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Line dancing in Asia: On the beat

Line dancing, which started in the United States in the latter part of the 70s to early 80s during the disco era, has persuaded advocates in East and Southeast Asia with its choreography and rhythmic beat.

Particularly in the Philippines, up north during town fiestas and in some areas of the capital, the type of country and western dancing—where everyone dances alone, side by side, facing the same direction in lines or rows—is gaining tempo and beat on the floor.

Dances like the cha cha slide, the electric slide, and the cupid shuffle are just some of the line dances that have, dance observers note, consistently remained part of modern American culture for years.

With the emergence of the country-and-Western line dancing, including the “Walkin’ Wazi” and the “Cowboy Boogie,” dance and music enthusiasts outside the US mainland took the ballroom for their own style of line dancing, consisting of patterned foot movements usually performed by several counts per sequence, and then the sequence is repeated.

Habitues say the dances are done one-wall, two-wall, or four-wall.

Experts say a wall is the direction in which the dancers face at any given time: the front (the direction faced at the beginning of the dance), the back or one of the sides.

In a one-wall dance, for instance, the dancers face the same direction at the end of the sequence as at the beginning (either no turn or a full turn, 360 degrees); in a two-wall dance, repetitions of the sequence end alternately at the back and front walls; while in a four-wall dance, the direction faced at the end of the sequence is 90 degrees to the right or left from the direction in which they faced at the beginning or the quarter turn.

Ten years ago, line dance had its first bars in the Land of the Morning Calm, and with the various genres of the dance and music, line dancing quickly picked up, with line dance teams sprouting even faster than the samba beat.

In 2010, spark plug dance leader Yoon Eunhee, who holds a master’s degree in sports medicine and whose passion was to establish an educational institution that educates the line dancing leaders “who will be noble leaders” started the first chasse and, two years later, instituted the K.N.L.D., or the Korea Noble Line Dance group.

But Eunhee said she thought the degree, while closely related to the health and safety of her members, had no direct affinity to the line dance.

The 10-member all-female group— the members come from Seoul, Gyeonggi-do and Chungcheong-do—has classes all done by the award-winning Eunhee, who won the Grand Prize in Dance Contest twice in 2013 and 2014, a happy harbinger for the groups entry into the video sharing California-headquartered website YouTube that lets people upload, view, and share videos.

“There are many works or pieces, about 1,000 that I have done,” Eunhee told the Manila Standard in an interview, adding “I shoot three works or pieces for two hours every Saturday, taking us 30 minutes to learn one piece.”

“We make mistakes but I do not care much, because I prefer to enjoy the dance with the others more than (achieving) perfection,” said the English-speaking Eunhee, who teaches line dance in Seoul and in Gyeonggi-do, the most populous province of South Korea with nearly 13 million people 51 kms southeast of the capital.

When Eunhee is not doing line dancing, she does, given her academic background, private rehabilitation training lessons.

At the same time, she does choreography, issues licenses for qualified line dancers, and makes educational materials as well as edit video.

“My video team meets every Saturday. We practice and shoot three works for two hours and practice 30 minutes per work,” Eunhee told Manila Standard.

She does much of the teaching for K.N.L.D., saying “I am doing everything by myself (but) there are three instructors who help me who lead the team when I am away.”

The K.N.L.D. has danced the different genres—cha cha, salsa, samba, mambo, swing, tango, rumba, jive, boogie, waltz—but Eunhee, while she likes all the genres, admitted partiality “to the slow rhythm like rumba and waltz.”

She expressed fondness for Jo Thompson Szymanski, the former Miss Texas, and the internationally acclaimed dance instructor and choreographer who taught taught line and couple’s dance for 30 years.

Szymanski was voted International Line Dance Instructor of the Year for five years in a row at the UK Crystal Boot Line Dance Awards and was honored with being of the first two people to be inducted into the Line Dance Hall of Fame.

Eunhee is also spaced out for Sound of Silence; Despacito; All Katchi, All Night Long; Bossa Nova; All of Me; Time in a Bottle; and Amado Mio.

With aficionados and lovers of line dancing growing in number in nearly every ballroom, the rhythmic beat and music continue da capo al fine.

(HBC, former 1st Trombone of The Mendiola Brass with The Bad Habits, is a musician, musical arranger and songwriter).

Topics: Line dancing , Yoon Eunhee , Seoul , Gyeonggi-do , Chungcheong-do

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