If you see a couple moving their hips like you didn’t think was possible, it is quite possible they’re doing a samba. This dance brings the atmosphere of the Rio Carnival to the dance-floor, from the mentally-conjured skimpy, feathered costumes, bright smiles and the relentlessly pulsating beat.
The cha-cha is a high-spirited, flirty dance that is a good foundation for other Latin-inspired dances. It requires both partners to move their hips (which may take a while for the boys to get used to). There is much to be said about the flirtiness of the push-pull effect, and the tension created by sharp turns.
Rumba, fondly called ‘the dance of love’ makes use of a similar step pattern to cha-cha, but with elongated and slowed steps, followed by shorter ones. It is a beautiful reflection of a balanced relationship, with understated power and a great sense of intimacy.
Somewhere in Spain, a Matador stands in the centre of a bullring, and his cape flashes around him. This is the atmosphere of a Paso Doble – it is all about ego and precision and allows for very flashy poses demonstrating the Torero’s power. It is danced to the characteristic march used for the procession at the beginning of a corrida.
An energetic and buoyant dance, the jive has its roots in swing, rock ’n’ roll and lindy-hop. It requires co-ordination to keep the legs pumping and to keep up with the spins and turns, but it is fun, and a strong favourite at UCT.
Salsa is fast, fun, easy to learn, sexy… think all those salsa clubs in Cape Town where you can learn and enjoy this snappy, sexy dance. Short dresses, steamy Havana nights, dramatic dips and twirls, all with a healthy combination of basic steps and improvisation, it is sometimes hard to keep up, but can be fun no matter your level of expertise.
Slow English Waltz
“One, two, three; one, two, three…” Most people know that a waltz is in 3/4 time, and have some idea that you have to move on the beats. It requires some musicality, but soon, you will dance just like the princess from the fairy-tale; smoothly, with elegance and grace.
A perfect tango is a showy display of the fire and ice of a relationship. Sharp snaps around; slow, sensual movements and the intensity of an energetic dialogue between the partners. It is mesmerising to watch.
The Rhythm Foxtrot is one of the first dances you will learn – nicely sociable, as you have time (and breath) to talk. It is usually danced to big band style music. Do not underestimate the importance of this simple dance, as it is vital for building technique for more advanced dances such as the quickstep.
The Quickstep is a light, lilting dance, which is, as it sounds, fairly quick. The dancers will move around the floor (some of them chanting “up-up-down”), in a manner that looks almost like an elaborate game of hopscotch. It is a good developmental dance, adding character to the dancers’ performances.
The embodiment of perfection, the Slow Foxtrot is considered the connoisseur’s dance. The reason: the slower you dance, the harder it is to get away with taking shortcuts. According to famous dancer, Len Scrivener, the first seventeen years are the worst.
This is a dizzying dance for any beginners, combining fast footwork and spins. It is like a regular waltz but danced at higher speed (to compound time, for the musicians out there). It requires the couple to get really close in order to share a centre of gravity for the twirls.