured form of the Tango which is accepted worldwide as the format for Dancesport events. The dancers remain in traditional closed position throughout and expresses both the legato and staccato aspects of the music.

The Tango has continued to enjoy undiminished favor throughout the United States.

Reprinted with permission of Ron & Rebecca Kellen & Bogie of the Mile High Ballroom of Prescott, AZ

History of the Samba

Samba, an old Brazilian style of dance with many variations, is African in origin. It has been performed as a street dance at carnival, the pre-Lenten celebration, for almost 100 years. Many versions of the Samba (from Baion to Marcha) are danced at the local carnival in Rio. The ballroom Samba or Carioca Samba is derived from the rural "Rocking Samba" and has been known for many years. (The Carioca is a small river that runs through Rio de Janiero - hence the name Carioca refers to the people of Rio.) Today Samba is still very popular in Rio. During carnival time there are "schools of Samba" involving thousands of elaborately-costumed dancers presenting a national theme based on music typical of Brazil and Rio in particular.

Before 1914 it was known under a Brazilian name "Maxixe". As early as 1923 an international meeting of professors of dancing took note of the rise of the Samba's popularity, particularly in France. A French dance book published by Paul Boucher in 1928 included Samba instructions. The dance was introduced to United States movie audiences in 1933 when Fred Astaire and Dolores Del Rio danced the Carioca in Flying Down to Rio and several years later, Carmen Miranda danced the Samba in That Night in Rio. A Samba exhibition was given at the November 1938 meeting of the New York Society of Teachers of Dancing. General interest in the Samba was stimulated at the 1939 World's Fair in New York, where Samba music was played at the Brazilian Pavilion. A few years later the Brazilian composer Ary Barroso wrote the classic Samba, "Brasil," which quickly became a hit, and in 1944 he went to Hollywood to write the score for the musical Brazil.

Samba has a very specific rhythm, highlighted to its best by characteristic Brazilian musical instruments: originally called tamborim, chocalho, reco-reco and cabaca. Much of Samba music came from daily life in Rio, the first famous example being "Pelo Telefone" composed by Donga. To achieve the true character of the Samba a dancer must give it a happy, flirtatious and exuberant interpretation. Many figures, used in the Samba today, require a pelvic tilt (Samba tic) action. This action is difficult to accomplish, but without it the dance loses much of its effect. Principal characteristics of the Samba are the rapid steps taken on a quarter of a beat and the pronounced rocking motion and sway of the dancing couple.

The Samba (also known as the Brazilian Waltz) is now a moderately popular ballroom dance, limited pretty much to experienced ballroom dancers because of its speed.

Reprinted with permission of Ron & Rebecca Kellen & Bogie of the Mile High Ballroom of Prescott, AZ

History of the Rumba

The dance known in the United States as the Rumba is a composite of several dances popular in Cuba, including the guaracha, the Cuban bolero, the Cuban son, and the rural rumba. All have similar rhythms that can be traced to religious and ceremonial dances of Africa. These rhythms were remembered by the earliest black people transported unwillingly to Cuba and subjected to forced labor by the Spanish colonists. The same pulsating dance rhythms may still be found in parts of Africa, but the dances have been altered by contact with other cultures and races. The rural rumba is a pantomimic dance originating in the rural areas. It depicts the movements of various barnyard animals in an amusing manner, and is basically an exhibition, rather than a participation dance. Both the Cuban son and the Cuban bolero are moderate tempo dances in traditional ballroom form. The guaracha is distinguished by its fast, cheerful tempo.

As early as the second world war, the Rumba was modified to a slower and more refined version for the Cuban middle class, this was called the "son". The American Rumba is a modified version of this dance which first came to this country in 1913. Ten years later band leader Emil Coleman imported Rumba musicians and dancers to New York but no interest developed. Real interest in Latin music began about 1929 as a result of increased American tourism to Latin America. In 1935 George Raft appeared with Carole Lombard in a movie called "Rumba" in which he played a suave dancer who wins the lady through dancing. Rumba's unique styling and unusual musical rhythms immediately captured the fancy of ballroom dance enthusiasts, and it has retained its popularity to the present time.

The Cuban style is characterized by forward and backward steps. The American version is done in a box pattern with "Cuban motion" as it's chief characteristic. "Cuban motion" is a discreet, expressive hip motion achieved by bending and straightening the legs and carefully timed weight changes. American Rumba is one of the most popular ballroom dances today.

Reprinted with permission of Ron & Rebecca Kellen & Bogie of the Mile High Ballroom of Prescott, AZ

History of the Quickstep

In a continuation of our discussion on smooth dances, this month we will be discussing the Quickstep.

Developed during World War I in suburban New York, it was initially performed by Caribbean and African dancers. It eventually made its debut on the stage of American music-halls and immediately became popular in ballrooms. Foxtrot and Quickstep have a common origin. In the twenties many bands played the slow-Foxtrot too fast. Eventually they developed into two different dances. The slow-Foxtrot tempo was slowed down and Quickstep became the fast version of the Foxtrot. 1925 began the Charleston fever, it had a lot of influence on the development of the Quickstep. The English developed the Quickstep from the original Charleston as a progressive dance without kicks and mixed in the fast Foxtrot. They called this dance "the QuickTime Foxtrot and Charleston". At the 'Star' Championships of 1927, the English couple Frank Ford and Molly Spain danced a version of the QuickTime Foxtrot and Charleston without the characteristic Charleston knee actions and made it a dance for two instead of a solo.

There was a debate as to why this dance became so popular in Britain. It has been thought that the Quickstep was Brit's answer to keeping warm indoors during the winter. It is a proven fact that the energy exerted while dancing a 60 second Quickstep is equivalent to running a mile in record time!!

This dance might be termed the "joy" dance of modern dancing. While the basic figures are quite simple, the tempo of the music and the whole character of the dance seem to invite a carefree interpretation of its bright rhythm. The beginner will find the basic steps easy to learn and easy to fit the music. The advanced dancer will discover that the music lends itself to an infinite variety of steps. The dancer who masters the fundamentals of the Quickstep will have command of a dance that can never grow stale, a dance that is unquestionably the most attractive expression of rhythm the world has ever known. The Quickstep is undoubtedly the most popular dance today.

Reprinted with permission of Ron & Rebecca Kellen & Bogie of the Mile High Ballroom of Prescott, AZ

History of the Nightclub Two Step

The "Two Step" was developed in 1965 by a 15 year old teen from Whitaker, Illinois named Buddy Schwimmer. Buddy was doing a line dance called "Surfer Stomp". It was based on two steps and a stomp. This worked well with fast music, but the footwork was too slow for medium and slow tempo songs. The timing was changed and it went from a line dance to a partnership dance. This then became the dance called "Two Step". Eventually in 1978, Buddy opened a dance studio in Costa Mesa, California and started teaching "Night Club Two Step".

The "Two Step", like all dances has gone through changes over time. It has evolved into two different feeling dances. The original footwork was "Rock, Inplace, Side" (Quick, Quick, Slow), which exists in the dance called "Night Club Two Step". The Country Western dancers have adopted it and have included it in their competitions. However, it has been "ballroomized" into a dance called "Ballroom Two Step". Ballroom Two Step's basic foot work is "Side, Cross Behind, Inplace (Slow, Quick, Quick).

These two variations have very different feelings. The "Ballroom Two Step" is very gliding, continuous, strong and powerful with a big sweeping feeling. It is precise and quite technical. "Night Club Two Step" feels more like a choppy Cha Cha and is quite compact. It has a more casual relaxed feeling.

The "Two Step" is a dance you can do in night clubs as well as ballrooms, weddings, cruises, etc. It's an alternative to the "Slow" dance. That's the dance where you stand, put your hands on your partner's waist and your partner puts her arms around your neck and you sway back and forth, back-and-forth etc., etc.

"Two Step" is perfect for medium and slow music. The Two Step is danced to popular music, mostly ballads. Songs such as "Lady In Red", "On the Wings of Love", "Love the World Away. The song Lady In Red is a medium tempo song played at 39 MPM (measures per minute).

When learning "Two Step", or any dance, learn why you do steps a certain way. Figure out which one is correct and why. Don't just do a step a certain way because so-and-so says to do it that way. The movements should feel natural and not forced. It's not the patterns that makes a good dancer, it's how well you dance them.

The "Ballroom Two Step" and "Night club Two Step" are not fad dances. They are here to stay. The "Two Step" is popular in California and all along the west coast. It's popularity is slowly moving east. It is taught at BYU (Brigham-Young University) and is starting to be taught in Europe. It is just a matter of time before it is danced everywhere in the United States.

Reprinted with permission of Ron & Rebecca Kellen & Bogie of the Mile High Ballroom of Prescott, AZ

History of the Foxtrot

"The object of smooth dances is to move or travel smoothly around the room, covering as much of the dance floor as possible. The couple should be streamlined, two people moving as one, gliding fluidly and forcefully around the dance floor; if they were dancing on water, there would be no ripples in their wake. Imagine a room filled with stiff whipped cream. The dancers' goal is to move smoothly and powerfully through the cream, charting a clean path without disrupting any of the cream around them." This is one of the best definitions that we have heard about smooth dancing. It is from the book, "ABC's of Ballroom Dance". This month we would like to discuss one of these smooth dances, Foxtrot.

It is generally believed that a Vaudeville star by the name of Harry Fox began what today we call the Foxtrot. In the summer of 1914 Harry and his company of "American Beauties" put on a dancing act in the New York Theater. As part of his act, he was doing trotting steps to ragtime music, and people referred to this dance as "Fox's Trot".

During this period of Ragtime, beginning in 1910, a completely new phase of ballroom dancing was born. Partners danced closer together, ad-libbed to the music, and found this new ragtime music exciting and exhilarating. The Bunny Hug, Turkey Trot, and Castle Walk were but a few of the many strutting and walking dances that quickly caught the publics fancy.

The Foxtrot is no longer a fox trot at all, but rather a smooth, elegant dance. When watching a couple gliding gracefully across the dance floor one doesn't think of the ragtime music. When the British dance masters imported this American smooth ballroom dance to England, they smoothed away the trotting, hops and kicks to a much smoother version which has endured over the years. A variation of the Foxtrot is the Quickstep and even dances such as Lindy (Swing) and Hustle are derived to some extent from the Foxtrot.

The Foxtrot is 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 monotonous one-step and two-step which it has replaced. There is more variety in the Foxtrot than in any other dance, and in some ways it the hardest dance to learn.

Reprinted with permission of Ron & Rebecca Kellen & Bogie of the Mile High Ballroom of Prescott, AZ

History of the East Coast Swing

Ask a group of dancers to give you a definition of "swing dancing" and you will probably get as many answers as there are people in your discussion. Ask a group of historians to give you the history of "Swing" and you get a lot of different ideas. Below is our "truth" about Swing.

The Jitterbug (initially called the "Hop") first became popular in the 1920's. The name Lindy was appended to the "Hop" in 1927 at the Savoy Ballroom (New York), supposedly in commemoration of Charles Lindburgh's famous flight across the Atlantic. The music that this dance accompanied was jazz, which by the 1930's was also called Swing. Its origins can be traced to Ragtime, Dixieland and Blues.

It is said a young dancer named Frankie "Musclehead" Manning created the first air steps (aerials), and the Lindy Hop "soared." As a performance art, the Lindy Hop involved ensemble dancing, choreographed routines and acrobatic air steps (much like those recently shown on the Gap commercials). These require a superb degree of expertise and are usually not danced socially, but only for performance (for many years, the better establishments frowned upon the wilder forms of Lindy, because the aerobatics involved limiting the number of people who could dance at one time).

From the early days of the "Hop" until the mid-1930's, the mainstream of jazz music and Swing/Lindy/Jitterbug dancing was developed and defined in the United States by African-Americans.

In the mid 1930's, as the swing music of Count Basie, Jimmie Lunceford and Lionel Hampton embraced the nation, the Lindy Hop became the rage of the young generation. The term "Swing" became associated with the Lindy as Big Band Swing came into popularity. The combination of swing music's popularity and the talented dancers moved the Lindy Hop to the stage and screen.

The Jitterbug (Lindy) migrated out to Hollywood and other areas in California. Hollywood directors and choreographers in the movie industry wanted to fit more dancers on the floor without the camera losing their faces with the circular movements of Jitterbug, and so the West Coast Swing was born, which is danced in a straight line or a slot.

In the modern era of standardized American Style Ballroom Dance, there are basically two swing dances. They are the West Coast Swing (W.C. Swing) and the East Coast Swing (E.C. Swing). The W.C. Swing has evolved into a Country Western dance, danced in a slot to typically slow, sultry music (20 to 30 mpm). E.C. Swing has incorporated the rest of the swing type dance rhythms (Jitterbug, Lindy, Shag, etc). It is danced with Single, Double, Triple, and Lindy rhythms. This allows E.C. Swing to be danced to just about any speed of music. The International Style dance "Jive" is a variation of the Triple Rhythm E.C. Swing danced in the 40 to 45 mpm speed range.

Reprinted with permission of Ron & Rebecca Kellen & Bogie of the Mile High Ballroom of Prescott, AZ

I Lost My Golf Clubs and Found My Other Left Foot by Sid Kronus

1997 was a good year and I was a happy man. My health, marriage and finances were in good shape. My passion was golf. I was living my dream walking my favorite golf course 4 to 5 times a week. Then it happened! It didn't seem like much--it had happened before. It was December 1997, Carol's birthday month and, of course, Christmas. Many times in the previous 33 years I asked Carol to give me a clue as to what she would like for a present. Sometimes, she would be mean and give me no help at all. Other times she would give a little direction and I would venture out like an explorer into the unknown worlds of Art, Music, or some of Carol's other exotic interests. Ah, to make my wife happy and to continue to play unlimited golf, I would always persevere.

That December she looked at me, smiled and cooed, "Sidney, I want us to take
dancing lessons. We start in January. The course lasts three months but we only have to pay one month and if we don't like it, we can stop. I have looked into this and this is what I want--nothing else." My immediate response was "No, what else?" Her answer was "Nothing else." Well, I thought about it for a while and concluded that this was a good deal. It won't cost us a lot of money, there is no exotic shopping involved and how much golf do I play in January. I said "yes."

I had said "yes" in June of 1964 and knew my life was going to change forever. I didn't realize that when I said "yes" in 1997 that I was willingly surrendering my days on the fairways for evenings of ballroom dancing.

Reluctantly on a Monday night in January of 1998 I accompanied my bride to St. Mark's Church Hall in Asheville to the DanceLovers Ballroom class. The hall was full of people of all ages and sizes. A pretty lady with short hair and a big smile welcomed us at the registration table, her name was Judi. We wandered around this room full of strangers. Their faces revealed a mixture of anxiety, nervous smiles, and pure fear (like mine). A loud voice proclaimed "Everyone clear the seating area." Judi joined a big man in the center of the room. The big man said his name was Foster and that Judi and he would teach us Social Ballroom Dancing and he hoped we would all have a good time. The hour and 15 minutes flew by.

Carol and I drove home four feet off the ground. During the next few days I was in utter confusion. I enjoyed that class so much. How could I feel so good off the golf course? How could Foster and Judi move so well together? Carol loved it too. It was all we talked about. One of my favorite lines about golf was "It is the most fun a man can have with his clothes on." Was I wrong? Is there something better? Is it dancing? I could not wait to get to the next Monday night class to see if I had made a mistake. I hadn't. The Ballroom Dancing is as good as it gets! I must give a lot of credit to Foster and Judi who create an atmosphere of fun and playfullness in their classes. This combined with rotating partners really helped me to get comfortable making mistakes and then moving on to learn dance patterns without making it feel like work. Some of the dance teachers in the area do this at our USABDA monthly dances and it really contributes to my enjoyment.

Things happened quickly in 1998. I set up a TV, VCR, and a boom box in my basement to practice with the video and audio tapes from DanceLovers. After a few graduation dances and tea dances with the Lamperts, we ventured out. We found the Harvest House on Wednesday nights, the Blue Ridge Ballroom and Opportunity House on Friday nights and Sundays, and USABDA and the Starlight Ballroom dances on Saturday nights. We also joined three dinner dance clubs that meet monthly in the Hendersonville area. Before I knew it I was dancing every day except Thursday.

A metamorphosis had occured. I have played golf in rain, sleet and snow. Over a 25 year period, I had rationalizations and justifications to play golf under any circumstance. I suddenly found myself making excuses not to play golf. "It is too windy; the ground is too wet; it may shower this afternoon." The truth is that I would rather spend a little practice time on a Saturday afternoon with Carol to try a step at Greer that night then get all tired out chasing the white pellet around 18 holes and dancing tired at night.

My favorite golf partners finally confronted me with "Sidney, what is going on?" Without hesitation, I replied, "Friend, there are three good reasons why I would rather dance than play golf. One, I would rather swing a pretty lady around the floor, especially my favorite partner, Carol, than pound a golf club into the ground. Two, the weather does not prevent me from dancing, and Three, nobody's keeping score."

I am a social dancer because I love it. I enjoy watching competition dancers. I enjoy watching dance teachers do demonstrations with their especially talented students. But my real joy comes from social dancing. Dance class can be hard or easy but it is always fun. It is wonderful spending so much more time with Carol. But whether it is Carol or my favorite 83 year old lady, or any of the many neat ladies I dance with, I feel what I see. I see a sparkle in their eyes, a smile and glow on the face of someone who has left the cares and concerns of the world somewhere else--just for this dance. And, I can't help but break out in a laugh when, among the many funny things that happen in a dance class, Foster will catch my eye and say "Use the other left foot, Sid." Over the years, I have carried my worries and my physical aches and pains to the golf course and played badly. I carry them to the dance floor and they disappear. Golf is a great game; social dancing is a great life. I don't ever want to lose, "My other left foot."

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About December 2006

This page contains all entries posted to Dance Lovers in December 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

November 2006 is the previous archive.

January 2007 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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