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Dance Threshold : Where are those feet going?

James Brown
My online catalogue of Urban Soul Line Dances numbers 83. That's the number of video posts I've collected of various preferred choreographies. It's my selection of dances I've really liked.

The best of the YouTube bunch.

At the moment I know and practice eight dances . So while that may suggest I have my work cut out, given that I've been doing this for such a short time -- only this year -- I am very pleased with my ability to nail the routines. 

Some dances take longer than others to learn especially as I have to watch the video of each of them over and over again -- breaking down each move to see how it is done -- to decipher the steps. 
Where are those feet going? I take notes. Pause the video. Replay in slow motion. Over and over again. Practice what I think I know and then review the video ... over and over again.
My problem is that every time I'm learning one dance there are many others I just haveta learn as well. In fact, there are maybe...um...83 of them. (And that's only today. Next week there'll be more!) I can't get enough of this stuff.

Here we have a man -- moi -- who has never ever danced before --  playing  at being Fred Astaire via James Brown. And I'm doing it so late in my  tippy toe life. 

I owe this to Zydeco.  That got  my ass moving 'cause Zydeco is such a full on dance scene.  And I would not have got into Zydeco without being drawn to Louisiana and New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina (2005). Piqued, I  got addicted to the community radio station WWOZ (online, in exile and  drowned) which gave me a ready window into Louisiana musical culture. It resourced me.

From there I was drawn to Cajun music...before settling on Zydeco as my groove.

Now under the stimulus of Urban Soul Line Dancing I've replenished my passion for glorious Funk and Southern Soul. I'm now obsessed with the soul music scene to the north in cities like Philadelphia and Baltimore where so much great choreography is being generated.

...and I've learnt to respect Hip Hop...and dance it!

It's been a fantastic ride.

I reckon that en route I may have actually earnt myself some soul --  inasmuch as a white ass like mine can soul up. 

Now when I look at country line dancers dancing or the aficionados of line dancing in Asia -- such as the boot scooters in Malaysia , Singapore and China -- I judge them harshly for dancing militarily: stiff and regimented as though each step is drill.

Wrong. After watching so many hours of Urban Soul line dance danced by many different Afro American groups I rule that it aint the move but the motion that matters. It's another culture altogether. It's not dancin' so much as groovin' -- going organic with the music. It's about being connected to the floor not firing feet at it like popcorn on a hotplate. 

Since most line dancers are women, 'motion' in soul is ruled by the hips. Many choreographies explore the pelvis  as a major means to enrich the routine. Like Polynesian  and Belly dance the posterior is put out there as a primary language of the dance. It' sexy and sassy but it's still so very far removed from standard line dance routines. 

Soul line dancing is a sort of matriarchal embrace that so often runs as counterpoint to the masculinity of the songs' lyrics. Dancing soul is an odd play out of gender. That's perhaps why so few dancers are male. It exposes you to a certain level of vulnerability on the dance floor  if you want to dance it like it asks. There's no ruling over a partner -- you don't get to lead the female. It's democratic: all dancers are  equal on the floor. So there's no real opportunity to compete and for blokes that means no pissing competition. 

Ironically (but then maybe it's not so ironic) many soul line dancers are overweight. You get these big bodied people dancing -- but dancing superbly as they notch up the exercise. And they look great -- liquid motion.


After watching so many line dances on video I get enamoured with flesh moving. It's mesmerising:the way the feet move and then the human body follows in sync with wonderful music. That's the draw card -- the moving body. Feet and the steps that feet do are tools to that end. 

And it's flesh in sync: many people dancing with one another, turning, sliding, shuffling and dipping together to the same beat. Just like for eons.

Really I gotta say that 'ballroom dancing' in relation to human culture is a bit of a 20th century  aberration  as most of our existence has been governed by dancing in  a line.

That all this is done in 4x4 time within the confines of a Rand B template using a range of moves to get you about standing upright without requiring you to leap up or meet the floor...It's another magical world altogether when you are stepping.

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