I’m sure there are many who will disagree with my assessment for a variety of reasons. Some may say that I haven’t been exposed to enough of a variety of dances to make such an assertion. Others may contend that my opinion is biased because Steppin’ is the only dance that I currently enjoy. I think my reasoning is sound for why I love this dance so much…there is really no other dance like it in the entire world. If people really knew what they were missing, they would understand exactly what I’m saying.
Why do I make the assertion that Steppin’ is the best dance ever? I’ll state my reasoning and if you don’t agree with me after I make my case, feel free to state your reasoning for why you think another form of social dance trumps Steppin’. Warning: you may be extremely hard-pressed to do so.
Let me give you what I think are five very valid reasons why I believe Steppin’ is the best social dance ever. And when I say ever, I mean exactly that, EVER!! Here goes…
1: Steppin’ is more versatile than any other social dance. No other social dance offers you the versatility, flexibility and diversity of Steppin. It is the only dance where you can incorporate moves from other social dances without compromising the integrity of the dance. You can easily incorporate techniques and moves from Ballroom, Salsa, Tango, Waltz, Foxtrot and other social dances into Steppin’ and never miss a beat (provided you do so within the rhythm and flow of the dance). I know this because I’ve done it and realized a great deal of success (and YouTube popularity) by doing so. There are others who have realized a tremendous amount of success in Steppin’ as a result of incorporating moves from other dance genres into Steppin’, and if they were honest they would tell you so.
Steppin’ is also the only social dance I’ve seen where you can dance with multiple partners simultaneously. The first time I saw this done I was amazed! In fact, it became the single most important reason for me wanting to learn the dance because it addressed a fundamental problem in the Steppin’ dance community – the shortage of leads. Women could be assured of a dance because the lead would have the skill and mastery to dance with more than one person at a time.
2: Steppin’ has more “soul” and captures the spirit of the urban dance experience. What I mean by this statement is that when you get the “steppers bug”, you feel it deep within your psyche. Steppin’ can be competitive. It can be “raw”. It can be “sexy”. It can be “sophisticated”. It can be “real”. You can perform the dance in jeans or in a tuxedo. It’s almost as if you found your purpose for existence when you’re introduced to this dance. When you see this dance done masterfully and beautifully, for many the addiction is both immediate and intense. Additionally, the dance is therapeutic in that it becomes your means of temporary escape from the cares of the world allowing you to lose yourself in the dance. I’m no woman, but I can assure you that I’ve experienced many a “Calgon” moment while Steppin’. I’ve also found that oftentimes an evening of dancing allows you to see things from a different perspective and the solution for that problem for which you thought you had none magically appears!
3: Steppin’ can be performed in a variety of social environments from street parties to inaugural balls. This is as true as it gets. Steppin’ is appropriate for any environment where friends, family and casual acquaintances gather. Can you step at a picnic? Yes, been there, done that…could have bought the t-shirt! Can you step at a street party? Show me the way to the pavement and watch me get it in! Can you step at a cotillion? Absolutely you can, and you can do it with style and grace too! Would I have gotten my step on if I were fortunate enough to be invited to either one of POTUS’ inaugural balls? In a heartbeat, and I can assure you that by the end of the night others would want to learn how to do so too!
4: Steppin’ – like so many other artistic contributions to American society – has its roots in Black America. We all know the history of Steppin’ and its origins, from Lindy to Jitterbug to Bop to Steppin’. It was all birthed out of the black experience, where swing dance was created in the first place, from honky-tonks to juke joints, from night clubs to the speak-easy to rent parties. To quote Frankie Manning from the book “Frankie Manning: The Ambassador of Lindy Hop”: “Swing dancing exploded in America, and all these different styles – Savoy-style, shag, Balboa, Carolina shag, Steppin, hand dancing, Hollywood and West Coast – became popular in different parts of the country. It’s all swing dance to me, which is a name that covers all of the different kinds dances done to swing music”. Swing dancing originated in Harlem and migrated from city to city. Steppin’ has its roots in Chicago – the “Chi” as we affectionately call it – where the style of Boppin’ was made more contemporary by incorporating a smoother, more melodic flow to the swing dance. Now Steppin’ has migrated to major metropolitan cities all across America.
5: Steppin’ music is just way more cool! The music is really what makes the dance unique and so much fun to dance to. You have to experience a night of musical bliss with a DJ who has an “ear” for music to understand what I’m saying here. In Steppin’ it isn’t just what you play, it’s WHEN you play it. I’ll never forget the first time I was exposed to the dance. It was a memorable Saturday night in March of 2003 and it was way too much to take in. It happened at the Willowbrook Grand Ballroom. The music of Swing Out Sister’s “When The Laughter is Over” (I thought, “we dance to this music?”) was playing followed by Luther Vandross’ “What The World Needs is Love”. I couldn’t believe what I was experiencing. Then came the Whispers…and Frankie Beverly and Maze…then some B-side classics that I thought only I listened to. Finally, there was a rap-remix of Tupac or Busta Rhymes that sealed the deal. I was joyously overwhelmed and permanently hooked. I knew then that my dancing life was changed forever. No other dance offers you the musical range of music to dance to that Steppin’ does…none! You’ll always have a favorite record in Steppin’ because of its musical versatility and the creativity of its many profound remixing DJs.
It still amazes me sometimes when I’m asked if Steppin’ is the only dance I do and teach (as if it’s an instructional liability). My response is always the same (yes!), but not for the reasons most people may think. There is way too much to learn and way too many horizons to be explored in this dance. Just when you think you’ve mastered something in this dance, you find out there’s yet more to learn. There’s always a new combination or technique you can learn, a new way to flow in and out of a trio or quad, or simply prefect your all-around Steppin’ game. I’m one of those people who believe that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Steppin’ at all, save for the drama that comes to the dance by way of some of the people in the dance. Short of that, I think Steppin’ is about as close to heaven on earth as you can get as a social dancer. There truly is nothing like it in the world!!
There you have it…I’ve made my case (and how many times did I use the word Steppin’ in this blog post?!). Feel free to make yours. Leave a comment below and tell us what other dance you believe even comes close to Steppin’. Go ahead, make your case. We look forward to hearing from you!