Friday, February 3, 2012

The Soul Train Line Formation - Video Examples

Edited by Azizi Powell

Don Cornelius Soul Train Line.flv [1970s]

Uploaded by thedktr on Feb 10, 2010

Don Cornelius shows how it's done!

This is Part 2 of a two part series on The Soul Train Line. Click for Part 1 of that series: The Roots Of The Soul Train Line.


"Soul Train is an American musical variety show that aired in syndication from October 1971 to March 2006. In its 35-year history, the show primarily featured performances by R&B, soul, and hip hop artists, although funk, jazz, disco, and gospel artists have also appeared. During the heyday of Soul Train in the 1970s and 1980s, the program was widely influential among younger African Americans, many of whom turned to it not only to hear the latest songs by well-known African-American artists, but also for clues about the latest fashions and dance trends. Moreover, for many white Americans in that era who were not living in areas that were racially diverse, Soul Train provided a unique window into African-American culture...

Within the structure of the program, there were two enduring elements. The first was the "Soul Train Scramble Board", where two dancers are given sixty seconds to unscramble a set of letters which form the name of that show's performer or a notable person in African-American history. In describing the person's renown, the host concluded their description with the phrase "...whose name you should know". There was also the popular "Soul Train Line", in which all the dancers form two lines with a space in the middle for dancers to strut down and dance in consecutive order. Originally, this consisted of a couple - with men on one side and women on the other.

In later years, men and women had their own individual line-ups."

In Part 1 "The Roots Of The Soul Train Line Formation" I described the soul train line as being a form of a "longways set", this is, "two lines, usually made up of partners facing each other in the opposite line. Used for contras and reels." As an example of a longways set that is very well known in country dancing (square dancing), I provided a video of the Virginia Reel. I also indicated and showed in two videos that certain Black children's singing game are performed in longways set formations and - I believe -it is from the memory of those Black children's games that Don Cornelius, creator and long time host of Soul Train got the idea for the Soul Train Line.

However, I want to be clear that my position is that the Soul Train Line (as depicted on television) and as still danced nowadays, isn't an exact replication of the Virginia Reel. It seems to me that a significant difference between the Soul Train Line and the Virginia Reel is that in the Soul Train Line the position of the head couple is the reverse of where that couple is located in the Virginia Reel. Whereas the couple move from the bottom to the top of the line in the Virginia Reel, in the Soul Train Line the couple (and in the 1980s and 1990s?) the individual) whose turn it was to dance down the Soul middle space created between those two lines moved from what I would consider the top of the line (the head of the line) to the end of the line (the bottom of the line). There are other significant differences between the Virginia Reel and the Soul Train Line, including the fact that in the Virginia Reel the couple dance separately with each other person in their "opposite" line while they move up to the head of the line. And then when they get to the head of the line, they then separate and do a march and then form an arch and then...well, let's just say that the Soul Train Line is a very abbreviated form of that country dance. There are numerous websites that provide information about how to do the Virginia Reel. One of those sites is

I encourage those interested in learning more about the (possible) backstory about the formation of the Soul Train Line to read Part 1 of this series. But I admit this post is MUCH more aesthetically pleasing. I love watching Soul Train Line videos. And I present these four videos for your enjoyment - with special kudus to the video at the beginning of this post of Don Cornelius himself dancing in the Soul Train Line.

If you want to speculate about the sociological meaning of why the Soul Train lines separated by gender, or why the often synchronized couple dancing of the 1970s changed to mostly individual dancing down the Soul Train Line in the 1980s, I won't mind at all. However, for now, I'm content to not go deep[er] into the whys and wherefores, and just watch those clips from the Soul Train television show, along with a video of a Soul Train line at a Black wedding reception.

*According to its Wikipedia page (whose link is given above), the Soul Train show "aired in syndication from October 1971 to March 2006".

Presumably the shows in the 1990s and 2000s included Soul Train lines, though I'm not sure of that. If there were Soul Train Lines on those shows, then there must be videos of those Soul Train Lines from those decades. But my albeit not enthusiastic search for those videos yielded couples dancing, and clips of stars performing. I admit that my favorite decade for Soul Train Lines is the 1970s, and I'm just not in to the dances, and the fashions of the 1990s and 2000s or even the 1980s but I felt like I had to present a video from that decade for contrast.

If you have some more links to Soul Train Line videos that you like from whichever decade, come on with them. Until then Enjoy! And Peace, Love, and SOOOUL!

Video Example #1 - Don Cornelius Soul Train Line.flv
Placed at the beginning of this post.

Video Example #2 - Soul Train LIne Dance to Curtis Mayfield Get Down [1970s]

Uploaded by bysolo65 on May 3, 2011

Video Example #3 - Soul Train Line Control Janet Jackson [1980s]

steve3ri, Uploaded on Oct 16, 2011
Note this video inclues actress Rosie Perez.

Video Example #4 - Rell-Rell, Nikki Wedding Reception (Soul Train Line)

Uploaded by CarlsBarkley on Nov 11, 2008

Rell-Rell, Nikki Wedding Reception dance (Soul Train style) as seen on TV.

UPDATE 2/5/2012
"Soul Train" flash mob tribute to Don Cornelius - New York

Bobi DojcinovskiUploaded on Feb 4, 2012

'Soul Train' fans pay tribute to Don Cornelius @ Times Square NYC.
*Video/edit Bobi Dojcinovski

'Soul Train' fans pay tribute to Don Cornelius @ Times Square NYC.
Video/edit Bobi Dojcinovski
Note this Soul Train line was (mostly) a single file line. As part of their tribute to Don Cornelius and Soul Train, many Black Americans who danced down the Soul Train line did "old school" dances, and a number of dancers wore 1980s style clothing. One African American man is videotaped dancing down the Soul Train line while carrying a large boom box and a person in the crown refers to him as "Radio Raheem". "Radio Raheem" is a character in Spike Lee's movie 1989 movie Do The Right Thing who always carried his large boom box.

Many African Americans who danced down the Soul Train line and other African Americans in the large crowd wore their hair in big afros or wore big afro wigs. Although the big afro (natural) hair style is coming back in fashion, I believe those dancers wore their hair that way in recognition of the popularity of that hair style on the 1970s Soul Train shows.

Also, I love how in one portion of that video (2.33-2.47) a large group of dancers do the Electric Slide, a dance that was choreographed in 1976 by Ric Silver. I'm not sure if that line dance (or any other group line dance) was ever featured on the Soul Train television show. But the Electric Slide is a expected dance at many African American wedding receptions and it's also part of many African American "old school" dance events. So it's not surprising to see the Electric Slide included in this tribute to Don Cornelius and Soul Train.

Thanks to whoever thought of & coordinated the idea of a Times Square flash mob Soul Train Line.

Also thanks to that video's uploader & producer and to all other uploaders & producers for the featured videos on this page!

Here's a link to the New York Post's video report about this flash mob:


Peace, Love, and Sooooul!

RIP Don Cornelius!

Thanks for visiting this page.

Viewer comments are welcome.


  1. One of videos I admired this day!
    Brings back the old times when world was in peace.

  2. Thanks for your comment.

    Although I like looking at old videos for various reasons, I don't think there ever was a time when the world was at peace - except in the Garden of Eden.

    Best wishes!

  3. The good old music is back.
    Thanks for sharing!!!