As far as I know -- and can find out -- the little dance session we organised last night was the first conscious "Soul" line dance 'class' in Australia.
Of course we ain't Afro American nor are we aficionadoes embedded within the cultural parameters of Black American history. We don't come from Baltimore or Philadelphia ... or Opelousas (in South West Louisiana -- home of Zydeco); nor is "soul' a significant theme on the local music scene.
But for all that what we did last night was in no way exotic. Indeed, as far as I'm concerned "ye hah" countrified boot scootin' would be truly foreign to our collective urban cultural experience. Baby Boomers didn't grow up on Achy Breaky Heart stuff. We grew up listening and dancing to The Stones, Hendrix, Disco and Motown. And some of us embraced funk and soul.
The first record I purchased was an Otis Redding LP.
Maybe the white experience of the music is of a diluted dosage, but then the main game is making it your own.
And today the whole world explores and adapts Hip Hop.
So there/here we are, in the Antipodes, groovin on to this stuff and lovin it.
As for me: Dancing with a group -- in fact teaching a group to dance! (who woulda thought!) -- is a very different experience to boppin on your ownsome. My problem now, my challenge, is to keep the choreography coming so that I can feed the masses' hunger for more dances. I'm no great dancer -- I've never really danced before -- but then I put in the time and effort into learning the routines.
I think Soul Line Dancing could really take off in Australia because of all those stereotypical reasons that 'country' line dancing is maligned. Line dancing per se is very good therapy and ticks a lot of social, psychological, cognitive, exercise and cultural boxes. But 'country' style is so rigid, regimented ...so pretentiously cliched.
... and most of all it is danced so differently. It is stick and boot dancing. Dancing up and down rather than sliding. "Country" style line dance may today be more eclectic in its repertoire but it locates itself as a pluralist shadow of the ball room and pop music.
No thanks. Nor does couple dancing really interest me. I'm a Haka man.
As far as I can make out "Soul Line Dancing" in the United States isn't necessarily a national phenomenon. In cities like Baltimore, Philadelphia, Houston and New York -- and in parts of the Carolinas -- Soul Line Dancing is pursued by concentrations of clubs, dance studios and teachers. There is a rich sub culture.
But it ain't necessarily all over the place as the next best thing since sliced bread on legs.
Part of the reason for this , I suspect, is that it hasn't "crossed over" the US colour line .. nor for that matter is it corporate. The dance culture that rules the clubs -- your youth patronised night clubs -- is very different. There is some coming together with contemporary Hip Hop but my impression is that your average soul line dancer is a tad older than your clubber and may not be dancing for the sake of being in the mating game. Instead it is pursued as a sport, for exercise, and as a social gathering.
Of course you can't help but love the music.That matters.
In some churches they practice Gospel Line Dance with folk like Christopher Page nailing a genre. All good stuff it is.
If you know your onions you'd know that "Soul" music came out of "Gospel" ( esp through the music of Ray Charles et al). That it is danced in church suggests how free the from is. It is without boundaries. So there is no compulsory wearing of cowboy hats and boots and buckles (yuk!).
So it lives and is driven by the here and now. That suggests to me that any local "soul" dance culture would need to adapt to local musical output rather than being pretentiously and artificially Afro American obsessed. Maybe sometimes some local choreography is warranted? And for now -- not that I'm up to it -- I reckon this song by the Melbourne based Kimbra would make a great line dance:
Perhaps you think I'm over the top? But then some line dances are achingly beautiful...like this one -- a line for the skilled: Soul Food.
or the wonderful Terminal Reaction.
(Both dances are out of Philidelphia).
I don't dance these ...yet. I don't possess any where near the skill level to master them. But rest assured they are on my must-do list.
That's because I've seen the light: