When “Let’s Groove Tonight” played like sweet, sweet liquid gold through the ladies’ restroom speakers at the Seattle Wild Ginger restaurant, I knew just what to do: Finish up and get dancing. I didn’t care who saw me. I needed to “share the spice of life” and “glide like a 747” out into the lobby where Nate and Alex were waiting for me. I have the moves that make strangers stop and think, “Bless her heart for trying.” Needless to say, Nate and Alex did not join me, but I later found out I had every right to tap my toes and move my hips. Saturday, April 29th was International Day of Dance and I didn’t miss a beat.
According to the International Theater Institute-World Organization for the Performing Art’s website, this day was created back in 1982. As stated on the website, “The intention of the International Dance Day message is to celebrate dance, revel in the universality of this art form, cross all political, cultural, and ethnic barriers, and bring people together with a common language—dance.” I think Nate and Alex will agree I crossed a few barriers with my rockin’ disco moves at the Wild Ginger.
However, I wasn’t done. I went home determined to learn a classic dance step. I wanted to celebrate my new Greater Seattle Area home with a dance steeped in the roots of the history of this town. So, I searched the Internet and discovered that Seattle was the home of many dance marathons in the 1920s and 1930s. According to Paula Becker’s 2003 article “Dance Marathons of the 1920s” on historylink.org, these human endurance “races” were grueling. Couples ended up dragging each other across the floor—practically sleepwalking. In 1928, Seattle ended up banning dance marathons within city limits because they were becoming dangerous and competitive. One woman, disappointed with her 5th place win during a 19-day competition, attempted suicide. To protect the morals and safety of the people, these marathons were no longer supported by law (Becker). However, during the Great Depression, the lure of cash prizes, full meals, and a place to stay indoors, were incentives for many couples to take to the dance floor.
What did they dance? Jazzy, classic, and contemporary versions of the Charleston, Swing, Waltz, and Tango. I’ve never danced the Charleston, so I thought I’d give it a go. For “research,” I logged over three hours of watching and attempting to dance the Charleston with the help of the following two videos from YouTube: 1) “How to Dance: The Charleston” by Kevin and Karen and 2) “How to Dance the Charleston from the 1920s” by JazzMAD London.
My feet are tired, bruised and calloused, and I think my right hip will never be the same. I also probably should have worn a sports bra, but I eventually got to the point where I could manage a wobbly attempt at one Charleston move.
There’s a swivel step on the balls of the feet that I can’t seem to do unless I get my arms going like chicken wings. I also can’t get the rhythm down, but there is proof that I’ve done it at least a few times without falling down. I have it on video—right here:
Your Turn: What dance move would you love to learn? What does it take to get you to get up and dance? Post and discuss!