Do It Yourself Absolute Beginners' Line Dance Course

  1. BEATS. Listen to a few songs - pop, country or rock and roll (don't choose waltzes). Generally you will find a short introduction, then the main music starts, usually as the vocals commence. Count the beats. You should find that the beats come in groups of eight. so you can count, "1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, 1,2,"and so on. If you care to time your counting over 15 seconds and multiply by four, you will arrive at the number of beats per minute (bpm) in the song. This will typically be in the range 80 to 200 bpm. If you can find a Cha Cha, such as "If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body", you will find you can conveniently count "1, 2, 3&4, 5, 6, 7&8". The "&" is between the main beats and is known as "syncopation". Because of the natural grouping of beats in 8s, dances are often (not always) also arranged in groups of eight steps (ignoring any syncopation). Find a song around 100-120 bpm to practice to.

  2. VINES. The following sequence of three steps is known as a "Vine" or "Grapevine". Start facing a specific direction or "wall". You will keep facing this wall throughout this lesson. You are going to move sideways, firstly to the right, then to the left. Step right foot to right side. Cross the left foot behind the right and put your weight on it. Step right foot to right side. These are the three steps of a "Right Vine". To finish the move, touch the left foot beside the right foot. A "Touch" means that the ball of your left foot will be touching the floor and your weight remains on your right foot. Your left foot is now free to dance a "Left Vine". Step left foot to left side. Cross right foot behind the left and put your weight on it. Step left foot to left side. Touch the right foot beside the left foot. Start again from the beginning with a Right Vine and repeat the sequence of eight steps until you can do it smoothly, almost without thinking. Now play your chosen track and dance the steps to the music.

  3. HITCH, KICK & SCUFF. Repeat the Right Vine as before, but instead of a Touch, substitute a Hitch. This means that you raise your left leg until the upper part is roughly parallel with the floor. The continue with the Left Vine, hitching your right leg at the end of it. Do this a few times. Now substitute a Kick for the Hitch on each Vine. Don't try to hit the ceiling, kick as if you were kicking a ball. You can kick directly forward, across the body or diagonally to the side. It doesn't matter which direction you choose, but be clear in your own mind which one you are doing. Again repeat this a number of times. Now substitute Scuffs for the Kicks. Here you scuff your heel on the floor as you move your leg forwards. Practice this. Now try it to the music. Try dancing a pair of Right and Left Vines, first with Touches, then a pair with Hitches, then a pair with Kicks, then Scuffs and repeat until the music stops. If you find this a bit boring, try it with a song around 150 bpm!

  4. CHASSE & ROCK. This is another sideways move, but a bit faster than dancing Vines. From now on I'm going to cut "right foot" to simply R, and "left foot" to L. Also I will separate the steps by semicolons. Try this. Step R to R side; step L together; step R to R side; step L back, rocking your weight onto it, but keeping your R on the floor; rock your weight onto the R. The timing for these five steps is 1&2 3 4. So the first three steps are danced in the same amount of time as the last two. The first three steps are known as a Chasse (or Side Shuffle), and the last two are Back Rock steps. Repeat this in the opposite direction: Step L to L side; step R together; step L to L side; step R back, rocking your weight onto it but keeping your L on the floor; rock your weight onto the L. To help you keep track of what you are dancing, say to yourself "Side-Close-Side Back Rock, Side-Close-Side Back Rock." Repeat these steps until you can dance them smoothly, then try them to a slow track. As you gain confidence, use faster tracks.

  5. SHUFFLE. A Shuffle is like a Chasse, but in the forward direction. Try this:- Step R forward; step on ball of L beside but just behind R; step R forward. The timing is 1&2. Now try the opposite feet:- Step L forward; step on ball of R beside but just behind L; step L forward. Do as many of these one after another as you have room for, counting 1&2, 3&4, 1&2, 3&4 etc. Try it to music - a slow track at first, then gradually try faster tracks. Keep the movement smooth, don't bob up and down as the feet come together.

  6. PIVOT TURN. This is a very common turn, which must be mastered. Stand with your feet together, facing front. Step your R forward. Keeping both feet on the floor, pivot on the balls of both feet and turn to face the back. The direction of the turn had to be to the left, since you could not turn right without moving your feet (your feet are apart all the time). Your weight is over both feet as you turn and is mainly on the left foot after you turn (since you will normally move the right foot next).

    Now do a similar turn to the right to face the front again. Remember not to move either foot off the floor. Turn a few times - front, back, front, back. Turning 180 degrees as you have been doing is known as a half (1/2) turn. Now, starting with the feet together, do the following:- Step R forward; pivot 1/2 turn L; step R forward; pivot 1/2 turn L. The left foot does not move away from its position on the floor throughout. Do this a few times, but not too fast or you will get dizzy. Try the opposite direction:- Step L forward; pivot 1/2 turn R; step L forward; pivot 1/2 turn R. Ensure that you do not lift the right foot from the floor. Try a few of these Right Pivot Turns, close your feet together and do a few Left Pivot Turns as explained previously. Note that a Right Pivot is preceded by stepping the L foot forward and vice versa. For a continuous sequence dance:- Step R forward; pivot 1/2 turn L; step R forward; pause for one beat; step L forward; pivot 1/2 turn R; step L forward; pause for one beat. The timing is simply 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8. Practice this to music.

  7. SHUFFLE STEP PIVOT. We can now combine some of the steps learnt for practice. Start with your feet together, facing front. You will do a Right Shuffle followed by a Right Pivot Turn, then a Left Shuffle, followed by a Left Pivot Turn and repeat. In detail this is:- Step R forward; step on ball of L just behind R; step R forward; step L forward; pivot 1/2 turn R; step L forward; step on ball of R just behind L; step L forward; step R forward; pivot 1/2 turn L. The timing is 1&2 3 4 5&6 7 8. Count these numbers as you dance the steps. Now dance this sequence continuously to music.

  8. COASTER STEP. A Coaster Step is performed as follows. Step R back; step L together; step R forward. If you did this very slowly, you would have your feet on the ground and your weight fully on each foot at each step. To speed it up a little, just use the balls of the feet in the first two steps and keep your weight forward throughout. The timing is 1&2. Dance a Coaster Step then step L together (on beat 3). Do it again, and again, counting 1&2 3, 1&2 3. This is a Right Coaster Step. A Left Coaster Step is danced in the same way, but with opposite feet. Try this also.

  9. ROCK STEP & COASTER STEP. We did a Back Rock Step earlier with the Shuffle. This time we will learn a Forward Rock Step. Step R forward and swing your weight onto it. Swing your weight back onto the L. This can neatly be followed with a Right Coaster Step. Try it. Follow this with a Left Rock Step and a Left Coaster Step. The timing is 1 2 3&4, 5 6 7&8. Dance it to music.

  10. ROCK COASTER PIVOT SHUFFLE. We can now combine some of the steps you have learnt into a mini dance sequence. Do a Right Rock and a Right Coaster Step as before, followed by a Left Pivot Turn and Left Shuffle; then start again. Try this to music. Do the whole sequence again, but with opposite feet and directions, starting with a Left Rock Step. Dance this to the music. Return to the original sequence starting with the Right Rock Step. Add an extra Right Shuffle to the end, then go into the second sequence starting with the Left Rock Step and finishing with an extra Left Shuffle. This gives us quite a long sequence of different steps to practice, which can be repeated to the end of the track.

  11. I could carry on in this vein, but if you have mastered the above steps, you are now in a position to join a class. The best thing to do is find a beginners' class which is just starting, but with the above knowledge you should be able to catch up if you have missed a few weeks.

    If you have an aptitude, you may be able to join an established class. This is harder, and you must be prepared to sit out faster dance with lots of turns until you gain experience. However, I know of several very good dancers who have started in this way. Dance every dance as best you can. Nobody will care that you make mistakes. They probably won't even notice unless you go in the wrong direction. Don't sit down when you're nearly there but not quite. Keep dancing. If you lose it, join in again when the sequence starts from the beginning again. Perseverance will bring its reward.

  12. If you have found the above useful, I'd love to hear from you, just to let me know that the time spent on this has been worthwhile. E-mail me (Ron) at buckingbroncos@talktalk.net. Happy Dancing!


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