Waltzing the Night Away
The word waltz comes from the German word walzen “to revolve”. It became a popular ballroom dance that evolved from the Landler in the 19th century. The dance is characterized by a step, slide, step in ¾ time. As their turning couples hold each other and you could say, glide across the floor. Classic composers of famous waltzes include Frederic Chopin, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and Johann Strauss, whose son Johan Strauss the Younger became known as “the Waltz King”.
To bring us up to modern times there are many pop, rock, and contemporary songs you can waltz to among them “The Last Waltz” by British singer Engelbert Humperdinck. The ballad was written by Barry Mason and Les Reed. It became one of the singer's biggest hits and rose to number one on the UK Singles chart in 1967. It also charted on the Billboard Hot 100 and the Easy Listening charts.
Let's Tango You and Me
The tango is a ballroom dance, a musical style, and a song. In dance halls, the tango evolved in about 1880. Composers first published tango music in 1910. Early tangos were spirited and lively but the music and lyrics changed by 1920 giving the tango some melancholy. The tango step takes time to accommodate with a partner but the effect is fantastic.
Doing the tango try “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” a song by the British new wave music duo Eurythmics. It is on their album of the same name from 1983. The song gave the duo a breakthrough on the music scene and went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was their first single released in the US.
Mambo is a Latin dance originating in Cuba in the 1940s. The dance quickly became popular for dancing competitions in New York City dance halls. The dance requires lively energy, along with intense and provocative hip movements. Your footwork must be rapid and you have to have beautiful hand and arm movements. It is interesting to note that the word “mambo” is the name of a priestess in Haitian voodoo. It was derived from the language used by African slaves imported into the Caribbean.
To have fun doing the mambo put on “Mambo Italiano” This is a popular song that was written by Bob Merrill in 1954 for American singer Rosemary Clooney. However, one of the most popular came in 1955 when the song was recorded by Italian-American singer and actor Dean Martin.
Doing the Samba
Originating in Brazil is the samba, a ballroom dance that was popularized in Western Europe and the US in the early 1940s. The dance is characterized by simple forward and backward steps with tilting and rocking body movements. The dance music gives a 4/4 time with a syncopated rhythm. Partners can separate to execute variant steps making the dance more dramatic.
If you need music for the samba put on “All Night Long (All Day)” the hit single by American singer and songwriter Lionel Ritchie. It is on his second album Can't Slow Down from 1983. The song made it to number one on all three Billboard charts – pop, R&B, and Adult Contemporary.
Blame It on the Bossa Nova
As a dance, the bossa nova had its beginnings in Brazil in 1958. Rio de Janeiro-born pianist Antonio Carlos Jobim joined together jazz elements with indigenous Brazilian music and got what became known as the bossa nova sound. When the bossa nova came to America it was embraced and made to be the dance of love from the words in the song “Blame It On the Bossa Nova”.
“Blame It on the Bossa Nova” is a real oldie and the Bossa Nova was a dance. If you remember a singer named Eydie Gorme then she sang this song in 1963. It became a hit single for her. The song was written by Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann.
Jump in the Line
Calypso has spawned many subgenres, including soca music, mento, benna, spouge, ska, chutney, and extempo. A central figure in these styles is a griot, a lead singer who functions as a sage and a storyteller. The dance originated in Trinidad. It is referred to as “jump dancing” during Carnival in the Port of Spain. Its distinctive sound comes from steel drums. The dance puts emphasis on waist movements and hips to a 2/4 beat.
And the best song for doing the calypso is the calypso song “Jump in the Line (Shake, Senora)” with the best version by American singer, actor, and activist Harry Belafonte. He recorded this song in 1961.
Having Fun With the Cha Cha
This is a fun and flirty dance that is great to get lively to. The cha-cha originated from the Cuban Mambo. In the 1960s it became popular in the US. It incorporates modified Cuban motion hip actions and gets energetic. It soon became a dance craze and got everyone on the dance floor.
So get ready and put on the “Chilly Cha Cha” by Jessica Jay.
Getting Ready for the Charleston
One of the hardest dances but great fun, the Charleston is a social jazz dance. It became popular in the 1920s. The dance is characterized by its toes-in, heels-out twisting steps. It is versatile and can be performed as a solo, with a partner, or in a group. In the 1920s professional dancers adopted the dance and after the musical “Running Wild” in 1923 it became a national craze. The Charleston is done in quick 4/4 time with syncopated rhythms.
“It's Only a Paper Moon” is a popular song from 1933 with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by Yip Harburg and Billy Rose. The song was popularized by singers like American jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald and you can do the Charleston to it.
Rock and roll music inspired the dance, the Twist. After American singer Chubby Checker came out with his song “The Twist” which became a number one hit most teenagers were doing nothing but this dance. Of interest is that in 2012 a world record was set in DeLand, Florida. While Chubby Checker sang “The Twist” an estimated 4,000 people twisted with him and set the Guinness World Record for most people twisting in the streets at once. Now you can set your own record and twist the night away.
Doing the Hand Jive
The dance known as the Hand Jive is a synchronized, choreographed dance from the 1950s. You stand facing your partner, slightly hunched over, in a bent knee position with your thighs and shoulders relatively close. It requires quick moves and was made popular by the film “Grease”. The original song was by Johnny Otis and had its greatest popularity in the summer of 1958. I think everyone from the film “Grease” at Rydell High shows this dance to the best advantage.
Doing the Hustle
When I lived in New York City the early 1970s brought us disco and many different dances to learn. If you wanted to socialize you went to the nightclubs in Manhattan or in other boroughs. During this time one of the most popular dances was the Hustle. Van McCoy composed “The Hustle” on July 26, 1975, and it rose to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Soul Singles charts. Soon the song was heard on the radio and in all the nightclubs so often that you could even find yourself hearing it in your head and doing the Hustle on the streets of New York City. I know my friends and I would Hustle ourselves through Central Park just for fun but then we were teenagers and no one would let us into the clubs.
The inspiration for “The Hustle” came to singer, songwriter and producer Van McCoy on a visit to New York City. A friend, who was a D.J. told him that people were doing a new kind of dance at Adam’s Apple nightclub on Manhattan’s East Side. His business partner went to check it out and upon being inspired by the dance music McCoy wrote and recorded “The Hustle” and included it on his album Disco Baby. The song won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. “The Hustle” climbed the pop charts and had everyone dancing and singing. Unfortunately, McCoy could only enjoy the popularity for a short while. He suffered a heart attack and passed away in 1979. It even went through variations like the Latin, the Line, and the New York Hustle being performed by people on dance floors across the entire nation. If you didn’t have the pleasure to do the Hustle perhaps you can learn to do it now.
And finally just for the sheer fun of it even though this is a dance that never got popular there are fans of The Addams Family who will remember and smile doing it.
Doing The Lurch
Suddenly I hear the gravelly voice of Lurch. Do you remember Lurch The Addams Family butler? Well in the 1960s there was also a dance called The Lurch and since I was still a child it sort of slipped by me. I have included the video and the actor who played Lurch Ted Cassidy does a great job. The lyrics and music are by Gary Paxton.
Shall we dance?