Seniors Sam and Ellen won first place at the Grand National Dance contest in 2017 with their swing dancing. The crowd was curious to see the elderly couple walk out on the dance floor, but they blew everyone’s mind when they began to move to the Blues song Gonna Move Across the River.
Together, they perfected the lindy hop and threw in their style of dance moves, including swing turns, quick steps, and dips that went as low as the floor.
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The judges and the crowd described Sam and Ellen’s dance as mesmerizingly beautiful. Their feet never missed a beat, and they were more like floating on air than dancing. The crowd was appreciative of the style and effort the couple put forth, but the fact they were both seniors is what was most impressive to be able to move that way. Everyone had judged them by the time they walked out on the floor, but when the music started, there was no doubt this couple knew what they were doing.
Along with seeing the dance moves from an older dance by a couple who lived through the ages, people felt tremendous pride in what they saw. Most people assume the dance they were doing is called “swing dancing,” as the judges called it. It was indeed a type of swing dance, but more specifically, the name of the dance the couple was dancing is known as “shag dancing.”
Shag dancing moves consist of using the waist down, and the footwork is grounded but glides smoothly across the floor. The best way to describe it is the dancers have rubber knees and slippery feet. It is funny but amazing to watch at the same time. This dance coming from seniors was authentic because they lived through a time when swinging and shagging was popular after World War I and before World War II.
The Lindy Hop, the Foxtrot, the Charleston, and shag dancing are all known as types of swing dancing. The swing era began in the 1920s when the Charleston and the Foxtrot were in style. Another interesting fact is the Charleston is named after Charles Lindberg, who flew across the Atlantic Ocean. It became known as the saying he “hopped” over the Atlantic Ocean, flying his plane. Seniors kept these dance moves alive as they continued to gather at functions to cut loose now and then.
Dancing is a great workout for the young and the old. It keeps the heart pumping and keeps the people feeling younger. Even the brain is getting a great workout session as it thinks up the moves to go along with the groove. In some ways, dancing could be the key to the fountain of youth. The heart stays healthy as people exercise. Since dancing keeps the heart healthy and is one of the best forms of exercise, Sam and Ellen are enjoying long and happy lives.
While watching the dance moves, if this does not take you back in time to when the world seemed simpler, nothing else will. Everyone from the dancers to the crowd and those watching on the screen can attest to the fact it was inspiring to see these people cut a rug like that. It also made some people stand up and dance themselves. There are so many dance sensations today; there is no way we can forget about the classics.
The reason classic swing dances such as the Lindy Hop or the shag are so important is that they are an integral part of dance and music history, telling the story of America’s cultural heritage. The majority of swing dance styles were born within African-American communities in Harlem, New York between the 1920s-1940s. They were created to be danced to jazz music, which is an important musical style that linked African-American and European-American musical parentage.
Jazz is an important musical form in the history of music and culture and is still around today. With its roots in blues and ragtime music, jazz sparked the so-called Jazz Age in America, which was in the 1920s and ’30s. It influenced major cultural shifts in the United States during and after this period, including influencing much of the music we enjoy today, such as rock’n’roll, pop, R&B, and hip hop genres. It also had an influence on other creative art forms such as writing, the visual arts, and fashion, to name a few.
Alongside these influences, jazz is what gave birth to the aforementioned dance styles such as the Lindy Hop, shag, Charleston, and other swing styles of dance. When times were low, such as during the Great Depression, which began in October 1929, people turned to simple pleasures such as dance and music to get them through. This, in turn, helped influence the Jazz Age. The power of music and dance is that they sweep someone up in the moment and allow them the opportunity to forget their worries for a while.
The history of music and dance is also the history of society and more often than not there are deep answers as to why something in pop culture became popular in the first place. Regarding jazz music and its relevance to American culture, The Smithsonian states:
“At the same time, jazz has left its mark on both other styles of music (classical, country, pop, rhythm & blues, rock) and other art forms (cinema, dance, fiction, painting, photography, poetry), not to mention vernacular speech. Once assailed as noisy, discordant, and an assault on moral values, jazz is now taught in high schools and colleges, where it is played by hundreds of thousands of young musicians and studied by a growing rank of scholars. “
It’s incredible what you can find out about human history when you just dig a little deeper into the origins of something. Jazz and subsequently, the dance styles it birthed are an integral part of modern history and culture. The Smithsonian adds, “Once disparaged and shunned, jazz is now central to America’s cultural heritage.” To enjoy and best appreciate what we have now, even with regards to culture, it’s always worth looking back at history to find out the stories behind these things.
Do you enjoy jazz music or swing dancing? If this made you feel something, let us know. We would love to hear your thoughts. Then spread this message of culture and history to your loved ones.