“Where did you come from? Where did you go? Where did you come from Cotton Eye Joe?”, Cotton Eye Joe, Rednex
Although increasingly common in the UK, country dance is extremely popular in states in the US, especially in the south (Louisiana, Idaho, New Mexico, Texas, etc.). But, you don’t have to go far to find a disco where one of those good old line dancing tunes is being played, whether in America, on holiday in Europe or even at a local party!
Even children in both the US and the UK are exposed to line dancing, with television programmes like Hannah Montana being aired with this country and western music at its core (if you’ve ever seen Hannah Montana, you’ll know that the main stars are country and western legend himself Billy Ray Cyrus, along with his daughter and even Dolly Parton!).
As an integral part of American culture, line dancing can be seen in many US films and most of us just can’t help but do some line dancing steps when a country song comes on the radio!
So, get your cowboy hats and boots at the ready: here’s our guide to country-western dance!
Country dance classes are a great way to discover American culture!
Country dance has been a particularly popular form of expression during the twentieth century in the United States.
Country Two-Step has its roots in swing and is the most popular country dance amongst couple dancers. Source: Visual Hunt
Country dancing is inspired by many other forms of popular dance, such Irish dance, swing and traditional dances of American farmers.
Line dancing is hugely popular for its friendly and relaxed atmosphere: many Americans love to practise this dance at dance shows and country music festivals!
The origin of country dancing, however, remains somewhat of a mystery.
According to legend, cowboys loved dancing so much that they used to rush into the dance hall at the end of a hard day of work, without even changing or washing themselves. It’s thanks to this level of devotion to the dance that cowboy clothes have become so synonymous with practising country dance!
Another popular American dance is the Madison dance!
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The positive effects of western dance can be seen first of all in your body, and this is after only a few months of dance sessions.
Country dancing works the abdominal muscles through the fast tempo and energetic moves involved in this dance style.
Learn to line dance to discover the origins of the world of cowboys and saloons! Source: Visual Hunt
Country line dancing helps lower your blood pressure with quick dance steps that improve blood circulation to the heart.
What’s more, country dancing can increase your body’s energy levels and even prevent the onset of diseases such as osteoporosis.
Finally, country-western dance is known for the general well-being it gives: students can learn to unwind and improve concentration whilst still having fun!
All dances are good for your health, like African dance for example!
It’s hard to dissociate country dance from country music, a particularly popular genre of music throughout North America, and indeed the world!
Whether it’s with your partner, family or friends, there are several ways to learn in good company! Source: Visual Hunt
In the United States, Rednex’s “Cotton Eye Joe” and “Achy Breaky Heart” helped put country dance back on the map. However, although these songs are emblematic of country dance, they are not necessarily recommended for beginners.
The key is to choose a tune that suits your level (slow pace for beginners, fast pace for intermediate and advanced level) and, most importantly, songs you enjoy!
Do you watch Nashville? If so, you will know that the TV drama was shot on location in Nashville and centred around the country music industry.
“Nashville” stars Connie Britton as Rayna Jaymes, Hayden Panettiere as Juliette Barnes, Clare Bowen as Scarlett O’Connor, Chris Carmack as Will Lexington, Will Chase as Luke Wheeler, Charles Esten as Deacon Claybourne, Jonathan Jackson as Avery Barkley, Sam Palladio as Gunnar Scott, Maisy Stella as Daphne Conrad, Lennon Stella as Maddie Conrad and Aubrey Peeples as Layla Grant.
By listening to the soundtrack of this popular US television series, you’ll no doubt hear some songs that will get you tapping your feet and rocking from side to side!
Furthermore, some popular music icons have turned country music into music that everyone can listen to and enjoy, including Taylor Swift, LeAnn Rimes, Shania Twain, Faith Hill and more.
Admittedly, though, these stars cannot describe their work as traditional country music to which listeners can perform line dancing routines, since many of them have been commercialised to fit in with popular culture and modern-day music choices.
So, if you want to find some tracks that will require you to place your hands in your pocket, and step from side to side in your cowboy boots, then try out the following.
Here are some other music recommendations for beginners:
In the US, country music is a real institution, although in parts of Europe it remains relatively unknown. As a result, many of us haven’t tried to get into country dancing because of the very particular style of music.
However, it doesn’t take long to get used to country dancing.
Immersing yourself in country dancing allows you to familiarise yourself with American culture, which is perfect before your up-coming trip to America or even if you’re going to live in the US, especially in the Southern States!
Of course, music is important when you learn a dance, especially for oriental dance.
It may look easy, but we can assure you that line dancing is far from it! Seeing everyone performing all in synchronisation is so satisfying, so the last thing you want it to be the one with no coordination letting the entire dancefloor down!
To make sure that you can keep up with the rest, follow these tips:
–Ask your tutor or fellow dancers questions: It may feel a bit embarrassing asking a clearly seasoned pro for a mini-lesson, but it is worth asking for a step or sequence to be repeated if you don’t get it. Don’t be embarrassed by asking, if anything they will probably be flattered that you are admiring their footwork! Plus, others have probably already asked the same, because not everyone is a natural at picking up steps. When it comes to line dancing classes, the speed and detail vary depending on the level of the class so always try to come to an appropriate level class. If you are unsure what level you are, then ask about attending a trial lesson and seeing if you can take it all in or not.
–Be patient: It is very rare for anyone to walk onto the dance floor for the first time and instantly perform a perfect line dancing routine. Take home step sheets, if offered, get some copies from websites, and watch YouTube clips. Practice the dances again and again, as repetition helps.
–Go to regular classes: As mentioned, repetition is key so don’t think that you can attend one or two classes and then miss a week without this impacting on your learning. If you really want to become proficient, go to classes on a regular basis (more than once a week, even, if you want to get better faster).
–Learn line dancing terminology: It will seem like learning a foreign language at first but be sure to learn the terminology that goes with each step so that you can easily pick up new routines in future. Although you may still be trying to process the movement before the teacher calls out the next move, you’ll eventually put two and two together!
As well as the above, there are some rules when learning how to line dance which everyone should abide by. To learn more about line dancing etiquette before you go and make a fool of yourself, see below!
|Dance in lines||Walk across the dancefloor|
|Listen to the music||Join a line midway through a song|
|Do what the DJ says||Stop dancing to do up your shoelace or hair|
|Leave the dancefloor at the end of the sing|
|Be careful of your surroundings|
Love To Know offers a very handy guide for line dancing newbies, describing the most common terms in country dancing and explaining how to execute them. See their guide below:
As simple as digging one heel into the ground, this can be performed with an accent by bending the supporting leg. A further accent/variation is to hop out of the step instead of simply stepping back onto your foot.
Double Heel Dig
For faster dances, sometimes a double heel dig is called for, where you, with your weight firmly planted on your left leg, quickly dig your right heel into the ground twice, usually to the front and slightly to the side
Grapevine (or Vine)
Travelling to the right or the left side, this step is performed (to the right), as follows:
-Right foot steps to the right
-Left foot crosses behind the right one
-Right foot steps to the right
-Left foot closes to the left side of the right foot
Grapevine Variations: As you become more advanced, vary the fourth step of the grapevine by replacing it with a heel dig or by scuffing the bottom of your boot against the floor and bringing your left foot back up into the air.
Combining the grapevine with a cross in front as well as a cross behind, this move will let the dancer travel in zigzag on the floor. One complete cycle looks like this:
-Step your right foot to the right
-Cross your left foot behind your right foot
-Step your right foot to the right
-Cross your left foot in front of your right foot
-Repeat steps 1-4 as many times as you want. When you want to end the weave, do steps 3 and 4 of the grapevine step to complete the weave.
Jazz Square or Jazz Box
You may know this step from jazz class. It can be performed to the right or the left; it’s often performed twice in a row in the same direction:
-Step your right foot across your left foot
-Step your left foot back and to the side
-Step to the right side with your right foot
-Close your left foot to the left side of your right foot
This is three steps in a musical triplet during two beats of music travelling in any direction. Similar to a Step-Ball-Change in tap dancing, this step involves the following three steps (or opposite if starting with the left foot instead of the right):
-Step onto your right foot
-Step onto the ball of your left foot, placing your weight on the foot
-Step quickly onto the right foot without having lingered on the left. The weight transfer to your left foot should only have been deep enough to free you to pick up your right foot and step onto it.
While it’s not always called the Charleston, this step is frequently used in country line dancing (it probably will be called ‘step-tap, step-tap’ by the caller):
-Step forward onto your right foot
-Step your left foot forward, in front of your right foot, but don’t put your weight on it
-Step backwards onto your left foot
-Tap your right foot behind your left one, then repeat
A simple turn, a pivot is a half turn. Dances often use two pivot turns in a row in order to complete a full 360 degree rotation:
Step forward onto your right foot, but keep the weight centred on the ball of your foot.
With your weight evenly distributed between both feet, turn your body a half turn to the left, ending up with your left foot in front
A favourite in cowboy boots, this step is easy to perform but looks difficult because it is executed quickly:
With your weight firmly on your left foot, kick your right foot in front of you, leading with the heel
Step your right foot behind you, but only put your weight on the ball of your foot in order to quickly again transfer your weight in step three
Step, hard (loudly) onto your left foot
Posture is key for all dancers, but different dances do require different resting positions.
The best advice we can give to line dancers is to follow the lead of their dance instruction tutor (or someone who looks like they know what they’re doing on the dancefloor!). Most dancers need to see concepts being demonstrated in order to process and understand them, so having an instructor or someone in front of them helps students.
If you don’t have a real-life dancer to copy, then pictures or dance videos are other options.
Stretching and doing core exercises are also beneficial to posture, and don’t think that you don’t need to prepare for line dancing. It can be as strenuous as a Latin dance!
If you feel you slump forward too much, then do a chest and shoulder stretch by lying on your back with your arms stretched outward and elbows bent. Squeeze your shoulder blades together without arching your back, hold the position for 10 seconds and then repeat.
If, however, you feel your hips are misaligned, then try strengthening your middle section by laying on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Squeeze your buttocks together and push your hips up toward the ceiling. Hold the position for 10 seconds and then repeat.
If you really want to make a lasting change to your dancing posture, then be sure to practice again and again.
Holding yourself upright is a full-time job, so you need to be aware of your posture all-day-long if you want to improve it.
Learning the country-western style of dance is now possible from home thanks to videos online! Just remember you need atleast 6 other couples to take part in all the dances!
Youtube, Dailymotion, Instagram, there are several platforms where you can find country line dance lessons online. Opting for self-taught lessons is recommended for those who want to discover a new musical genre and do exercises independently.
Watching dance class videos is great for in-between lessons and helps you save a few bucks!
Get access to the best country dance youtubers in a few clicks:
Online country dance teachers usually give useful tips if you want to become a professional dancer.
Nevertheless, we recommend you use these instructive videos only as an introduction to dance.
Indeed, nothing beats instruction from an experienced dance teacher in person!
There are also different apps (such as Dancing Line, Country Dance Lessons and Country Friends) to help you learn the basic country dancing moves, step-by-step. Why not do a free dance lesson from your own smartphone or tablet!
Some steps may look like Irish dancing, don’t you think?
Fancy another style? Find salsa classes near me.
Who said you have to go overseas to learn line dancing?
Some country-western dance schools also offer country music lessons. Why not learn to play the guitar to work on your music skills? Source: Visual Hunt
In the UK, dozens of dance teachers offer supervised lessons using traditional music from the US.
Group lessons are perfect for progressing quickly in western dance, but also for meeting other dance enthusiasts – even talk to some Americans!
Line dancing schools regularly organise cultural trips to fully immerse students in the culture of the Deep South.
As part of dance school or dance association activities, you can participate in country balls, country dance workshops and even travel to the United States on tour.
Here are some country-western schools or associations in the UK:
In some of the bigger UK cities, students of country dance can show off their moves at a country concert or a country music festival organised by national organisations or independent dance clubs.
According to a 2016 survey from America, country dancing can improve our memory and brain power!
Line dancing classes are accessible for everyone: there are teen and children’s dance lessons, adult dance classes, senior dance sessions, etc. There’s something for all ages at country-western schools!
Another trendy dance, Bollywood classes are becoming more and more common.
Learn the basics of country-western dancing with a credited choreographer!
Take a line dancing lesson with an actual American teacher! Source: Visual Hunt
There are tons of advantages to getting a private dance teacher.
First of all, although widespread across the UK, dance schools are hard to find in smaller cities. It can be difficult to get a feel for all styles of country dancing by limiting yourself to classes at a dance association.
On the other hand, private dance lessons give students the opportunity to explore a multitude of country dance styles:
The other advantage of private lessons: the possibility of hiring a teacher who is actually from the United States!
A native teacher can not only teach you how to dance, but also inform you about country-western culture.
Finally, private lessons let you learn at a pace that’s right for you.
The student-teacher follow-up is more regular and personal than in a group lesson and the pupil can learn choreography in a heartbeat and execute all the steps of the country dance to perfection.
At Superprof, you can find a dance teacher near you for all types of dance, from country to Spanish dance.
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