I love all forms of C&W (Country & Western) dancing. When I lived in Texas, I learned the major couples dances: two-step, polka, waltz, and jitterbug (a fast form of East Coast Swing).
But after I moved to the East Coast I quickly realized that if I was going to enjoy myself I would also need to learn line dances, because the venues were a lot smaller and on some songs there wasn't really room to do anything else.
Since I didn't have any ethical or legal objections to line dancing (unlike others I know from Texas ☺) I've since learned -- or more likely, forgotten -- something like 200 line dances.
Here's a quick line dancing primer:
Since you don't need a partner for line dancing (ignoring circle dances for now), it removes the complication of having to learn how to lead and follow. So line dancing largely consists of memorizing a sequence of steps in a pattern that typically repeats after something like 32 or more counts (beats).
The patterns often end facing a different direction ("wall"), so the number of times when the dance starts facing a new direction makes it a 1-wall, 2-wall, or 4-wall dance. A dance that rotates 90 degrees each time would eventually face all four walls of a room.
It helps to view the line dance as made up of little blocks that are reused from one dance to another, and many of these blocks will be familiar if you've ever taken aerobics. For example, instead of having to remember a four-step sequence to the right:
step with right foot to the side
step left foot behind right
step right foot to the side
touch or hitch left foot next to right
...you would simply remember this as a "grapevine right." (And there's a corresponding "grapevine left" that simply reverses direction.)
Most line dances (and the building blocks that make them up) change every four or eight counts. That's because that's where the music breaks for most country (and rock) songs, which are typically in 2/4 or 4/4 time. In musical terms that means the measures or bars are typically two or four beats long. From the Connexions web site:
In practical terms what you'll notice is that for many songs the music seems to change every eight beats, which is why you'll hear instructors start a dance by counting out, "five-six-seven-eight." By starting the dance where the music breaks naturally, the dance will feel like it's in sync with the song.
When trying to learn line dances, step sheets are very helpful. As the name implies these are step-by-step instructions for line dances, usually with one step per count (beat). Fortunately, what was probably the most complete collection of line dance step sheets on the web, Patti Brown's Dancing Deep in the Heart of Texas, now seems to be back up, and KickIt seems to still be live.
Tempo, or beats per minute (bpm), is pretty important in any kind of dancing. It's the number of beats per minute that usually dictates which dance to do to a given song. If the song is too slow or too fast it won't be fun, either because it's hard to keep up with the music or it feels like it's dragging.
This is fairly subjective and generally more important for couples dancing. I dance at Cancun Cantina, where line dances mostly range between 100-140 bpm, but this varies a lot from club to club. As a point of reference, here are some typical tempos for couples dancing:
70-100 bpm: Slow dancing (or if counted double-time, a Two-Step)
100-140 bpm: West Coast Swing
135-210 bpm: Two-Step (a comfortable range is about 160-170 bpm, but some of the most fun ones are faster, around 180-210 bpm)
135-200 bpm: East Coast Swing (faster ones are more of a jitterbug)
180-240 bpm: Polka
On the Dance Floor
Then there's the matter of floor etiquette. For everyone to dance on the same floor and have an enjoyable time, it helps to understand some conventions, especially in the Eastern US where floors are smaller and also shared between couples and line dancers.
A C&W dance floor is kind of like a race track or highway, with couples dancers moving in a counter-clockwise circle. If the floor is big enough, there will be concentric "lanes," with the fast lane on the outside and slower dancers in toward the center. So line dancers should try to stay in the center, as should more stationary couples dancers such as swing or ballroom.
When you run into someone on the floor during a dance -- as you inevitably will -- just smile and apologize.
Some Line Dances
So now that you're ready to get out on the dance floor, here are some dances to try. I don't know why, by the way, some of the dances have suggestive names. They're typically not nearly as salacious as the names might imply and it creates a dilemma if you're trying to teach them to kids.
Easy Beginner Dances:
- Down & Dirty (Walk Softly On This Heart Of Mine by The Kentucky Headhunters or Strokin' by Clarence Carter)
- Safe Sex (Fast As You by Dwight Yoakam or Whoomp! There It Is by Tag Team) - simple but fun; it helps if you recognize that the pattern forms an upside down, backwards "L" shape, or the left half of a "T"
- Booty Call (Booty Call by Dazz/Atomic Dog) - OK, you may have done this one already
- Cut A Rug (Roll Back the Rug by Scooter Lee) [video]
- Sleazy Slide (That's How Country Boys Roll by Billy Currington)
- Cupid Shuffle (Cupid Shuffle by Cupid) [video] [how-to video]
Classics (performed coast to coast):
- Tush Push (The Girl's Gone Wild by Travis Tritt) [video] [video]
- Slappin' Leather (T-R-O-U-B-L-E by Travis Tritt) [video]
- Cotton-Eyed Joe (Cotton-Eyed Joe by Isaac Payton Sweat [traditional] or Rednex [hip hop]) - like a line dance done with a partner, moving in a circle [video]
- Watermelon Crawl (Watermelon Crawl by Tracy Byrd) [video]
Beginner Dances (DC-MD-VA area):
- Bartender's Stomp (Baby Likes To Rock It by The Tractors) [video] [video]
- Canadian Stomp (Pickin' Wildflowers by Keith Anderson, Redneck Yacht Club by Craig Morgan, Cowboy by Kid Rock, or Any Man of Mine by Shania Twain) [video]
- Cool Dance a.k.a. Progressive Cowboy a.k.a. A Kool Dance (All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down by The Mavericks or Cheaper to Keep Her by Kevin Fowler)
- Copperhead Road (Copperhead Road by Steve Earle) - I do the easy 32-count version using cross-kicks for counts 9-16 [start 24 beats before the lyrics; see this video (which differs from our version because we turn to the right)] which gets fun when the music speeds up; but others do the 24-count Kentucky Chug version [cool French video]
- Country Walkin' (HotLittleCutiePieSexyThang by LoCash Cowboys) [video]
- D.H.S.S. (Yee Haw by Jake Owen, Hicktown by Jason Aldean, or Drunker Than Me by Trent Tomlinson; choreographed to Coffee by Supersister) [video]
- Dizzy (Dizzy by Scooter Lee) [video]
- Fishin' (Pray for the Fish by Randy Travis)
- Ghost Train (Ghost Train by Australia's Tornado) [video] [video]
- God Blessed Texas (God Blessed Texas by Little Texas)
- Got To Be Funky (She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy by Kenny Chesney, or Got To Be Funky by Maurice John Vaughn) - actually similar to and not too much harder than Booty Call [video] [video] [video]
- Jive Walkin' (Slam Dunk Da Funk by Five) [video]
- Refried Dreams a.k.a. Chicken Fried (Chicken Fried by Zac Brown Band or Refried Dreams by Tim MacGraw) - simple dance but very fun if down with style and athleticism
- Ski Bumpus (Boot Scootin' Boogie by Brooks & Dunn) [video] - danced contra at Cancun Cantina (in two or more opposite lines facing each other)
- Zjozzy's Funk (Bacco Perbacco by Zucchero) [video]
Beginner/Intermediate Dances (DC-MD-VA area):
- All Shook Up (All Shook Up by Billy Joel) - note that on this version of the song you should start 16 beats into the song, when the back-up singers start; then on the 4th and 6th times through, you start at count 17 (with the right toe to the side) [this video is close to how we do it]
- Apple Jack (Dance [Club Mix] by Twister Alley, Sin Wagon by The Dixie Chicks, or any other frenetic polka beat) - 18-count line dance is simple but it can be tricky getting the feel of how to shift weight in the Apple Jacks at the beginning [video]
- Askin' Questions (Askin' Questions by Brady Seals) [video] [video]
- Bar Room Romeo (I Brake for Brunettes by Rhett Akins, I Like It, I Love It by Tim McGraw, or Pound Sign (#?*!) by Kevin Fowler) [video]
- Black Dresses (Daddy's Money by Ricochet or Black Dresses by Steve Kolander) [video from the choreographer Michael Barr]
- Cowboy Casanova (Cowboy Casanova by Carrie Underwood or Here Comes Summer by LoCash Cowboys) [video] - 48-count 4-wall choreographed by Lisa Capelle
- Cowboy Hip-Hop (Gonna Make You Sweat - Everybody Dance Now by C+C Music Factory or Save A Horse Ride A Cowboy [Dance Remix] by Big & Rich)
- Cowboy Rhythm (Thump Factor by Smokin' Armadillos) [video] [video] - I learned this one from a couple who dance at Colorado Cafe in Watchung, NJ
- Crazy Legs (Cotton Eye Joe Club Mix by Rednex, Everybody Gonfi Gon by 2 Cowboys) [video]
- Cripple Creek (Cripple Creek by Jim Rast and Knee Deep) [video] - this is also danced contra at Cancun Cantina
- Dancing Feet (High On Love by Patty Loveless or Patient Heart by Bekka & Billy)
- Flying Eights (Fishin' in the Dark by Emerson Drive or Nitty Gritty Dirt Band)
- Four On The Floor (Four On The Floor by Lee Brice) [video]
- Leather and Lace (She Bangs by Ricky Martin) - Roz Morgan version
- Linda Lu (Linda Lu by Ricky Van Shelton) - don't get confused and use a different version of the song, this is the fun one [video]
- Mambo Shuffle (Father Sun by Wynnona Judd or Poker Face by Lady Gaga) [video]
- Men in Black (You Walked In by Lonestar) [strange sideways video]
- Metamorphosized (Total Eclipse of the Heart by Nicki French)
- Pot of Gold (Dance Above the Rainbow by Ronan Hardiman) [video]
- Red High Heels (Red High Heels by Kellie Pickler or Kerosene by Miranda Lambert) [video] - this version danced at Cancun Cantina seems to be a slightly different variation
- Swamp Thang (Swamp Thing by The Grid) [video]
- Uno, Dos, Tres (Maria Spanglish Radio Edit by Ricky Martin or I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho) by Pitbull) [video] [video]
- Zydeco Lady (Cherry Bomb by John Mellencamp or Gravity Storm by Jimmy Buffett)
Advanced Dances (typically club specific):
- All Jacked Up (All Jacked Up by Gretchen Wilson) - very physically demanding dance; I'm told it's from the Dusty Armadillo in Rootstown, OH
- Baby Com' On (Baby Come On by Chris Anderson and DJ Robbie) [video] [video]
- The Beast (Something In The Water by The Cheap Seats) [video1] [video2] [video3] - all in the videos here are truly great dancers, but the guy in video3 is amazing
- Big Doggin' (Big Doggin' Around by Neal McCoy)
- Buff Dance (Buff Little Girls by Pete Andrew)
- Cha Cha Loco (Man! I Feel Like A Woman by Shania Twain)
- Chill Factor (Last Night by Chris Anderson & DJ Robbie) [video][video] [video - Chill Factor, then Baby Com' On]
- Funk-N-Gruvin (Loosen Up My Strings by Clint Black)
- Hold Your Horses (Hold Your Horses by E-Type) [video] [video]
- Humpty (5, 6, 7, 8 by Steps)
- Kickin' The Blues (Daddy Laid The Blues On Me by Bobbie Cryner)
- Kick N Rock (Wild and Free by Rednex - this is a psychotically fast song; or Play Something Country by Brooks & Dunn - fun if done with attitude and a bit of bounce)
- Swing Time Boogie (Swing City by Roger Brown) [video]
- Wild Wild West (Wild Wild West by Will Smith) [video]