A line dance
is choreographed dance with a repeated sequence of steps in which a group
of people dance in one or more lines (British English, "rows") without regard for the gender of the individuals, all facing the same direction, and executing the steps at the same time. Line dancers are not in physical contact with each other. Older "line dances" have lines in which the dancers face each other, or the "line" is a circle, or all dancers in the "line" follow a leader around the dance floor; while holding the hand of the dancers beside them.
In a small group there may be only one line, but usually there are several parallel lines, one behind the other. In this parallel line formation, the dancers dance in a synchronized manner, but independently of each other. There are usually no moves that require any interaction between the dancers, other than they execute the maneuvers at the same time.
Although line dances can be fairly simple, as with the 18 count 4 wall beginner "Electric Slide," increasing complexity can be created through several means. In general, higher-count sequences are more difficult. (One "count" corresponds to one musical beat.) The inclusion of unusual or unfamiliar sequences of steps also makes a dance more challenging. When a line dance is done to fast music, it is usually more difficult. Body movements other than steps, such as hand gestures, can add complexity. "Phrased" line dances are written to go with specific versions of songs. Tags, bridges, and skipping over, or repeating portions of the dance, are all devices that are used to follow the phrasing in the music. These phrased dances require dancers to be more conscious of the music and not simply repeat the same sequence of steps for an entire song.
Contra line dances such as "Wild Wild West" by Lana Harvery
have two sets of lines with the dancers facing each other. Dancers may make momentary contact while coming close to, or passing, the dancer in the opposing line.
Line dancing has a cowboy
image, and it was danced predominantly to country-western music
. This has been changing since the 1970s, when the hustle line dance became popular. Line dancing became even more popular with a wider range of music in the 1990s, as more young people took up line dancing (largely due to several pop bands releasing songs with videos featuring what later became line dances). Today, country music may make up the minority of a line dance DJ's playlist, with the balance spread over a variety of musical styles both new and old. Genres including Celtic, Swing, Pop, Rock, Big Band, Folk, and almost anything else that has a regular beat.
History and culture
Line dance is sometimes thought of as originating in the Wild West
. In fact, it has a much more diverse background. Many folk dances
are danced in unison in a single, nonlinear "line", and often with a connection between dancers. The absence of a physical connection between dancers is a distinguishing feature of country western line dance. Line dances have accompanied many popular music styles since the early 1970s, including swing
, rock and roll
, and disco
. The variety and popularity of line dances in the late 20th, and early 21st century is, however, noteworthy.
Line dancing's current popularity grew out of the disco period, when the country-western dance and music communities continued to explore and develop this form of dancing.
At least five line dances that are strongly associated with country-western music were written in the 1970s, two of which are dated to 1972: "Walkin' Wazi" and "Cowboy Boogie". This was five years before the disco craze created by the release of Saturday Night Fever in 1977. Two non-country line dances from the 1970s are "The Bus Stop" and "Nutbush". Over a dozen line dances were created during the 1980s for country songs.
"Boot Scootin' Boogie" was choreographed by Bill Bader in October of 1990 for the original Asleep at the Wheel recording of the song of the same name.
Billy Ray Cyrus' 1992 hit Achy Breaky Heart, helped catapult western line dancing back into the musical mainstream's public consciousness. In the mid 1990s country western music was influenced by the popularity of line dancing. This influence was so great that Chet Atkins was quoted as saying "The music has gotten pretty bad, I think. It's all that damn line dancing."
In 1994 choreographer Max Perry had a worldwide dance hit with "Swamp Thang" for the song of the same name by The Grid. This was a techno song that fused banjo sounds in the melody line and helped to start a trend of dancing to forms of music other than country. Max Perry, along with Jo Thompson, Scott Blevins and several others, began to use ballroom rhythms and technique to take line dancing to the next level. In 1998, the band Steps created further interest outside of the U.S. with the techno dance song 5,6,7,8. In 1999 the Gap retailer debuted the "Khaki Country" ad on the Academy Awards ceremony. Line dancers performed to the 1999 version of Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Dwight Yoakum. Line dance now has very traditional dances to country music, and not so traditional dances to non country music.
Line dancing is practiced and learned in country-western dance bars, social clubs, dance clubs and ballrooms worldwide. It avoids the problem of imbalance of male/female partners that plagues ballroom/swing/salsa dancing clubs. It is sometimes combined on dance programs with other forms of country-western dance, such as two-step, and western promenade dances, as well as western-style variants of the waltz, polka and swing.
Two popular dances that technically classify as line dances are the Nutbush (performed to "Nutbush City Limits" by Tina Turner) and the Macarena.The Chicken Dance, although danced in a circle, may be considered to be a line dance.
is one repetition of the main dance from the first count to the last not including any tags or bridges.In competition if this is danced "as written" with no variations, it is called
Dancers who have progressed beyond beginner status will often replace a section of a dance (say 8 beats) with a compatible set of steps which is called a variation. This is often required in competitive line dancing.
A dance will have a number of counts
, for example a 64-count dance. This is the number of beats of music it would take to complete one sequence of the dance. This is not necessarily the same number of steps in the dance as steps can be performed on an and
count between two beats, or sometimes a step holds over more than one beat.
is a point at which the basic dance sequence is interrupted and the dance routine is started again from the beginning. Restarts are used to fit the dances to the phrasing of the music.
A dance is made up of a number of movements called steps
. Each step is given a name so teachers can tell dancers to perform this step when teaching a dance. The most well-known is the grapevine
for short), which is usually a three-step movement to the side, with the fourth step added to complete the measure. There can be any number of movements in one step.
Descriptions of some dance steps in their typical form are below. They are subject to variations in particular dances, where a stomp or a point may occur instead of a touch, for example, in the grapevine.
Chasse: One foot moves to the side, the other foot is placed next to it, and the first foot moves again to the side.
Grapevine: One foot moves to the side, the other moves behind it, the first foot moves again to the side, and the second touches next to the first. There are variations: the final step can consist of a hitch, a scuff, placement of weight on the second foot, and so forth. The name of the step is sometimes abbreviated to vine.
Weave: To the left or the right. This is a grapevine with a cross in front as well as a cross behind. Creates a slight zig zag pattern on the floor.
Triple Step: This is 3 steps being taken in only 2 beats of music. Can move forward, backward, left, right or on the spot.
Shuffle step: A triple step to the front or the back, left or right side, starting on either foot. The feet slide rather than being given the staccato (short and sharp) movement of the cha-cha. There is a slight difference in the interpretation of the timing to give the element its distinctive look. It is counted as 1 & 2, 3 & 4, etc. However, the actual amount of time devoted to each of the 3 steps in the shuffle is 3/4 of a beat, 1/4 of a beat, then one full beat of music.
Lock step: A triple step backwards or forwards, starting on either foot, with the second foot slid up to and tightly locked in front of or behind the first foot before the first foot is moved a second time in the same direction as for the first step.
Other steps include applejack, botafogo, butterfly, coaster step, heel grind, hitch, jazz box, kick ball change, kick ball step, lunge, mambo step, military turn, Monterey turn, paddle, pivot turn, rock step, sailor step, scissor step, scuff, spiral turn, stamp, stomp, sugarfoot, swivet and vaudeville.
Tag / Bridge
is an extra set of steps not part of the main dance sequence that are inserted into one or more sequences to ensure the dance fits with the phrasing of the music. The term tag
usually implies only a few additional counts (e.g. 2 or 4), whereas bridge
implies a longer piece (e.g. 8 or 16). The terms are generally interchangeable, however.
Each dance is said to consist of a number of walls
. A wall is the direction in which the dancers face at any given time: the front (the direction faced at the beginning of the dance), the back or one of the sides. Dancers may change direction many times during a sequence, and may even, at any given point, be facing in a direction half-way between two walls; but at the end of the sequence they will be facing the original wall or any of the other three. Whichever wall that is, the next iteration of the sequence uses that wall as the new frame of reference.
- In a one-wall dance, the dancers face the same direction at the end of the sequence as at the beginning.
- In a two-wall dance, repetitions of the sequence end alternately at the back and front walls. In other words, the dancers have effectively turned through 180 degrees during one set. The samba line dance is an example of a two-wall dance. While doing the "volte" step, the dancers turn 180 degrees to face a new wall.
- In a four-wall dance, the direction faced at the end of the sequence is 90 degrees to the right or left from the direction in which they faced at the beginning. As a result, the dancers face each of the four walls in turn at the end of four consecutive repetitions of the sequence, before returning to the original wall. The hustle line dance is an example of a four-wall dance because in the final figure they turn 90 degrees to the left to face a new wall.
Popular Line Dances
Cha Cha Slide
Boot Scootin' Boogie
Achy Breaky Heart
Cotton Eye Joe
Line dance resources
Major line dance events and competitions