Recently, I’ve been highly encouraging everyone to join our (digital) global dance journey: the Dance Passport challenge. And promising that it’s not all about acquiring new dance skills. So I’m taking you behind the scenes of my own #dancepassport trip – to let you know my honest initial reactions to trying these dance styles (and to explain the rationale behind some of my goofy wardrobe choices). Plus, you can see all of my video attempts to recreate these cultural dances; and hopefully you’ll feel encouraged to post your own.
1. Line Dance, USA
We spent a few weeks learning line dance in middle school, where my pre-teen classmates and I chuckled at the warbling tune: “I like it/ I love it/ I want some more of it.” And, at the end of the unit, I was prepared to peacefully leave line dancing behind. But the extracurricular dance team coach choreographed a ‘cute’ dance to Shania Twain’s Man, I Feel Like a Woman. She doted at us, safe on the sidelines, while we trudged onto the court to perform in cowboy hats with short lengths of white rope tucked into our skirts, wishing the ground would swallow us whole… Talk about mortifying!
Somehow, we survived. And here I am, learning a new line dance. Following along with the tutorial from Dirt Road Dancing, I recognize the classic grapevines and the K-step. And ready for filming, I slip on my high-waisted skinny jeans, the black dance sneakers I wore for high school dance team and the closest thing I own to a cowboy hat. (It’s actually a handmade Toquilla straw hat from Ecuador, oftentimes called a ‘Panama hat,’ that I received at London’s World Travel Market.)
I feel a little cheesy step-crossing for the requisite grapevines, but the uplifting Footloose song makes me feel happy as I kick my feet to the beat. After a few rounds, I feel lopsided since the choreography heavily favors the right side. So I guess that means I’ll just have reverse it on my own. And opting for additional line dance must mean that I’ve buried the hatchet with the dance genre that caused me so much adolescent anguish. Yee-haw!
2. Samba, Brazil
Funnily enough, the ballroom dance social events at my university always played a samba line dance. It was a fun way to get everyone on the floor, since no partner was necessary. And I dabbled in samba with one of the campus performances teams: Madtown Ballroom. Unfortunately, the twisting motions felt rough on my knees and the style didn’t look great on me. But I’m ready to give it another short-lived whirl!
… I have procrastinated many a week, since I wrote that last sentence. In my head, I know the steps and the rhythm they are supposed to follow – but I don’t want to record my dancing. Even though I reiterate time and time again that the challenge is just for fun, I sill don’t want to post a completely atrocious clip of my dancing. (As the public face for #dancepassport challenge, I feel the need to share and ‘inspire’ – to show you that you can do it, too!) So, to get in the mood, I bribe myself by finding a ballroom dance version of the famous Magalenha samba song by Sérgio Mendes.
I complete a few test runs and finish setting up the tripod. Ready to rock and roll… Until an unexpected fish and chips carry out lunch arrives. By the time I haul myself back upstairs, I’m full to the brim, but the beat keeps me going. I’m simultaneously trying to twist my hips, uncurl my arms and not flare out my nostrils while I breathe, especially during the later takes when I’m winded. However, despite all of my internal drama, I did enjoy dancing samba. Now it’s time to skedaddle onto Scotland!
3. Highland Dance, Scotland
I am sweating outside on a sunny day I really don’t need to be wearing the tartan scarf like a sash around my torso – but it’s my fashion tribute to Gemma, from Two Scots Abroad, who shared the Highland Fling tutorial and is usually clad in plaid. Plus, it’s from Edinburgh. So maybe its authentic Scottish nature will rub off on me. When I switch on the tunes, I wonder which of my neighbors are enjoying the music (or not) – just beyond the privacy of the backyard fence.
I secretly thought learning Highland dance would be easier, since I took Irish dance for three years as a child. The step was enough enough to remember, but hopping (on one leg) in one spot isn’t so easy. Plus, although merry, the music felt painfully slow; so I tried hard to get extra air time, but my dancing is a far cry away from the traditional war victory dance.
Of course I wasn’t going to look like the well-trained Highland dancers I researched on YouTube. I should know by now, dance is harder than it looks! Still, I’m half-way through the Dance Passport challenge… And this leg will probably be much better looking than the next one!
… Coming up:
4. Coupé Décalé, Ivory Coast
5. Bhangra, India
6. Tahitian Dance, French Polynesia
Thanks for checking out my Dance Passport videos and musings. But I honestly think you’ll have more fun trying the dances for yourself – and watching your friends’ attempts. You may find unadulterated joy dancing to bagpipes, and your bestie could uncover a real knack for bhangra. You’ll never know unless you give it a go!
Which style are you most excited to try? And who will you invite to the challenge first? Let us know in the comments section!