A Description of Charleston
The Charleston is a dance named for the city of Charleston, South Carolina. The rhythm was popularized in mainstream dance music in the United States by a 1923 tune called The Charleston by composer/pianist James P. Johnson which originated in the Broadway show Runnin' Wild and became one of the most popular hits of the decade. Runnin' Wild ran from 29/10/1923 through 28/06/1924
It is generally ragtime that is played with the Charleston, but it doesn’t matter as long as the numerous moves match the kind of music played. Whatever 4/4 time selection of music that has a fast (200-300 beats per minute) pace, is suitable for the Charleston dance.
History of Charleston
While it developed in African-American communities in the United States, the Charleston became a popular dance craze in the wider international community in the 1920s. Despite its origins, the Charleston is most frequently associated with white flappers and the speakeasy. Here, these young women would dance alone or together as a way of mocking the "drys," or citizens who supported the Prohibition amendment, as the Charleston was then considered quite immoral and provocative.
While the Charleston as a dance probably came from the "star" or challenge dances that were all part of the dance called Juba, the particular sequence of steps which appeared in Runnin' Wild were probably newly devised for popular appeal. "At first, the step started off with a simple twisting of the feet, to rhythm in a lazy sort of way. When the dance hit Harlem, a new version was added. It became a fast kicking step, kicking the feet, both forward and backward and later done with a tap." Further changes were undoubtedly made before the dance was put on stage. In the words of Harold Courlander, while the Charleston had some characteristics of traditional Negro dance, it "was a synthetic creation, a newly-devised conglomerate tailored for wide spread popular appeal." Although the step known as "Jay-Bird", and other specific movement sequences like the snare stare are of Afro-American origin, no record of the Charleston being performed on the plantation has been discovered.
Although it achieved popularity when the song "Charleston", sung by Elisabeth Welch, was added in the production Runnin' Wild, the dance itself was first introduced in Irving C. Miller's Liza in the spring of 1923.
The characteristic Charleston beat, which Johnson said he first heard from Charleston dockworkers, incorporates the clave rhythm and was considered by composer and critic Gunther Schuller to be synonymous with the Habanera, and the Spanish Tinge.
The Charleston was one of the dances from which Lindy Hop and Jazz Roots developed in the 1930s, though the breakaway is popularly considered an intermediary dance form. A slightly different form of Charleston became popular in the 1930s and 40s, and is associated with Lindy Hop. In this later Charleston form, the hot jazz timing of the 1920s Charleston was adapted to suit the swing jazz music of the 30s and 40s. This style of Charleston has many common names, though the most common are Lindy Charleston, Savoy Charleston, 30s or 40s Charleston and Swing(ing) Charleston. In both 20s Charleston and Swinging Charleston the basic step takes 8 counts and is danced either alone or with a partner.
Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites to learn at a beginner level.
These classes should be open to all levels. It is extremely important to take and retake beginner classes as it allows you to really understand how your body moves and truly focus on your dance style. It is common, even for the most advanced dancers to be seen taking beginner classes. The fact is you can never do enough basics. Charleston’s primary format consists of a solo step, that is a combination of four moves, arms and legs in a complimentary motion. The leg and arm steps are given below:
Legs or The Kick
- Take a step back on the right leg.
- Keep your ankle loose and swing the left leg back in a kicking motion.
- Bring the left foot forward again and return to the starting position.
- Now, keeping the right foot loose, kick it forward.
- Keep repeating the steps until you are tired or perfect in the step.
- It’s mainly because of the use of arms they are called as flappers.
- Motion of the arms in the dance is complementary to the motion of the legs, just as when you walk. When the right leg goes backwards, the left arm goes up too and vice versa.
- When you are working on getting the motion right, the positioning of the arms needs to be less loose. Bend elbows at 90 degrees.
- Movements should be exaggerated with arms held high and move them in a circular motion to the right and left, when you swing them.
Common Beginner's Mistakes
Prerequisites: Intermediate prerequisites would be a full understanding of basic movements such as the leg kicks and arm movements. Various other moves such as turns and spins might be tought at a beginner level.. The dancer should be able to execute these moves as well as the basic steps flawlessly.
From the starting, Charleston has been a kind of dance that has seen innovations and is quite different from the dance it used to be. As the dance can be quickly adapted, dancers tend to improvise the dance moves with faster steps. Basically, there are two forms of Charleston; solo and partner. There are also many solo routines or line dances that may be tought.
Common Intermediate Mistakes:
Prerequisites: Typically advanced classes are by invitation or tryout only. The reason is because the advanced moves such as aerials can be very dangerous to learn if you don't know what you are doing.
Advanced classes are reserved for the cream of the crop. These classes are geared toward very high level dancers. These people have been dancing for years and have regularly attend dance workshops of all kinds. Advanced dancers have mastered many styles of dancing and have an expert knowledge of connection, musicality as well as various other aspects of dancing.
Common Advanced Mistakes:
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