Dances We Teach
The Bachata, a guitar-based trio (guitar, bongo, maraca), from the Dominican Republic, shares with its audience a country/peasant/barrio sentimentality marked by bawdy humor that connects the celebration of food, love and a macho delight in elaborating upon the ability of women to overpower men. It emerged mostly in male public spaces (colmados/corner grocers and bars) rather than family spaces, thus explaining the gender distinctiveness of this musical form. It is sung by mostly male performers, crooning about love and the women who caused them pain and wronged them, often because of unrequited or relinquished love.
Only recently admitted into mainstream Latin music (in the past 10 years) by the well-respected Dominical merenguero, Juan Luis Guerra, who was the once black sheep of Dominican music. It has now been brought into the forefront, so that all social and economic levels can begin to enjoy the lilting Bachata.
This class works on the technique of moving one’s body to Latin music. It is helpful to anyone studying Latin dancing, whether at a social or competitive level. The class is open to all levels, and it makes an ideal make-up class for anyone who misses one class within the course of the cycle. Real Cuban Motion is not just swiveling your hips – this class shows you how the movement originates within the center of your body, and how, as a result, your whole body (shoulders, ribs, hips and knees) moves in an appropriate way to the rhythm of the music.
Foxtrot, Quickstep & Peabody
The Foxtrot has been America’s most popular dance since 1913. Introduced by a Vaudevillian named Harry Fox, it quickly became the standard of social dancing. Foxtrot is a great dance for beginners, as it teaches the novice variety, maneuverability, and how to combine steps easily. The music for Foxtrot is any slow to moderately slow Big Band or pop music song, or “slow dance”. Most pop music is written in four/four timing, which is Foxtrot’s rhythm (four beats to a measure of music). The mantra for Foxtrot is the classic dance teacher’s phrase: “Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick”. Much of our popular music is Foxtrot music, and it’s a nice, slow, easy dance during which a couple can even have a pleasant conversation. This is the classic dance for wedding receptions and social events, and wedding couples usually choose either a Foxtrot or a Waltz to be their first dance together, predicting a lifetime of slow, easy, romantic cuddling (we hope)!
Although the music for Quickstep sounds like a fast Foxtrot, it is actually considered to be a marriage between the Waltz and the Charleston! The dance features both the light, airy foot movements of the Charleston and the “floating through space” of the Waltz. We teach Social Quickstep and Foxtrot together in the same class due to the similarity of the music, and on a social level, many people dance Quickstep as a fast Foxtrot. Quickstep is an International style competitive dance.
The Peabody also resembles a fast Foxtrot. Considered a very New York dance in the Ragtime era in which it was born, legend has it that the Peabody was created by a portly police or fire chief – Captain Peabody – who was so overweight that he had to dance to the side of his partner, creating the style which is so characteristic of the Peabody. It’s primarily a walking-type dance with long, gliding steps. Because of the great speed of the music and the size of the steps, a huge dance floor is required (this is true, however, of International Style Foxtrot and Quickstep, too).
Remember the ’70’s? John Travolta in the white polyester suit in Saturday Night Fever? Well, that was the Hustle, but just like a lot of other things have changed in the last 20 years, the Hustle has changed a lot, too. The Hustle was born in New York’s Latin community. Young Latinos were born in a culture where dancing together was the norm, but they wanted to dance to more contemporary music than the Mambo of their parents. Slowly the Latin Hustle was developed and emerged as a club style. The mainstream young people caught on to the music, and the dance style, and Hustle quickly became hugely popular, all over America and Europe, fueled in part by the movie. As hustle developed, many different styles emerged.
In the late ’70’s, with the emergence of punk rock and the anti-disco movement, the hustle faded in popular culture — but it never died! The hustle fanatics of the ’70’s never gave up on the dance, and it retained a cult popularity at underground clubs through the ’80’s. During this time, hustle kept developing and changing, and the hustle that is danced today bears little resemblance to the hustle of the ’70’s. Hustle is danced to the contemporary pop dance music of the last 20 years. It is a fast, smooth dance, with the lady spinning almost constantly, while her partner draws her close and sends her away. It is a challenging dance, with a rhythmic pattern which plays with the timing of the music, rather that following it exactly. Hustle is considered an Authentic Style dance, and DanceSport is one of the places where Hustle stays alive and keeps growing. Many of the original Hustle dancers of the New York hustle scene continue to come to our Monday night Hustle party, where some of the best dancing in NY is on display, especially late in the evening.
Merengue is a simple, fun dance with origins in the Dominican Republic. The simple march tempo is easy to hear and feel, and lends itself to a spontaneous, improvisational style of dance. The music is charming and happy, and often contains clever jokes or puns in Spanish. Learning the Merengue is a good way to start familiarizing yourself with Cuban Motion, which is the way that your body moves in all the Latin dances. Our Salsa, Merengue classes spend half the class time on the Merengue, and the other half on the Salsa.
Rumba & Cha Cha
Originally, the Rumba was a lively, peppy dance similar to Mambo in its feel. Over the years it has changed, and is now the name of a slow and romantic Latin dance. Inspired by African rhythms and Latin melodies, the Americanized version of the Cuban Rumba is the basis for the Mambo and Cha Cha. The Rumba is a pre-requisite for good Latin dancing, and helps sharpen your sense of rhythm, timing and muscle control.
Originally an offshoot of the Mambo, the Cha Cha was the rage in the 50’s and is probably the most popular social Latin dance in America. It has an infectious rhythm that has been used by many musicians, even those who are not traditionally thought of as Latin — even some Beatles songs, and a lot of disco music! The rhythmical “split beat” of the Cha Cha and the many open movements add surety and poise to your dancing style.
Swing/Lindy, Savoy, West Coast Swing & Jive
The Swing swept across the US in the early ’30s, and was very popular through the ’40s. (Remember “Swing Kids”, the recent movie about II World War times?) Characterized by a carefree, relaxed style, the Swing soon came to represent a whole generation and time, when Big Band music was popular and musicians were judged by how well their music could “swing”. Single step, double step and triple step versions make Swing a dance easily adaptable to a variety of tempos of music, from moderately slow to very fast. Swing is a highly adaptable dance, going equally well with Big Band type music, rock-and-roll music, and many Motown songs. Swing music is generally up-tempo and bouncy. (The same music style, at a slower tempo, is danced as a Foxtrot).
The Savoy style of swing is a very fast, jumpy, casual-looking style of dancing, associated with the great dancers of Harlem in the ’40s. The Lindy style is a smoother-looking dance. When it hit the laid-back West Coast, the steps and rhythms of Swing were rearranged again to make it adapt to rhythm-and-blues type music, and West Coast Swing developed.
West Coast Swing has certain similarities to Swing, but also has some distinct differences. West Coast Swing is a slotted form of swing dance typically done to blues, country, funk and contemporary music. This type of swing is known for its smoothness and ability to “hit the breaks” (dancing to the accents in the music). In Europe, especially France, Swing has been popularized under the name “Rock’n’Roll”, which is a fast, jumpy style of dancing. They have also developed a competitive acrobatic style of Rock’n’Roll which combines gymnastics with dancing.
The International Style version of the dance is called “Jive”, and it is danced competitively in the US and all over the world (see the explanation for International Style).
This is one of the most popular social dances in New York nowadays, as there are plenty of Latin clubs, and plenty of great Latin dancers! The cutting edge of development for Salsa music is in NYC and Florida, both areas with large Latin communities. Salsa works on the basis of Mambo – a pattern of six steps danced over eight counts of music. At this school, we call it Salsa if the pattern of steps begins on the “one” beat of the music, and Mambo if it starts on the “two” beat. Salsa is a more contemporary name for the same step pattern, and came about when dancers started mixing up Mambo with Hustle steps.
Mambo is the dance that came to popular attention in the ’40s, as Americans became fascinated with the exciting rhythms emanating from Latin countries, like Cuba. For the mood of Mambo, just think Havana in its heyday, and the famous Palladium dancers of NYC in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. Shines refer to the fancy steps that partners do when they break away from each other to dance separately. Our Shines classes offer a great opportunity to students to really familiarize themselves with the rhythm of the music, and learn how to move creatively, or “play” with steps within the rhythm of the music.
Samba is a Latin dance with origins in Brazil. In Brazil, there are many different types of Samba, including more elegant Salon dancing, and the wild, uninhibited popular dancing associated with Carnival. Carmen Miranda is generally credited with bringing Brazilian rhythms to the United States and Europe, and since then the Samba has undergone a metamorphosis, as the steps became stylized and standardized. Samba has very distinctive and varied rhythms occurring simultaneously within every song, which helps to build richness in the music and excitement in the listening. It is often called the “South American Waltz”, as it features a “rise and fall” type of motion which is associated with waltz.
Tango & Argentine Tango
Tango was the romantic rage of the 1920’s in the US, introduced to millions by silent screen idol Rudolph Valentino in “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”. Born in the West Indies and stylized by the gauchos of Argentina, simmered in the brothels of Buenos Aires and brought to a boil in the elegant salons of Paris, the Tango is considered a “dancer’s dance”. Its unique rhythms offer fabulous training for timing and footwork, building a foundation useful in any dance. It has recently become an amazingly popular dance here in America, due first to Al Pacino (of DanceSport fame!) and his sensitive rendition of a blind dancer in “Scent of a Woman” a few years ago, and then to the many Broadway shows that have featured tango in recent years (Tango Argentino, Tango x 2, Forever Tango, etc.). Madonna’s “Evita” features tango dancing, and Julio Iglesias is promoting his tango album.
Social Tango is not as intensely intimate as Argentine Tango, as the dancers maintain a regular social dance hold. In Argentine Tango, the dancers are often cheek to cheek, and this effect, coupled with intricate leg intertwining, gives Argentine Tango a much more sensual feel than American (Social) Tango. Tango is also a Competitive Style dance, both American and International. Although it originated in Latin countries, American or International style Tango is not considered a “Latin” dance as it does not feature Cuban Motion. It is considered a “Smooth” or Ballroom dance, as dancers hold themselves erect and swing their legs from the hip, as with the Foxtrot or the Waltz.
Waltz & Viennese Waltz
Waltz is another very popular dance. It might be the most popular dance of all time, since it is considered the forerunner of popular social dancing. Developed in Southern Germany in the 17th Century, Waltz’s popularity as a social dance blossomed with the music of Johann Strauss (think of the Blue Danube, and other famous waltzes). Before the advent of the Waltz, proper society people did not hold each other in an embrace while dancing – only the lower classes did such an improper thing!
However, people gradually found that holding a partner around the waist did not immediately lead to a life of sin, and the Waltz became a staple dance for Kings and Queens as well as common folk. The Waltz is still a very common dance all around the world. Waltz music has a distinctive one-two-three tempo (three beats to a measure of music) and is very commonly played at weddings and other social events.
Viennese Waltz has step patterns adapted to a faster tempo of music. The Waltz helps dancers to develop balance and control. With practice, correct posture, and rise and fall motion, the flowing movement of the dance can be developed and enjoyed.