Merriam Webster’s online dictionary states that the first known use of the phrase “Line Dance” was in 1948 and they’ve broken it down into three specific definitions:
1: contredance – defined by Encyclopedia Britannica as an 8th-century French development of the English country dance and was performed into the 19th century by French, English and German aristocrats and bourgeoisie.
2: a dance performed by a group in single file.
3: a dance in which the dancers stand in ranks while performing a particular set of steps in unison.
The definition of Line Dance can vary, however, depending on the community you are dancing in. Some communities have a far broader definition, which includes circle dances and dances where the participants are connected by partners or to each other in small groups. Yet others define Line Dancing as synchronized choreographed steps by a group of dancers who are not physically touching and which may move to repeat the same pattern, facing up to four different “walls” (directions). Soul Line Dancing is defined as freestyle, ad-lib dance movements, performed to a fixed structure of dance routines and danced to a variety of music: R&B, hip hop, jazz, gospel and club beats.
A lot of the dances that we enjoy doing today actually gained their origins from MotherAfrica. As taken from Encyclopedia Britannica, many African tribes use dance as a form of communication and celebration through hand clapping and body stomping. These dances are primarily earth centered, meaning the dancer internalizes the rhythmic pulse of the dance by moving through fixed positions. There are four principal African dance formations: a dance team using a formalized floor pattern; a group using a free-flow floor pattern; a group using a formation from which solo dancers emerge to display their individual skills; and the performance of a solo dancer -- usually a ruler, ritual specialist, herbalist, or comic entertainer -- who may be supported by a group of musicians.
In this country, derived from at least three continents: North America (native American dance traditions), Africa (African tribal dance traditions), and all over the European continent (country Folk Dance traditions). All of these groups have their own dance traditions, but they do possess some similarities in the forms of dances.
These different dances combined into a great melting pot and from this arose new dances: Contra dancing, the Stroll, the Madison, disco line dances like the Bus Stop, and a rock ‘n’ roll line dance called the Nutbush, danced to the Tina Turner song of the same name. Later, in the 80’s and 90’s, came Ric Silver’s the Electric Slide, Bill Bader’s Boot Scootin’ Boogie in 1990, choreographed to Asleep at the Wheel’s release of Boot Scootin’ Boogie, The Achy Breaky by Melissa Greenwood in 1992, and in the 2000’s rapper Cupid’s the Cupid Shuffle. Though not all danced to country music, I have personally seen all danced in multiple country bars.
Country Western Line Dancing
Contrary to popular opinion, was not the first line dance, though it seems to be one of the most popular worldwide, having spawned competitive circuits not only in the U.S., but across the globe from Europe to Australia, and to Asia. It was born out of popular dances already being performed in the U.S. such as the Bus Stop and the Tush Push. It was birthed from the combination of these early line dances, the disco era dances, and the popularization of the country western lifestyle thanks to the movie, Urban Cowboy.
The line dance craze is still going strong, thanks to the expansiveness of this genre that enables all levels and abilities of dancers to be able to participate. Modern line dance is spread throughout musical genres and borrows from different dance lineages so that you will see a convergence in styles of movement and music in recent line dances. And with so many different dances performed to different genres of music, everyone is sure to find SOMETHING that will draw them to the floor and inspire them to dance.