Learn the Charleston Dance

April 24, 2017

Remember the iconic “The Charleston” used in the Broadway show “Runnin’ Wild” in the early 1920s?

When it comes jazz music, we can’t help but mention the Charleston dance.

Believed to be born before the 1920s, the Charleston is greatly influenced by the African-American culture, especially during the slavery period. Indeed, it has become a symbol of freedom and uninhibited enthusiasm.

The dance is particularly popular among young, rebellious people who want to express their sense of selves. It’s typically associated with the image of a woman with a bob cut, wearing a short dress and listening to jazz.

Known to have medium to fast tempo, the Charleston was the first social dance one could do without the need of a partner. That said, you can experience the Charleston with or without a partner, or in a group.

While the Charleston comes in different variations, the basic dance involves four basic steps. Whenever you’re ready, let’s get started!

1. The Legs

Take a rock step back with your left foot. You’ll feel your weight briefly transferred from one foot to the other. Make sure to touch the floor with only the front of your foot.

Lean forward slightly and bend your knees a little. Then swing your left leg head in a kicking motion and bring it ahead of your right foot.

Next swing your right foot forward and make sure only the heel of your foot touches the ground. You should feel your body weight on your left foot.

Then step back and bring your right foot behind your left foot. Keep it loose. Your weight now should be on your right foot.

Repeat from the beginning until you get a good feel of the basic moves.

2. The Arms

The Charleston was also known as the “Flappers” in the 20s. This is because the arm motions like a bird while dancing.

They key to the Charleston is the complementary movement of the arms and legs.

As the right leg swings backward, the right arm should swing forward. When your left leg goes backward, your left arm should swing forward. This may happen naturally as if you’re walking.

These moves might not impress you at first, but they can get tricky once you increase the tempo and add other variation. Keep on practicing until you’re completely comfortable with the basic Charleston.

3. Different Styles of the Charleston

Once you feel entirely at ease with the basic Charleston, you can check out other styles.

The 20s Solo

This is an expressive and fast-pace form of the Charleston. Often danced in large groups, this genre was very popular in the 2000s.

It’s usually danced at high tempos (about 200 to 250 beats per minute). It’s also ideal for dancers who want to involve more improvisation and creativity in their moves.

The 20s Partner

The feet in this variation follow the same movement as in the basic Charleston. However, the arms and torsos follow the traditional formal dance pose.

This means there’s a close proximity between the dancers. As a result, the backward and forward motion in the 20s partner is smaller than in the solo form.

Though once considered scandalous, the Charleston has definitely proven its charm and popularity among contemporary cultures. Have fun and enjoy the move!

For more useful tips on other dance moves, visit Dancer Mag.

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