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Line Dancing ~ What is it?

A line dance is a formation dance in which a group of people dance in one or more lines, all facing the same direction, and executing the same choreographed movements at the same time. Line dancers are not in physical contact with each other.

Line dancing is practiced and learned in country and western dance bars, social clubs, dance clubs and ballrooms worldwide. It avoids the problem of imbalance of male/female partners that plagues ballroom/swing/salsa dancing clubs. It is sometimes combined on dance programs with other forms of country-western dance, such as two-step, shuffle, and western promenade dances, as well as western-style variants of the waltz, polka and swing.

In a small group there may be only one line, but usually there are several parallel lines, one behind the other. In this parallel line formation, the dancers dance in a synchronized manner, but independently of each other. There are usually no moves that require any interaction between the dancers, other than they execute the maneuvers at the same time.

Although line dances can be fairly simple, as with the 18-count 4-wall beginner Electric Slide, increasing complexity can be created through several means. In general, higher-count sequences are more difficult. (One count corresponds to one musical beat.). The inclusion of unusual or unfamiliar sequences of steps also makes a dance more challenging. Body movements other than steps, such as hand gestures, can add complexity. Phrased line dances are written to go with specific versions of songs. Tags, bridges, and skipping over, or repeating portions of the dance, are all devices that are used to follow the phrasing in the music. These phrased dances require dancers to be more conscious of the music and not simply repeat the same sequence of steps for an entire song.

Contra line dances, choreographed to such songs as such as Believe by Cher, have two sets of lines with the dancers facing each other.


Line dancing has a cowboy image, and it was originally danced predominantly to country-western music . But this began to change in the 1970s, when the hustle line dance became popular. Line dancing now features a wide range of music. Dances often originate with songs in videos featuring what later become line dances. Today, country music makes up the minority of a line dance DJ's playlist, with the balance spread over a variety of musical styles both new and including: Waltz, West Coast Swing, Celtic, Pop, Rock, Big Band, Folk, and almost anything else that has a regular beat.

History and Culture

Line dance is sometimes thought of as originating in the Wild West. In fact, it has a much more diverse background. Many folk dances are danced in unison in a single, nonlinear line, often with a connection between dancers. The absence of a physical connection between dancers is a distinguishing feature of today’s line dancing.

At least five line dances associated with country and western music were written in the 1970s, five years before the disco craze created by the release of Saturday Night Fever in 1977. But line dancing's current popularity grew out of the disco period, when the country-western dance and music communities continued to explore and develop this form of dancing. Billy Ray Cyrus' 1992 hit Achy Breaky Heart helped catapult western line dancing back into the musical mainstream's public consciousness. In the mid 1990s country and western music was influenced by the popularity of line dancing. This influence was so great that Chet Atkins was quoted as saying, The music has gotten pretty bad. I think. It's all that damn line dancing.

In 1994 choreographer Max Perry had a worldwide dance hit with Swamp Thang for the song of the same name by The Grid. This was a techno song that fused banjo sounds in the melody line and helped to start a trend of dancing to forms of music other than country. Max Perry, along with Jo Thompson, Scott Blevins and several others, began to use ballroom rhythms and technique to take line dancing to the next level. In 1998, the band Steps created further interest outside of the U.S. with the techno dance song 5,6,7,8. In 1999 the Gap retailer debuted the Khaki Country ad on the Academy Awards ceremony. Line dancers performed to the 1999 version of Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Dwight Yoakum. Line dance now has very traditional dances to country music, and not so traditional dances to non-country music.