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Serving Stanislaus County and the surrounding Central Valley
 

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Dance History

 

Waltz

 

Originally a country folk dance emerging from Bavaria, the dance was considered too unrefined for the upper social tiers.  It was therefore banned for almost 100 years.  Of course, nothing makes a dance more popular than by banning it. The original version is now called the Viennese because of the popular Strauss brothers of Vienna.  Johan and Sebastian wrote countless melodies that can only be done at the tempo we now call Viennese.  There were several versions of the American Waltz, including the “Boston.” They passed the way of unpopular dances and the figures were standardized to the “Box” we know today. Characterized by rise and fall, heel leads, solid frame, sway motions and grounded foot patterns, it is among the more difficult dances to perform correctly.  It is in ¾ time and approximately 32 measures per minute.

 

Tango

 

This dance is proof that if you make a dance style sufficiently “Erotic” everyone will want to try it. It was born in the late 19th Century, in the brothels of Buenos Aires.  It brought together migrating Slaves, Argentine Gauchos, Business men, Politicians and anyone with money and influence. Brought to the U.S. just prior to the 1st World War, it was immediately made the rage of the Country with expressions of the dance by Rudolph Valentino and other popular Stars of the period. The ISTD (Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing) standardized the American version that we enjoy today.  The International version often seen on PBS was created by the British for uniform worldwide competition. It really does not resemble the original Argentine versions.  The Argentine version remains unique to the School or the Teacher.  There is no National Syllabus for the dance and Argentines claim that it is this sense or individual creativity that gives the dance its fiery feel.  Music is 4/4 time and American version is at about 32 bars per minute.  

 

Foxtrot

 

Harry Fox, a night club entrepreneur and Ziegfield Follies dancer did his version of the Trot dances on the stages and dances of New York. It was a frenetic dance with trotting and hopping all over the stage.  When the dance was adopted by the British (they run International dancing) it was made smoother, more elegant with gliding steps, heel leads and smooth easygoing gait.  Many of the Foxtrot patterns were adapted directly from the Waltz.  It is easily the most flexible, and easily adapted, all purpose dance that can be used for many different styles of music.  Music is 4/4 time and 30 to 34 bars per minute.

 

Viennese Waltz

 

What is now called the Viennese Waltz is the original form of the waltz and the first ballroom dance in the closed hold or "waltz" position. The dance that is popularly known as the Waltz is actually the English or slow waltz, danced approximately at 90 beats per minute with 3 beats to the bar (the international standard of 30 measures per minute) while the Viennese Waltz is danced at about 180 beats (58-60 measures) a minute.

 

The Viennese Waltz is a rotary dance where the dancers are constantly turning either in a clockwise (natural) or anti-clockwise (reverse) direction interspersed with non-rotating change steps to switch between the direction of rotation. A true Viennese Waltz consists only of turns and change steps.

 

Salsa

Salsa is not easily defined. Who invented salsa? The Cubans, Puerto Ricans? Salsa is a distillation of many Latin and Afro-Caribbean dances. Each played a large part in its evolution.

Salsa is similar to Mambo in that both have a pattern of six steps danced over eight counts of music. The dances share many of the same moves. In Salsa, turns have become an important feature, so the overall look and feel are quite different form those of Mambo. Mambo moves generally forward and backward, whereas, Salsa has more of a side to side feel.

 

Rumba

 

This sensual and romantic Cuban dance is the oldest dance on the Continent.  It was noted among the Slaves in the 17th century. That makes it older than even the Waltz in Europe and has the reputation of being the Dance of Love.  The original dance was nothing like today’s beautiful rhythms.  It was a fertility folk dance among the slaves and imitated mating gestures of various animals as it moved about the floor. Even though it was the older dance, the modern version took much of its new rhythm from the Son.  New Cuban hits such as “The Peanut Vendor” sparked an interest among Americans for that “Rumba” music.  A standardized version of the dance appeared as early as 1943. It is recognized by its “Cuban Motion”, a romantic feel and a languorous rhythm.  Music is sensual, 4/4 time and tempo is 32-36 bars per minute.

 

Merengue

 

There is a lot of variety in Merengue music. Tempos vary a great deal and the Dominicans enjoy a sharp quickening in pace towards the latter part of the dance. The most favored routine at the clubs and restaurants that run a dance floor is a slow Bolero, breaking into a Merengue, which becomes akin to a bright, fast Jive in its closing stages. The ballroom Merengue is slower and has a modified hip action.

 

The Merengue was introduced in the United States in the New York area. However, it did not become well known until several years later.  Ideally suited to the small, crowded dance floors, it is a dance that is easy to learn and essentially a "fun" dance.

 

Cha Cha

 

This Afro-Cuban dance was born in Cuba in 1953.  The first published recording was by Enrique Jorrin, violinist and arranger in many of the top Cuban bands including Perez Prado.  The dance arrived in New York with a passionate response from Americans who found it easier to dance than the Mambo.  The characteristic smooth violins and flutes, still heard in Mexican versions of the dance, were soon exchanged for the Big Band brass that we know today. In New York, the name Cha Cha Cha was given to the dance.  In Cuba it is called a slow Mambo or a Son.  The name Cha Cha Cha is thought to be named after the sound of women’s shoes moving along the floor.   There is an emphasis on hip action through out the dance and is a comfortable 28 to 30 bars per minute and in 4/4 time.

 

 

 East Coast Swing

 

The name East Coast Swing is purely out of need for a stable name and style.  It has nothing to do with the East Coast and got its name shortly after the craze for West Coast Swing some decades ago.  Its’ origins go back to the Charleston and the Lindy Hop and the developing Black dances from Harlem.  Theses dances were developed at the famous Savoy Ballroom that was opened in Harlem in 1926.  The dance is distinguished by a rock step and is circular in nature. Unlike the West Coast Swing, which is slotted and is generally done in 8 counts per figure East Coast is done to 6 counts of music.  The influence of Country Western dancing is evident in West Coast dancing while the Big Band music and styles dominate the East Coast versions.

 

 

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