If you’re bored of the usual Salsa and Jive moves, dance your way into the New Year with the old-school styles, like Charleston and West Coast Swing, or Barrida, that is essential to the modern-day Tango
Most men ate their hearts out when they saw the legendary Joan Crawford let loose with Charleston in Our Dancing Daughters, a silent drama that was released back in 1928. Five decades later, John Travolta taught the world how to Disco in Saturday Night Fever (1977). Circa 2014: Dancing enthusiasts can now attempt these styles, courtesy a workshop in South Mumbai. While the city has been matching steps to Salsa, Tango and Bachata for a while, other lesser-known forms like the New York Hustle, West Coast Swing as well as complex Tango dance techniques, including the Abrazo and Barrida, are now being integrated into dance workshops.
“The last decade saw forms like Salsa, Ballroom, Waltz, Cha-Cha and Jive become popular. Now, people are warming up to club dances, which are more freestyle,” reasons well-known dancer Shannon Benjamin, who has collaborated with Amita Madhvani (owner, Studio Balance) to conduct a workshop for Charleston, Disco, New York Hustle and West Coast Swing. These freestyle dance forms are also finding takers, thanks to their popularity on international dance reality shows, believes Benjamin. “TV shows like So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With The Stars have played a big role in reviving forms like Charleston,” he suggests.
Besides adding a new dance routine to your next club outing, these workshops are also a good way to maintain your fitness levels or simply bond with your partner, as most are couple dance forms.
This was one of the reasons Argentine Tango trainer Nicolas Sandez decided to include techniques like Abrazo and Barrida in the three-month dance workshop taking place at Powai. “The idea is to build a connection between you and your partner. Abrazo, in Spanish means embrace, and it has been scientifically proven that embraces help reduce stress. Barrida is a new-world Tango dance technique that helps with posture exercise,” reveals Sandez.
The dance dossier
Abrazo, which means a V-shape close embrace, forms the heart of Tango which apparently found resonance with the immigrants in Buenos Aires towards the late 19th century. It became more popular once it reached Paris.
In this close embrace, the dancers stand facing each other chest-to-chest in upper body contact. You need to have an erect posture for this dance style.
It helps you bond with your partner and you can even improvise on the embrace.
Spanish for the sweep motion, Barrida is a part of the modern-day Tango that became popular in the late 1990s once it was showcased in the stage shows in the USA.
Barrida involves legwork where one partner’s foot sweeps the other’s foot along the floor and places it without losing contact. One can drag the outside or the inside foot of the partner and
the techniques for both are different.
This refined and smooth footwork can add a lot of aesthetic to the Tango dance.
Well-known dancer Shannon Benjamin shows off Charleston moves with partner Amita Madhvani of Studio Balance. Pic/Bipin Kokate
Initiated by African-Americans who lived on an island off the coast of South Carolina, the form became popular after appearing with the song, The Charleston, in the 1923 Broadway musical Runnin’ Wild.
With roots in the Lindy Hop, this dance uses swaying of arms and fast movement of feet. It also involves swivelling movements on the ball of one’s feet. The thomp, kick, knee action and jumps are some basic steps of Charleston.
While it can be performed with a partner, you can perform Charleston solo as well.
With elements of Funk, Pop, Psychedelic Soul and Salsa music, Disco gained popularity in the 1970s with movies like Saturday Night Fever and bands/artistes including the Bee Gees, ABBA and Donna Summer performing it.
Keeping your body loose and relaxed, this freestyle dance involves swaying to the beats with the rhythm of 1 to 8 and changing the moves with every four bars.
As it doesn’t involve any advanced moves, Disco is the best dance style for beginners.
New York Hustle >>
This is a form of line dance based around Salsa-style footwork that became popular in the New York and Florida ballrooms and nightclubs in the 1970s.
While its basic steps are somewhat similar to Discofox, this couple dance form is peculiar because of the step count, ‘And one, two, three’ instead of the basic, ‘one, two, three, four’.
It’s one of the easiest couple dance forms and you get to learn rhythm
West Coast Swing>>
Resembling the 1930s’ Savoy Style Swing dance that was innovated by choreographer Dean Collins, it was later called the West Coast Swing (WCS) as it was practised in Los Angeles and California, on the western coast of USA.
This partner dance involves close and open holds, turn patterns and multiple spins. Danced primarily in the slotted area of a dance floor, the basic steps require one to glide on the floor, instead of jumping movements.
A couple learns leading and following techniques which are extremely important to this dance form.