07 May, 2012

Dance with me

Gregory Hines
It is a bit of a misnomer to say that I do line dancing every day as every day I dance by myself: outback with a mp3 player in my ear. The 'line' is all about the choreography and excuse as every week I dance with others.

I guess if I was totally on my ownsome there'd be no reason to proceed. The fact that these others are potentially there in a line with me is motivation enough especially as I am supposed to be teaching them the steps.

But then for an hour or so every day nothing else matters but the dancing.

Quite remarkable really when you think about it.

All weathers, all times of the day -- I'm under the veranda a'dancing.

Over the last few weeks a certain core-ness has set in as the quality of my stepping has consolidated. This means that there are many ways I can choose to dance from A to B as I am confident of being in time. I know the tunes and choro so well now that I switch off, zone in and just do it, fiddling with the choreography en route.

As they say: (maybe) I can dance.

Also this last period I've been running out of Zydeco dances to reach my others as they are having trouble with the challenge of more intricate footwork. So proceeding into a deeper Zydeco  has stalled a little, and inevitably I now have turned my attention more consciously northward. And 'northward'  means exploring all the dances that come out of places like Philadelphia -- soul line dance central -- above the Mason Dixon Line.

This is really exciting as that means I get to tackle more sophisticated and challenging fare and tackle dances crafted to the music of Jill Scott, Marvin Gaye, James Brown,Megan Rochell...really the list is an amazing mix of great soul artists, legends in fact.

To dance to great music, soulful singing, to funkiness...well,  the tragedy is that the music has to stop sometime.

Another complication is that the overwhelmingly Afro American line dance community likes what's out there including Hip Hop whose influence is pervasive. Since stateside the dancers are of all ages the choreography can be very contemporary and not just based on classically formatted soul. But here, folk are resistive to Hip Hop  when I know that such a bias is not only  un-soulful but excludes  the option of tackling some  great dances. 

You can break a leg poppin' I'm sure or dislocate a shoulder --  but Hip Hop in a line is adapted to the participants although some routines are full on VO2 Max stuff only for the athletically pumped up.

And the knack that matters with line dancing is to dance injury free. Its;' supposed to be safe dancing. Even now if I find that a routine strains at an ankle or knee, I adapt and tweak it before I teach it. It isn';t about contortions or freakish moves.

In fact, my preferences are consolidating and I like my dances tight and enclosed -- not wandering all over the floor. I'm a slide and shuffle man, I guess. You dance some dances and think how perfect they are. How innovative the turn , the transitions, the way the order of steps have been strung together... It is not so much about how it looks to an audience in a So You Think You Can Dance? way but what it feels like for the individual dancer. It's all internal. 

That's the soulfulness. The 'line' is all about collectivizing that feeling, generating consensus and extending the celebration in the way that line dancing  through thousands of years of human culture has served us. 'Couple' or 'Ballroom' dancing is but a 19th and 20th century blip way out of sync from our shared traditions. 

So this is 'normal' activity: dancing together to the beat in lines.


Another feature of line dancing is that it is a remarkable work out. I take care to dance (and I also teach) one song directly after another so that I keep the heart rate up. Done that way, you  ensure an aerobic return that is better cardio than a lot of other activities you could take on. With all the turns, hip shaking, ankle and knee twists...you also get to remodel the body into dance mode. It's like Tai Chi Chuan or some other movement awareness regime because you get to connect with your bits and pieces in a more conscious way especially how you carry yourself. When you learn the dances you develop and challenge the Homunculus in your head as you navigate your body differently through space. Short of becoming a gymnast, it's proprioception training in a very big way.

All this sets in as your return for effort in sync with some awesome music that you cannot help but respond to. 

I tell ya, line dancing is win win win.