Never did the Twist, the Monkey the Buggaloo or the Limbo Rock. I thought Disco was about undoing your top shirt buttons.
But I had this tweak in my head about Louisiana after the flood -- Katrina (2005)-- and the music I started listening to on wwoz.org enthralled me.The station was broadcasting online because its studios were under water.
I had always been 'into music' -- self taught and played it
Five string Banjo, Harmonica, Frame Drums...
and followed keenly many genres from Soul to Punk to Reggae to Old Timey banjo and fiddle to Irish traditional, Persian classical and Javanese Gamelan. I'd even built my own gamelan set.
But dance...? My daughter danced Irish Step most of her growing up, and there were the competitions and demonstrations.
I mastered bodhran licks instead...primarily because I realised that with the onset of my illness I'd lost the ability to learn music, esp tab. My memory wasn't open to laying down new tracks and any melody line was no longer in my reach.That plus arthritic stiffness kinda drove me out of the amateau music biziness.
So along comes Katrina, drowns New Orleans... I tune in...to Cajun and Zydeco -- and I'm immersing myself in Southern Louisiana sounds. If you know your French speaking onions, your Creole and such, you'd know that Cajun and Zydeco are primarily dance music forms.
I says to myself,"Gotta get me some of those moves." By dint of keen YouTubing I come across Zydeco line dancing --out of Dallas, Texas ( French Creole speaking and music straddles the Texas Louisiana border) -- via Cheryl Williams.
And so we started a workshop process of learning the choreography. If they can do it there,methinks, we can do it here.
Of course someone had to teach the moves. Someone had to watch the videos and copy the steps. Someone had to share.
After getting into Zydeco line dance I started to move my attention north and renewed my love and familiarity with Soul Music. I re-grounded with Funk. Aided and abetted by YouTube and linked up with the Soul Line dance community in the United States I enriched my knowledge of the choreographies while upping my practice and skill.
We're talking three, then two, years ago, leading to today. The classes I ran became popular and even in my small community I had up to 20 students for a time.
Now, I'm a competent teacher and very keen soul line dance -- urban line dance -- dancer and (would you believe it?) choreogher. Some of the most popular dances I share are my own creation.
This is truly amazing. More so when you note that I'm crippled by chronic illness -- Fibromyalgia -- with associated memory issues. Sometimes I can hardly walk: but I can dance!
Sometimes I have to drag myself to the sessions I teach...but when the music kicks in I'm a'boppin and a'groovin despite the initial stiffness and pain.
Of late I've made a major turn towards dance after a very rough period of ill health. The dancing sustained me when I had to cut back on many of my other exertions. Teaching gives me a focus and forces me to keep practicing and innovating. That discipline got me through the rough patch and I've learnt to respect my dance moves even more.
As I up my dancing focus I'm doing less other stuff like weights and HIIT. (Hardly any of it despite the need I have for exercise to hold stiffness and pain at bay).The irony is that despite this -- this cut back -- daily dancing is doing wonders for my ability to move. It's all about hips and da core I guess. As I skill up I'm gaining greater control over my body in the same way that routines like Tai Chi, some Martial Arts and Pilates will.
I 'am' a dancer because I'm getting a dancer's body. I'm more movement aware.
When you do the Funk grooves and the Zydeco and such and move into some Afrobeat
We also dance to West African sounds and West Africa is where most Afro Americans hail from courtesy of slavery -- such that the musical links, the riffs and rhythms, linking boths sides of the Atlantic, are tangible.-- as I do -- you aint just 'dancing'. The steps, the hip moves and such are very organic and rooted. Light on the joints 'cause it's the hips that do all the work.It's a culture, a physiology.
I'm getting a good dose of 'Soul'...despite me being Whitey. You gotta hear the music.
I mention all this because these consequences astound me. Who woulda thought?
Currently, I'm engineering my focus more keenly on Zydeco and Funk as I explore Funk as an international musical phenomenon -- from the Funk of James Brown, Sly and the family Stone, et al to the Funk of the West African highlife, Washington Go-Go and Fela Kuti and Latin Funk rhythms like Cuban Timba which has such a percussive, usually conga, drive.
It's a wonderful cultural fix -- that also has such a great exercise reward. Unlike Tai Chi or Pilates or a Martial Arts or gym work... you don't have to do the same routine over and over again. New moves. New choreography to make and learn. New dances and music to discover.
All you gotta do is hear the music.