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DANCE DESCRIPTIONS
 

First Dance Impressions offers instruction in the full range of popular wedding dances including:

West Coast Swing
Disco
Rumba Bolero
Two - step
Cha Cha
Lindy Hop
Country Waltz
Polka
Argentine Tango
Samba

Please click on a link above for a brief history of that that dance as well as some corresponding songs.


Foxtrot

Although often associated with the style of Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers, the Foxtrot was actually introduced into the mainstream by Harry Fox in 1913. Foxtrot is a smooth dance, traveling around the line of dance (perimeter of the room in a counter-clockwise direction). The long walking movements involve a subtle rise & fall action. Turning movements are similar to Waltz, but with the emphasis on horizontal traveling and more moderate vertical rise and fall. Foxtrot is extremely versatile and can be danced to a variety of musical styles and tempi including a large percentage of contemporary love songs. The American style of Foxtrot possesses a playful and "theatrical" quality because it is not limited to only closed-position dancing. The choreography is often reminiscent of the Fred and Ginger, Gene Kelly, or original Harry Fox style. The basic beginner rhythm of Foxtrot is counted Slow-Slow-Quick-Quick (SSQQ). Variations include SQQ or SQQS.

FOXTROT SONG EXAMPLES:

"It Had to be You" Harry Connick, Jr. - When Harry Met Sally soundtrack

"I've Got You Under My Skin" Dionne Warwick (Sings Cole Porter)

"Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" Harry Connick, Jr. - When Harry Met Sally soundtrack

"This Business of Love" Domino - The Mask soundtrack

"Walking My Baby Back Home" Harry Connick, Jr./Nat King Cole

"A Wink and a Smile" Harry Connick, Jr. - Sleepless in Seattle soundtrack

Albums/Artists
Frank Sinatra
Ella Fitzgerald

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Tango

The Tango is claimed to have originated from Argentine, Brazilian, Spanish and Uruguay influences. The earliest traces of the Tango date back to the latter half of the 19th century-to the Milonga, an Argentine folk dance with Moorish, Arabic and Spanish ancestry. Years later, the Argentine Gauchos (street-wise single men) danced a modified version of the Milonga, in the bawdy cafes of Buenos Aires. It was conceived and cherished as an escape from the routine of daily life.

It's unique style involves uninhibited movements, staccato foot-beats, rapid foot kicks off the ground and twisted spines. It was considered sensuous and daring, with the suspense of momentary dynamic pauses emphasizing emotions stirred by the music and the very close hold with the woman's head over her partner's right shoulder, cheek to cheek. Milonga was therefore considered taboo for upper-class society to dance. The youths of Argentina and Cuba changed its style to one that was more acceptable to society and renamed it "Tango". It was not until after the Tango went to Paris and was re-introduced to Argentina that the music was restored to its native style.

Performance Tango in Paris, London and New York was popularized in the mid 1950's adding lifts, dips, twirls and acrobatics dimension to the dance. Tango has been further popularized by movies like "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse"(1921), "Scent of a Woman" (1992), and "True Lies" (1994). The allure and exoticism of the Tango has continued to enjoy undiminished favor in the United States.

The character of the Milonga is a very soft private dance, with visual emphasis on the leg movements. This character was changed dramatically in Paris in the 1930's, where the dance was combined with the proud torso of the other ballroom dances, and given a dramatic, staccato action that travels expeditiously around the perimeter of the ballroom. This moved the visual emphasis to the torso and head, a characteristic which remains to this day in what is called International style Tango.

TANGO SONG EXAMPLES:

"La Cumparsita/Tango Please" (Medley) Strictly Ballroom soundtrack

"Phantom of the Opera" from Phantom of the Opera

"The Rain in Spain" from My Fair Lady

"Habanera" from Carmen

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VIENNESE WALTZ

The Viennese Waltz is a dance performed to music with three beats to the bar. This means that if a step is taken on each beat, then each bar starts with the opposite foot to that of the previous bar. The first record of a dance to rhythm is a peasant dance of Provence, France in 1559. Currently, the Viennese Waltz is danced at a tempo of about 180 beats per minute, with a limited range of figures: Change Steps, hesitations, Hovers, Passing Changes, Natural and Reverse Turns and the Contra-check. The rapid pace and twirling while travelling nature of the dance makes it a difficult dance for beginners, but when mastered dancers will enjoy it's delightful and romantic lilt. As in any turning dance, as the couple perform their step around their partner, they have to take a larger than usual step to get from one side of their partner to the other. In order to do this, the partners have to hold each other in a close embrace. A modified version of this challenging dance is the Country Waltz which uses the same tempo but simplified footsteps.

VIENNESE WALTZ SONG EXAMPLES:

"Annie's Song" John Denver

"Caribbean Blue" Enya (Shepherd Moons) (slow)

"My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music 

"Kiss of the Rose" Seal

"Show Me" from My Fair Lady

"Waltzing Back" Cranberries (Everybody Else is Doing It, Why Can't We?)

Strauss waltzes (warning: they are usually long, and may have tempo changes)

"Waltz of the Flowers" from Tchiakovsky's The Nutcracker

"Sleeping Beauty Waltz" from Tchiakovsky's The Sleeping Beauty

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WALTZ

The German "Landler", a folk dance, is supposed to be the forerunner of the Waltz. During the 18th Century, a dance developed, which was called the walzen, German for to roll, turn or glide. The Walzen was met with outraged indignation by the older generation when first introduced into the ballrooms of the world in the early 19th century because it was the first dance where the couple danced in a modified closed position-with the man's hand around the waist of the girl. Regardless, the Waltz became popular through many parts of Germany and Austria. The Waltz was given a tremendous boost around 1830 by two great Austrian composers - Franz Lanner and Johann Strauss: they set the standard for the Viennese waltz (a very fast version of the Waltz).

The first time the waltz was danced in the United States was in Boston in 1834 by Lorenzo Papanti. The Boston, a more sedate form of the fast Viennese Waltz, danced at a leisurely 90 beats per minute. It evolved in America around 1870 and by the 1920's had slowed down even more to time with strong accent on the first beat and a basic pattern of step-step-close. This version of the Waltz retained the characteristic travelling and turning figures and the slower tempo but allowed for more figures including a dip. It is popularly known as the "traditional American wedding dance" and is often used for Father/Daughter and Mother/Son dances. Its characteristic lilt using undulating rise and fall technique and shoulder sways gives the dance a "fairytale" quality.

WALTZ SONG EXAMPLES:

"Crazy World" Premier Pops/Henry Mancini

"Doug's Tearful Waltz/First Kiss" Strictly Ballroom soundtrack

"Fascination" Nat King Cole (Sings the Great Songs)

"If You Don't Know Me by Now" Simply Red (A New Flame)

"Just a Little Lovin'" Barbra Streisand (Stony End)

"Mary Jane" Alanis Morrisette (Jagged Little Pill)

"Moon River" Premier Pops/Henry Mancini; Breakfast at Tiffany's

Nocturne from The Secret Garden soundtrack (slow)

"Open Arms" Journey (Journey's Greatest Hits) (fast)

"Sunrise, Sunset" from Fiddler on the Roof

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RUMBA

The word Rumba is a generic term, covering a variety of names for a type of West Indian music and dance (i.e., Son, Danzon, Guagira, Guaracha, Naningo and Bolero). There are two sources of the dances: one Spanish and the other African. Although the main growth was in Cuba, there were similar dance developments that took place in other Caribbean islands and in Latin America generally. Traditionally, the music was played with a staccato beat using instruments including the maracas, claves, marimboa, guiro, cencerro, and bongo or timbales drums. The native Rumba folk dance is essentially a sex pantomime danced extremely fast with exaggerated hip movements.

Today's Rumba is danced very slowly and has romantic, flirtatious and sensual overtones. Many contemporary Top 40 love songs and soul music capture the intimate sensuality of the Rumba mood. The dance incorporates knee bends known as Cuban motion and expressive armstyling to enhance the Latin aura of the dance. The Rumba is considered a "Rhythm" dance which is less formal and low-key compared to all the "Smooth" dances mentioned above because of its relatively stationary orientation. In other words, it doesn't travel around the room like the smooth dances.

RUMBA SONG EXAMPLES:

"Another Day in Paradise" Phil Collins (But Seriously)

"Beautiful Maria of My Soul" Mambo Kings soundtrack

"Como Fue" Mambo Kings soundtrack

"Cry on My Shoulder" Bonnie Raitt (Nick of Time)

"Falling Into You" Celine Dion "Father Figure" George Michael

"Fields of Gold" Sting (Ten Summoner's Tales)

"I Adore Mi Amor" Color Me Badd

"I Just Can't Stop Loving You" Michael Jackson (Bad)

"Innocent Man" Billy Joel

"Liberian Girl" Michael Jackson (Bad)

"Mi Buen Amor" Gloria Estefan (Mi Tierra)

"Quizas, Quizas, Quizas" (Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps) Strictly Ballroom soundtrack, 

"Quizas, Quizas, Quizas" (Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps) Nat King Cole (Cole Espanol Volume 1)

"Sway" Julie London

"Time and Tide" Basia (Time and Tide)

"Time After Time" Cyndi Lauper/Strictly Ballroom soundtrack

"Wrapped Around My Finger" Police (The Singles)

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SWING

The history of Swing dates back to the 1920's, where the black community, while dancing to contemporary Jazz music, created the Charleston, Shag and the Lindy Hop. In the mid- 1930's, a bouncy six beat variant was named the Jitterbug by the band leader Cab Calloway when he introduced a tune in 1934 entitled "Jitterbug". In the 1930's and 1940's, the terms Lindy Hop, Jitterbug and Swing were used interchangeable by the new media to describe the same style of dancing taking place on the streets, in the night clubs, in contests and in the movies. The late 1940's brought forth many dances that evolved from Rhythm & Blues music: the Houston Push and Dallas Whip (Texas), the Imperial Swing (St. Louis), the D.C. Hand Dancing (Washington), and the Carolina Shag (Carolinas and Norfolk) were just a few. After the late 1940's, the soldiers and sailors returned from overseas and continued to dance in and around their military bases. Jitterbug was danced to Country-Western music in Country-Western bars, and popularized in the mid 1980's and 1990's with contemporary movies, Broadway shows and television commercials featuring Swing dancers.

The character of the Swing is All-American innocence and fun-loving. It is a happy and playful dance using kicks, rock steps and rhythm breaks. The Lindy Hop, in particular uses bouncing, spins and sometimes acrobatics, requires nimble feet and a lot of footsteps danced at an 8-count beat. The East Coast Swing is a mellower Swing that requires less exertion, is slower and uses a 6-count beat. The Single Swing is designed to keep up with the fast pace of Lindy Hop music without exerting as much energy. It is easier, involves less steps and uses a 3-count beat.

LINDY HOP and SINGLE SWING SONG EXAMPLES:

"It Don't Mean a Thing if You Ain't Got that Swing" Duke Ellington

"Rock Around the Clock" Bill Haley and the Comets

"Shake, Rattle, and Roll" Bill Haley and the Comets (Greatest Hits)

"Sing Sing Sing (with a Swing)" Swing Kids soundtrack

Artists/Albums:
Squirrel Nut Zippers
Brian Setzer Orchestra
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

EAST COAST SWING SONG EXAMPLES:

"This Kiss" Faith Hill

"Baby Love" Diana Ross and the Supremes

"I Feel Lucky" Mary Chapin Carpenter

"Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" Cindy Lauper

"Destination Anywhere" The Committments

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Merengue

The Merengue, the national dance of the Dominican Republic and its neighbor, Haiti, is used for every dancing occasion on the island. This dance is very popular throughout the Caribbean and South America. It is one of the standard Latin American dances. The Merengue was introduced to the United States in the New York area. It is the perfect dance to learn for those planning a honeymoon in any of these regions of the world.

Ideally suited to small, crowded dance floors, the Merengue is a dance that is fun and easy to learn quickly. The patterns are generally danced to an 8-count beat while using short, flat-footed shuffling steps and Cuban motion with the knees and hips. The music is very staccato and has a predictable marching element but can range in tempo from slow to fast.

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Mambo

The Mambo is attributed to Perez Prado who introduced it at La Tropicana night-club in Havana in 1943. The Mambo mania hit when Prado recorded the song, "Mambo Jambo". The dance first appeared in the United States in New York's Park Plaza Ballroom-a favorite hangout of enthusiastic dancers from harlem. The Mambo gained its popularity in 1947 at the Palladium and other renowned places such as The China Doll, Havana Madrid, and Birdland. A modified version of the Mambo was presented to the public in the 1950's at dance studios, resort hotels, and night-clubs in New York and Miami. The 1990's brought about the Salsa, which uses Mambo patterns but starts on the traditional down beat (1st beat of the 4/4 measure) instead of the up beat or off-beat (2nd beat of the 4/4 measure). The extent of the Mambo's conquest may be appreciated in the fact that its rhythms have invaded the popular music market by attaching themselves to all kinds of musical genres. The Mambo is also credited with being the forefather of the Cha-Cha. The character of the Mambo is fast and flirtatious which is accentuated by the use of relaxed pelvic motions and cuban styling, spins, rhythm breaks and shine or open frame positions.

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