How to Choreograph a Line Dance

I have choreographed one line dance. It is an ultra-beginner, four wall line dance and I created it specifically to aid my dancers who have little or no vision, in making turns. So, I have just a tiny bit of experience choreographing, but I will share with you the sites I have found to be helpful in choreographing a line dance.

First, Robert Royston does a very nice job of outlining the process for choreographing a line dance.

That is enough to get you started. But if you want to delve deeper into choreographing your first line dance, continue reading.

Next, I recommend this article from Max Perry. Click on this link, and you will be taken directly to a PDF: Choreography Basics by Max Perry.

A snippet from the article:

“CHOREOGRAPHY BASICS By: Max Perry To choreograph an effective routine, a dancer will use several techniques to create a dance that will not only fit the music, but will feel good when danced. The tools we use as choreographers are knowledge of the dance components, a basic idea of phrasing music, and an idea of how the material is to be used.”

With those two under your belt, I invite you to read this article from Norm from Dance with Norm. This link will take you directly to a PDF entitled Basic Line Dance Terminology. This article will help you to know the names of various line dance steps. Bear in mind that country line dance steps may have a different name than the same steps when urban line dancing.

This site also includes a list of line dance steps: Roots Boots Line Dance Terms and Definitions.

Next, I want to touch on step sheets. It is not necessary to write step sheets, and it is a challenge to even know to read them, let alone write them. However, I feel it is important as one more way to immortalize your line dance.

In addition, it can be a challenge, since the exact same steps can have different names, but this article will help you with basic, logical instructions. For example, you want to be consistent in the way you describe the step. Here’s a snippet from the article:

Consistency means saying the same thing the same way every time. This is sometimes called using a “single voice” throughout the step sheet. Any instruction in a step sheet can be written multiple ways:

“left foot – step to side”, “left foot step left”, “left foot step to left side”, “left foot step to left”, “left foot step to the left”, “left foot to left side”, “left foot to left”, “left side step”, “left side”, “left step left”, “left step side left”, “left step to left side”, “left step to side left”, “left step to the left”, “left to left side”, “left to left”, “left to side”, “left to the side”, “side step left”, “step left foot to side”, “step left foot to the left side”, “step left with left foot”, “step out left”, “step to left with left”, “step to the side with the left foot”

Notice how stepping forward with the left foot happens twice, but is described in two different ways. This inconsistency decreases readability. When a step sheet seems understandable in one section, but unclear in another, the most likely cause is lack of consistency. The proposed step sheet vocabulary will help a step sheet writer to keep a consistent voice throughout a step sheet.

Visit Kick It here for the article (opens as a PDF): How to Write a Step Sheet

Last but not least, this book by Skippy Blair has just a few pages on line dancing, including a “Line Dance Formula” (on pages 43 and 44), but I would highly recommend it as reading material. The whole book, not just the pages on line dancing.

Skippy Blair on Contemporary Social Dance: Disco to Tango and Back/Plus Teacher’s Breakdown for the Universal Unit System

I am still studying Skippy Blair’s book, and learning a lot of very interesting concepts that I never realized about dancing.

I’d love to hear from you! Do you choreograph line dances, or are you just getting started? Leave me a comment or use my contact form to drop me a line.

Teaching Line Dance to the Visually Impaired

love-dancing1775507This past Wednesday, I began teaching line dance. Part of me was saying, “What in the world are you thinking?! You have been line dancing less than a year!”

Another part of me shouted out, “Just try it! It will be an adventure! If it doesn’t work out, you can stop. But for now, just do it!” I knew soon after I began line dancing that I wanted to share this wonderful experience with others through instructing. I definitely wanted to share my passion for line dance with anyone who was willing to try.

For the past 15 years I have worked for an agency that provides rehabilitation to adults who are blind and visually impaired. I have strong feelings about this community. I have seen that they are capable of almost anything they put their minds to. I have watched people walk in the front door dependent on family or friends to do for them, and chauffeur them around, but after receiving training go on to find a job and travel independently.

I also toyed with and looked into the prospect of teaching a class at the studio where I take my lessons. Between the two options, interesting enough, I was less concerned by the prospect of teaching line dance to adults with limited vision, so I decided to start there.

I decided the first line dance I would teach is the one I learned first:  Ms. Jody’s Thang.

I had ten dancers present. Four had no visual impairment. Two are experts in the field of Orientation and Mobility (O&M). These ladies help people regain their independence after losing vision. The other two sighted people are volunteers at the agency.

Of the six visually impaired, two were experienced square dancers, one of these is a man who is also hearing impaired, and wears a hearing aid. He told me he square danced for over 20 years, and used to teach classes, and asked that I not make the music too loud otherwise it would reverberate in his hearing aid.

Five dancers have enough vision that they were able to stay in line while we danced.

One dancer has very little vision and did well, but had some difficulty keeping in line with the rest of us as we made our turns. This is to be expected, and I’m working with the O&M Specialists to see if we can figure out how to help her. She told me she had a great time, and is looking forward to the next class!

All in all, it went very well. Although I was rather nervous. It was my first time calling the steps out loud and it is definitely a learning curve. I need to work on my audio cues since my dancers cannot watch my feet, they definitely need verbal instruction to stay in step.

It is said when you are line dancing, you must concentrate on the steps to the extent that you cannot be thinking of other things. I find this to be very true. Even the moment I begin to think, “Hey, I’m getting this,” I fall out of step. But having to call the steps out loud and keep dancing the correct steps? Whew!

For the first class, we worked on just one dance. We went through learning the steps one section at a time, then putting the sections together and finally doing a full rotation.

One problem I had was teaching the dance at a slower pace than the music. When I turned the music on, it was much faster than my dancers had learned to take the steps.

I also had decided to teach my dancers that once you learn a dance, you can use it for multiple songs! I love this idea! So we ended up learning the steps and dancing to Ms. Jody’s Thang at first, but I also found two other songs that worked perfectly. The only little problem is I had trouble counting the beats from when the song began, and I got flustered and kept starting the song over again, and apologizing. {How embarrassing! Oh, how I agonized over my mistakes for the next 24 hours! I also felt wiped out, thankfully not physically sore. Mentally, more than anything.}

I found an awesome website that allows you to enter the beats per minute (BPM) and find songs at that BPM, by genre!

Ms. Jody’s Thang (Remix) is 144 beats per minute. The other two songs I chose were:

It Doesn’t Get any Countrier Than This by Tim McGraw

It’s a Beautiful Day by Michael Bublé

Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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What a Shock aka Freaks on the Floor Line Dance

Dance: What a Shock (aka Freaks on the Floor)
Choreographer: Larry Bass
Song: Freak
Artist: Cheri Dennis
Step Sheet: Copperknob Line Dance Sheets

I have a new favorite line dance!

I am so intrigued as to why my brain can latch onto some steps immediately, even some that appear difficult, but other steps have me baffled and confused. Notice that I did not say discouraged! 🙂 I have been line dancing seven months now, and I have faith that I WILL pick up the steps! I do have to admit this is the most difficult dance I have ever tried to learn.

The first time I saw What a Shock was at The Line Dance Party’s quarterly line dance party in mid-April. Another group of local line dancers – Shades of Distinction – performed the dance and the next week our instructor taught the dance. He taught the dance for three weeks in a row, and I was just not getting it.

It doesn’t help that I haven’t been practicing on the weekends. I notice a dramatic improvement when I make a point to practice. My instructor sends out a link to a video so we can practice the line dance, but I needed a bit more concentration on the steps. I started searching on YouTube and found the video which is first on this blog post.

I managed to figure out how to make the video loop and just kept practicing over and over and over… like, for 45 minutes. Yes. It took that long for me to get the first few steps memorized! I just feel like if I had tried to rely on learning only while at class, I never would have learned this dance.

But now I feel like the dance is in my brain and I’ll keep practicing to make sure it stays.

So a little background for this dance. It was originally a country and western line dance, the first video is actually the choreographer, Larry Bass, demonstrating the steps! I think that’s pretty cool!

However, as happens fairly often (I’m told) it was converted to a soul line dance at some point in time, and the song used is by Cheri Dennis, and is called Freak. There is just one tiny problem… I could only find this song on YouTube. I could not find it on iTunes, nor on Amazon. So, if you are wanting to do this dance, you’ll need to use the music found on YouTube.

After my intensive practice, I was able to follow along with Linda Simms in the following video. I am not 100% yet, but much better having practiced. At least now I don’t feel like my right foot turned to a left foot again (two left feet).

Look how much fun Linda and the ladies are having dancing this line dance!

The DanceSocks Review

The Dance Socks

The first time I saw DanceSocks was on Linda Simms, “The Who Dat Teacher” from Let’s Mess it Up Soul Line Dancing. I wondered, “What is she (and most of her class) wearing on their shoes?”

DanceSocks also came up at Amazon while searching for dance sneakers. I was very interested in trying them out as I mentioned in my review for my dance sneakers, but I was hesitating. Then our dance studio moved from one location to another, and the wood floors at the new location were sticky. There were two possible reasons. First of all, the flooring had been in storage for a year, and secondly, the people who laid the flooring had mopped it. For whatever reason, our shoes were not gliding and sliding, so I decided it was time to try out The DanceSocks.

They can be ordered from Amazon (my favorite place to order most everything) but while I was making up my mind which ones to get, the shipping date changed and it would have been two weeks before they arrived. I wanted them in time for the next class, so I checked at the company’s site, and was able to order express shipping to have them delivered in two days.

Shipping from Amazon is $3.99 – I put 8 pair in my cart and shipping was still $3.99 so not sure when the shipping price increases.

Direct from the company, I put 10 pair in the cart and it was still $2.95. Priority mail shipping (express) is $6.95. My classmates and I are planning to go in on a group order.

The DanceSocks slip over your shoe right where the ball of your foot meets the floor. They were designed to be worn over any type of sneaker or gym shoe, and the purpose is to allow you to glide and pivot and twist on wood floor.

dance-socks1

My package arrived in time for the next class, and I handed out a pair to three of my classmates. One of my classmates will sometimes lean over and hold her knees, or sit and hold her knees. I wondered if the DanceSocks would be of help to her, as that is one of their purposes, is to help avoid stress on the ankles and knees. She has worn them to every class since, and reports that they are helping a lot.

The DanceSocks

Another classmates said she was able to stay on top of all pivots and turns in another of her dance classes, Chicago Stepping. She asked me where she can buy more pairs, as she won’t be without them.

For me personally? I feel they have revolutionized my dancing. Truly. Seriously. I feel that I can move more freely on the dance floor, I can glide, I can make the turns and pivots with ease. I will not be without my dance socks.

The item I bought was a four pack, which contains 8 “sneaker socks”. The socks were turquoise, hot pink, purple and black. This pack was $20 for the four pair, so they are $5 a pair. You can also buy specific colors in two packs, which are $10 for the two pair.

The DanceSocks are just a little piece of material without a seam, very much like a sock, but open on both ends. You slide the sock over your shoe, the company recommends that you wear the logo side up.

I don’t see any difference in the make up of the sock from logo side or the other side, and my first thought was they want people to “advertise” the logo. Or maybe the logo causes the sock to grip the floor. But, the socks do get really dirty. I am wearing the pink socks and they are completely grey on the bottom after class. The company recommends hand washing, but even though I scrub the material they have a few stained areas, so if I always wear the logo side up, then the sock looks good. Who cares if the bottom is stained, no one can see it.

Put the sock on and try it out. Adjust it to your liking. You might need to glide more, so you would want the sock to be stretched out to its full length. If you need less glide, fold the sock over on its edges, exposing more of the shoe’s toe.

Always remove the socks before leaving the studio as walking on cement or blacktop could damage the material.

They also have DanceSocks for carpet! I have hadn’t the chance to try these out, but they would sure come in handy if you only had a carpeted area to practice, or maybe someone is having a party in their home and the only room big enough to dance in is carpeted.

Ooh Ahh Line Dance

The instructional above is taught by Hassan.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Dance: Ooh Aah
Choreographer: Bernadette Bernette
Song: Beautiful Surprise
Artist: Tamia
Step Sheet: NA

Another favorite. I had never heard this song before, and fell in love with it.

I find the dance named both Ooh Aah and Ooh Ahh. I’m not sure which is correct (two a’s or two h’s?). I’m trying to connect with Ms. Bernette, the choreographer to find out. Also, maybe she has step sheets! 🙂 UPDATE: I connected with Ms. Bernette and she confirmed that the dance is spelled with two h’s “Ooh Ahh”.  Also, no step sheets.

Two parts that especially stand out for me in this line dance. First was the set of steps “right left right left right” where you do sort of a stomp. In the instructional video above, you can see it at 20 seconds in.

The next set of steps that confounded me, which I finally got and totally love, is the sailor step in which we do a 1/2 turn. This part is taught at 2:16 in the video above.

This is one of the dances that I could do every week and never get tired of it. A lot of the dances are like this for me.

The video below is a good one for practicing Ooh Ahh. The video is produced by The Soul Steppers.