Dancing in Atlanta

Real southern food!

Enjoying the local fare with dance partner Jose and his husband Jim

A couple of decades or so ago I taught a series of monthly country western workshops with a close friend.  I usually teach alone because a teaching partner automatically cuts the take in half, but I loved teaching with Jose so I mostly did it for fun.  There was an expensive Japanese restaurant in the neighborhood where we had our workshops.  We loved the food there, so after we finished our class, we’d go there and blow our earnings on dinner and catch up on our lives over the previous month.  Then Jose’s day job took him out of state and our teaching team was history.

Dance partnerships never die!

Our friendship, however, remained intact, as did mine with his spouse Jim, who shares my love of gardening and old musicals.  Last weekend I finally visited them in Atlanta, combining my visit with the renowned Peach State Country Western  Dance Festival.

During Jose’s time in the Bay Area, Country was very popular.  There were C/W dance bars everywhere.  I taught a lot of country and went dancing frequently.  Now the country scene has all but disappeared here, although it appears to be thriving in Atlanta.  (I noticed differences, though. At least in the competition scene, the ballroom influence is so strong I could barely tell the difference.  In the early days of Country, the dancers prided themselves on NOT being ballroom.)  It begs the question: why do some dances disappear and others stay for good?  Why are some a flash in the pan, like the Lambada, only to be gone a year later, while others are around for years and still thrive in some areas but are gone from others?  And others disappear for a while and then come back with a resurgence a few decades later, like Lindy Hop.  Lindy is popular in the Bay Area, but fragile.  It takes work on the part of the dancers who love it to make sure the scene thrives.

Salsa in the South

I managed to get a little Salsa dancing in as well, to my delight.  Jose is from Cuba and still my favorite Salsa partner.  Salsa is a dance that seems to be popular everywhere and here to stay.  It’s hard to imagine a stronger dance scene than Salsa, yet it’s a relatively new dance.  By that I mean that I was a young woman when Salsa was a new dance.

I never expected Country to leave the Bay Area, but even the gay community is not supporting Country dancing as much any more.  We may soon see the end of it all together.  Jose suggested the theory that it may be the music.  There is little distinction between Country and Pop today, so there is not as much reason to do a different dance.  That may be, but doesn’t explain why it’s still popular in the South.  It’s an interesting question.  Why do you think some dances come and go while others seem to be here to stay?  I’d love to hear your ideas!


by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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How to Know Which Dance is Right for You

In the Bay Area, where I am located, there is a rich partner dance scene with many choices.  This isn’t true everywhere, so the first step, of course, is to see what’s happening in your area.  You want to look beyond what is offered in classes and look for the social scene.  If you can take a salsa class at your local dance studio but there is no place to go salsa dancing except in that same studio, then Salsa won’t help your social life nearly as much as it will in a place that is full of Salsa clubs.

Once you’ve determined what’s available in your area, you’ll want to look at the following criteria:

1)     The music.  You’ll enjoy any dance if you like the music, but if you love the music you’re much more likely to love the dance that goes with it.

2)      Start with something easy.  You can eliminate this one if you already know what dance you want.  All of your friends are Salsa dancers, or you saw it and immediately thought “Wow!  I want to do that!”  If you are motivated by other factors, there is no reason to pick a dance just because it’s easy when your heart is set on a more challenging dance.  But if you have no idea what dance to do, look for an easy dance like east coast swing, Cajun, or Meringue.  Honing your basic dance skills in an easy dance will give you a head start if you feel inspired to learn a more difficult dance later.  If dance is a challenging skill for you, you’ll be less frustrated and more likely to stay the course with an easy dance.

3)      Check out the community.  If you are a single woman, Ballroom is not a good choice because the custom is to come with a partner and dance mostly with one person.  There are usually a lot of extra women, so you’ll be lucky if you get to dance at all.  If you’re young, pick a dance that attracts young people.  Make sure a good percentage of the crowd is close enough to your age to enable you to feel like you fit in.  If you’re single, pick a community in which the custom is to dance with a variety of partners.

4)      Make sure the dance has an attitude that fits your personality.  Salsa and West Coast Swing are dignified, sophisticated dances.  They exude an attitude of “I’m cool, I’m sexy, and I look good.”  Lindy Hop and East Coast Swing have a free spirited, fun loving attitude.  Some of the moves can feel silly and the attitude is “Whee!  I’m having so much fun I don’t care how stupid I look!”  I don’t mean to imply that Lindy is a stupid looking dance, but if you are overly concerned with your dignity, you’ll have difficulty giving yourself permission to let go and enjoy the dance.

If you have no idea how to figure any of this out, print this blog post and refer to it when you call around for dance lessons.  Hopefully, your common sense will tell you if your teacher is knowledgeable or just wants to sells you a series of lessons that may not be right for you.  This interview will also help you find a teacher whose personality you resonate with.  Good luck and have fun!


By LaurieAnn Lepoff

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