You're probably familiar with our editor’s "I Try" section in the paper, where she tries something new every week.
It’s an interesting practice that inspires me to do something different, too. On Friday night, I decided to try the Charleston. Music has been an influential part of my life, but dancing’s another category in itself. Of all the dances (or dance styles) I’ve been exposed to — the Electric Slide, the Cha-Cha Slide, the Cupid Shuffle, the Tango — none of them have given me more fun and exhaustion than the Charleston.
For those of you who don’t know, the Charleston was popularized in mainstream dance music in the United States by a 1923 tune called “The Charleston,” by composer/pianist James P. Johnson. It can be danced alone or with a partner. The basic step is done in eight-count movements. I watched a few YouTube videos to get an idea of the dance. The instructors in one of the videos, two enthusiastic individuals with British accents, showed off their best performance of the Charleston. I also looked up directions on a Southern Living article:
Begin with your palms parallel to the floor
Step forward with your left foot. Move your right foot forward and tap it in front of your left.
Step backward with your right foot. Then step backward with your left foot and tap it behind your right.
Swing your arms side to side or back and forth as you move your feet
Add a twisting movement by balancing on the balls of your feet and moving your heels in and out as you step forward and backward. This will get your knees moving in and out (or together and apart) a jazzy characteristic of the dance.
As I watched the video, I followed and chanted along with my instructors to the rhythm (in slow counts): forward-anda-tap, and back-and-tap; forward-anda-tap, and back-and-tap; forward-anda-tap and back-and-tap. The swivel, which includes your heels being slightly off the floor (in and out motions of the legs), proved to be easy at first … until you put the dance and music all together. The fast, upbeat music took a while for me to follow, and I still have trouble with the swivel. After an hour and 30 minutes of stepping forward, tapping my feet and swinging my arms back and forth in a jazzy motion, I discovered my inner flapper girl.
So, why should you perform it or learn to dance in general? Stress relief. Life tends to bring you down, whether its work, family and marriage problems, or other circumstances. Dancing makes you happy. According to an article from the British website Dance and Fitness, dancing can reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Health benefits of dancing include improved condition of your heart and lungs; increased muscular strength, endurance and motor fitness; increased aerobic fitness; improved muscle tone and strength; weight management; stronger bones and reduced risk of osteoporosis. Those are just some of the benefits reported on the Better Health Channel.
Learning to dance (or a particular style of dance) exposes you to a whole new culture. As part of a Spanish I class assignment in high school, I learned how to dance the Tango, a social dance that originated in the 1880s along the Rio de la Plata, the natural border between Argentina and Uruguay. It was especially fun since one of my classmates volunteered to be my dance partner and we laughed through our mistakes and learned the moves together.
My conclusion: Go dance. Find a local dancing class. Grab a partner and have a laugh. Unleash your inner 1920s self (or whatever dance style you’re doing). Dance like nobody’s watching.