Happy New Year everyone! I hope you were all good little bootscooters who got what you wanted from Santa. If not, then here’s my belated Christmas present to you – the first review of 2014! (Side note: I’ve also tidied up the “My dances” page a little, and will hopefully be adding some new dances there soon too.)
Dance: Fools to Kings
Choreographer: Amanda Bowden
Music: “Love Changes (Everything)” by Musikk featuring John Rock
Description: 72 count, 2 wall intermediate line dance with 2 tags and 1 restart
You know what? It’s too hot to think and too close to Christmas to be critical, so instead of a review today let’s have something a bit more fun. As line dancers, most of us are familiar with a broad range of terms like kick-ball-change, sailor steps, bridges, tags and restarts. But there are some words and phrases that don’t appear on the kind of sheets teachers sometimes hand out, that are also worth knowing. Here are a few, both of my own creation and overheard at various events:
In some classes, a phrase yelled in unison at the end of any dance set to a slow, sweet song.
Hip sways, especially as a tag. So named because when you want to add some vegetables to dinner and don’t know what to use, you just use carrots; when you want to add a tag and don’t know what to use, just use hip sways.
Do you need a walkthrough?
Question used by teachers to check who’s paying attention. Typically, the people most likely to answer yes are the ones least likely to be listening, so that 10 seconds into playing the music the need for a walkthrough is made obvious.
No tags or restarts
A cause for celebration. See also parsimonious phrasing.
Putting the bare minimum of tags and restarts in a dance while still remaining faithful to the music. While it may not be the best thing to do all the time, it’s worth trying your dance with a parsimonious phrasing to help work out if you really do need a phrasing section double the length of the main dance.
A platypus, as the saying goes, is a duck designed by committee. Similarly, when a large group of choreographers collaborate on a dance, you often end up with something where each part looks reasonable on its own, but which lacks a certain coherency as a whole.
Are there any words or phrases you hear used often in class that you think should be better known? Let me know in the comments.
Back in October, the Australian Line Dancer facebook page posed an interesting question:
Currently everyone has the ability to choreograph a dance to any song and upload to the Internet for everyone to learn.
- A good thing?
- A bad thing?
As a lesser-known choreographer, I of course had a bit to say on the matter. Here is what I posted in response to that question:
I think it’s a great thing for choreographers, because it means that even if you’re a small-time choreographer like me, in a country like Australia, there’s a chance (albeit small) that someone in the US, or the Netherlands, or wherever, can be doing my dance. It’s also great for teachers and classes, because sometimes you’re looking for a dance to scratch a particular itch – something easy, something hard, something upbeat, something smooth, whatever, and you can look through a massive resource like CopperKnob or Aussie Dance Sheets to find something that’s exactly what you need.
That said, I agree that it also means that there isn’t much in the way of quality control, and there are so many dances out there that people get obsessed with the “cult of the new” and you find that one class will learn 5 new dances every week and then not do any of them ever again, while another class will have just given up and sticks to the same rock solid foundation of 30 old-school classics.
This is not unique to line dancing though – look at YouTube, or the never-ending stream of blogs, or podcasts. The trick is that in all of those cases, there’s still a mechanism for the good (or at least the popular) to rise to the top, so that people can still be on the same page. We sort-of have this in the line dance surveys, and good old-fashioned word of mouth, but maybe we need a site that generates more responsive “hot lists” of what dances are being viewed, danced, taught etc.
One thing I’ll directly disagree with others in the thread is the idea of “leave it to the pros”. I understand the reasoning behind this, and for sure you’ll always be on safer ground if you stick to teaching dances by well-known names because there’s a better chance that other classes will be doing the same, but remember that there’s not really such a thing as a “professional” choreographer when it comes to line dancing. To become a good choreographer, you don’t have much in the way of training unless you’re lucky enough to have another choreographer take you under their wing, and most of the time the only feedback you get on your dances is when you find out they’re being taught somewhere (especially if, like me, you egotistically Google yourself occasionally). Half the reason I write a line dance review blog is to help *me* understand what I like and don’t like in a dance, so that I have more success at my own choreography, because outside of competitions (which are often quite hard for me to attend) there isn’t a forum for me to put a dance forward to get raw, honest criticism about it (although Ros and Stan are usually quite good at telling me when they don’t like something about a dance, that’s still a very limited audience).
While I have my own views, the discussion was definitely far from one-sided, and there were many interesting and most importantly civil posts discussing both the pros and the cons of the current paradigm, including contributions from a lot of line dancers who I hold great respect for. I invite all readers of this blog to take a look at the discussion, and comment here to let me know where you sit on the matter.