Brewer’s Ballroom takes our hand and leads us to the dance floor as today we chat all things Charleston. This is a specialist dance, along with salsa, that are mainly known as ‘party’ dances. We have been learning this dance with Katie during her Latin Solo class on Saturday at 4pm. Check it out here.
An excellent question and thanks to Katie and her brilliant ballroom teaching skills today’s lesson is all about this popular dance. So called as it comes from Charleston the harbour city in South Carolina. When in 1923 the tune “The Charleston” by James P. Johnson became a hit from the Broadway show Runnin’ wild this dance took off. Steps stared from the African-American dance called Juba. The step had feet twists to a rhythm and when it hit Harlem a new variation was added. In came fast kicks, back and forward and taps.
Well, yes! We had a chat with Katie while catching our breath after class, “Charleston is normally 200-250-ish BPM (beats per minute). But there are so many different types and styles of Charleston! I guess Charleston is associated with a time / style / decade / rather than a particular style of dance. It can be Lindy inspired, jazz and scat-like, slow and bluesy, comic theatrical, stylish flapper-esque. As long as its got a twist or swivel then I feel it can be classes as Charleston! I always feel it’s like tap dancing as you have to keep the rhythm with your feet, especially when it gets fast!”
So quite quick then?! The Charleston has many styles and from the 1930s the Charleston then develops from a “crawl” of which there is a British Pathé Instructional Short from 1933 to more of a Lindy Hop in the mid 1930s – 1940s. At this point the basic step takes eight counts and is a solo or partner dance.
Now the Charleston dance we most commonly see is on Strictly Come Dancing. Katie and the Strictly Crew have often had a good chat about it when the series is on. The partner Charleston on the show requires couples to face each other and to mirror work with the steps. Dance is about weight placement and this is true of this dance as the weights shifts according to the count and the couple positions. With side on Charleston where the couples are mostly touching at the hips or hands or arms, both are able to swing freely. Charleston is also a great group dance and the choreography reflects the complexity of the step count.
This weekend, we were keeping up with some furiously fast footwork with Katie in Latin Solo. Steps we worked on included “Fall of the Log” and “Windmill.” All this to the fabulous tune that is “Do your Thing” from Basement Jaxx. Katie tells me that it is fast….250BPM fast!! Goodness, a proper work out then as we all did our things!
Katie’s top tips for a great Charleston are simple;
And fun is what we had in class. Check out the video below.
Fast, Furious, Fun. No time for thinking, just get kicking. Come and discover the Charleston for yourself this Saturday at 4pm. To join the class online please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org. To check out other dance and fitness classes have a look here.
Keep fit, keep dancing,