Sunday, December 5, 2021

The History Of Church Praise Dancing (with special focus on African American church praise dancing)

 Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams posts presents three online excerpts and one complete newspaper article about the history of praise dancing,  with special focus on African American praise dancing.

The content of this post is presented for historical, cultural, and educational purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.
Click the "African American praise dancing" and "Black Gospel mine" tags below for more pancocojams posts on this subject.   


This online material is given in no particular order. Numbers are added for referencing purposes only.

"Worship dance or liturgical dance take on several forms of sacred dance in Christianity and Messianic Judaism, and is usually incorporated into liturgies or worship services.

Some liturgical dance was common in ancient times or non-Western settings, with precedents in Judaism beginning with accounts of dancing in the Old Testament. An example is the episode when King David danced before the Ark of the Covenant (2 Sam 6:14), but this instance is often considered to be outside of Jewish norms and Rabbinic rituals prescribed at the time.

Dance has historically been controversial within Christianity. Many records exist of prohibitions by leaders of most branches of the Christian Church, for such reasons as the association of dance with paganism, the use of dance for sexual purposes, and a Greek-influenced belief in the separation of soul and body. Beginning in the second half of the 20th century, and especially following the Second Vatican Council, there was a significant growth in the use of dance in Christian worship. This received a boost from the charismatic movement of the 1970s, which initiated a transition to contemporary worship in many churches."...

From "Praise Dance History" by 
Joy Granger [no publishing date given]
"The history of praise dance dates back to biblical times. The first mention of dance in the Bible is in the book of Exodus when Miriam, sister of Moses, took a tambourine and led the women of Israel into a dance after witnessing the parting of the Red Sea. They expressed joy and celebration in their dance after witnessing God’s great miracle on their behalf.

Biblical Records

Other Biblical records of dancing occurred after David slew the giant Goliath and the women sang "to one another in dance" (1 Samuel 29:5). King David also danced before the Lord, as he brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, recorded in 2 Samuel 6:14 of the Bible. In his writings found in the book of Psalms, King David has many references to dancing as a form of worship to God. One such reference that remains popular in teachings today is "Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp" (Psalm 149:3).

The New Testament gives just a few direct references to dance. However, deeper studies into the original language of the New Testament suggest more references to dance than originally thought. Closer examination of the Aramaic language which Jews spoke, reveal the word for 'rejoice' and 'dance' are the same, in such references as dancing and leaping for joy (Luke 6:23) as well as 'dancing in the Spirit' (Luke 10:21).


During the first 500 years of the Christian church, praise or liturgical dance remained an important part of church gatherings, due to its Judeo-Christian traditions. Christians were accustomed to celebrating in dance at worship and festivals because of the Hebrew traditions of dance.

Later Developments

The history of praise dance takes a dramatic change during 16th and 17th centuries. The Roman Church organized the movements of the priest into something more "formal." By the 18th century, praise dances became scarce in the churches, with the exception of the Shakers where religious dance remained part of their worship.


Contemporary Praise Dancing

With the renewal of the church in the twentieth century, dance began to find increasing acceptance in the worship services of the church again. It has a rich and biblical tradition. Dance offers a range of forms and expressions in worship, from carefully choreographed dramatic presentation to the spontaneous worship and celebration of individuals and congregations of all ages."

From "What Is Praise Dance?"
December 13, 2018/Black Culture
…"Black church is a unique experience that is totally unlike white American church. It’s something that influences us all even if we aren’t Christian. It’s a major cultural touchstone and having left the church a few years prior this was my first time seeing praise dancing, specifically Mime. I attended an older church and so we had more singing than dance.

Praise Dancing became popular in the 1970s in the Black community as another way to express love and worship towards God. In Black culture the arts have always had a relationship with the church and many of us get our start there. It was only right that at some point, a specific style would emerge just around worship and dance.

It’s also known as Liturgical, although seemingly no one outside of acedemia really calls it that. It’s the idea of mixing dance and worship and has been around in some form or another for likely as long as worship has been a thing. But, for Africans Americans there was an issue. You guessed it? Slavery. As Africans were stolen to the Americas, and many of us lost family members and traditions, we settled here to find that dance was not allowed. Or at least our dances, weren’t.

In many African cultures, dance and ritual were one in the same. When we were brought over, we were stripped of our religion and in time our dance. It was only once some people decided to convert us to Christianity that we found a work around. We were allowed to dance if we adhered to some rules, such as not crossing the feet. In time it was the rituals and cultures of Africa that were hidden under the guise of Christianity. It became mixed and what we think of as Black church today.

Praise Dancing Today

So, today Praise Dancing tends to incorporate a few different styles of Black dance. Some common stylings are modern, jazz, hip-hop and Caribbean dances. It’s said this was the influence of the Alvin Ailey choreography Revelations. Other big influences were the Arthur Mitchelle Dance Theater of Harlem and the Sacred Dance Guild. It’s created a style that is expressive, and choreographed. Some styles tend to be divided along gender lines, but it is avalible for anyone to do and perform as an expression of worship. Obvisiouly it’s most easily found in church although some Black talent shows will often feature it too.

Additionally now there have been some subcultures formed. Mime is a big one. It leans less on modern and more on performing the song with lip syncing and gestures. This really came out of the 1980s and started with K&K mime and has since become an amazing subgenere.

There is also Krump. And high energy expressive style that was originally praise dancing also. It comes out of clowning and was considered too raw, so it’s creators developed their own style. It’s since then develop into something amazing and has it’s own off shoots.”…
That post includes several video examples of Black American praise dancing. Unfortunately, most of those videos are no longer available.

From "Dance Stepping And Stomping In An Old Time Gospel Mood; June 2, 2002
"FIFTEEN boys and girls from the step dance team at Junior High School 231 in Springfield Gardens, Queens, were chatting in the back of the school auditorium. When Lamont O'Neil, the team's director, announced that he was ready to start rehearsal, they took off down the aisles, hurriedly tucking their white shirts into their pants and skirts. Forming a circle onstage, they bowed their heads and joined him in a prayer, as they always do before a rehearsal.

''How was your weekend?'' Mr. O'Neil asked.

A girl answered, laughing, ''Groovy.''

That was the last bit of levity for the next two and a half hours as Mr. O'Neil, a combination of drill sergeant, choreographer and big brother, put the team through its paces. To the hip-hop beat of the gospel singer Kirk Franklin's ''He Reigns,'' the youngsters, in three lines, ran through their routines in rapid-fire movements, slapping their hands on their hips, stomach and legs, crossing and recrossing their arms. Later the dancers chanted, ''We are the children of righteousness,'' imbuing their stepping with a spirituality.

Mr. O'Neil and his team were preparing for the competition that will take place today at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan as a part of this year's McDonald's Gospelfest. Begun by the fast-food chain in several black churches in Los Angeles in 1984, it now travels around the country, this year stopping in 11 cities. In addition to performances by Hezekiah Walker and the Love Fellowship Tabernacle Choir, Vickie Winans and Cissy Houston, it features competitions between choir groups, soloists and Christian rappers as well as those in step dancing and praise dancing, another form of black vernacular dance. In July, WABC (Channel 7) will broadcast a special with excerpts from the four events held in the New York area.

This brand of step dancing, or stepping as it is familiarly known, is not to be confused with Irish step dancing. Stepping dates to the early 20th century, when black veterans of World War I enrolled in colleges, said Thomas De Frantz, a professor of music and theater arts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the historian of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

''They wanted to express their blackness through a communal art form of their own,'' he said. ''Inspired by their military training, they brought to their dances a highly rigorous, drill-like component and combined it with elements from other black dances, just as today steppers often add hip-hop movements.''

Stepping quickly took off in black fraternities and sororities, becoming an integral part of the initiation, with students holding fierce contests to demonstrate their originality. Spike Lee's 1988 film ''School Daze'' brought stepping to a wider audience.

Like much African-American music and dance, step dance relies on improvisation, call and response, complex meters, propulsive rhythms and a percussive attack. Since it resembles the gumboot dance of South African miners, some people theorize that it came to the United States directly from Africa, but Mr. De Frantz said the two forms simply share African movements.

Stepping can vary from the sexually suggestive to the reverential, and until recently step teams were segregated by sex.

PRAISE dancing began in Baptist churches in the late 19th century, a descendant of the ring shout, a religious dance of West African origin. Traditional praise dances are performed in a circle or as processions, sometimes accompanied by bugles and drums, with the performers carrying flags and banners. In contemporary praise dancing, participants, often in an ecstatic state inspired by their belief in God, determine their own movements. Ailey used elements of it in his masterpiece ''Revelations,'' as did Talley Beatty in his work ''Southern Landscape.''

Praise dance has recently developed a lively second life as a highly choreographed concert dance, and along with step dancing has become popular with community organizations as well as church and school groups. Curtis Farrow, a Gospelfest producer, said, ''There's been an explosion of interest among Hispanics, Asians and whites, who now make up 25 percent of the audience at the tri-state events.''

Like Mr. O'Neil's 231 Step Academy Team, Michael Gary's Acrodanse Theater Company, a modern dance troupe from Perth Amboy, N.J., that performs praise dance, was a champion at last year's McDonald's Gospelfest and will be returning this year to defend its title.

Before a recent performance at the Nicholas Musical Center at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., Mr. Gary, 41, talked about praise dancing, which he first saw as a child at his grandparents' church in Virginia. ''I use gestures and movements I recall from that time in my choreography,'' he said. ''There's never any set style or technique in praise dancing. It's about worshiping God in your own manner.''

To a recording of John T. Kee singing ''Praise Him,'' Mr. Gary and his 15 dancers, who range in age from 10 to 25, walked gracefully onto the stage. The female dancers wore brightly colored dresses, the male dancers white shirts, dark pants and vests. The subdued opening gave way in minutes to jubilation, as the dancers swirled about the stage, leaping and turning with their arms outstretched in gestures of worship.

''There are some elements of ballet and modern dance in the piece,'' Mr. Gary said later. ''But basically it's jump and shout, old-time, foot-stomping religion. There's nothing like it.''

Mr. O'Neil, 33, also sees a power in liturgical dance. He started stepping as a graduate student at Pennsylvania State University and gravitated to the secular variety that was popular on campus. Now he teaches a more religious form to his students.

When he started teaching at School 231 in 1993, he said, ''I saw the crises for the kids -- the temptations of the street and the lack of direction.'' A year later, he formed a stepping group, Nubian Gents, as a way to promote discipline and self-respect among the students. Today that group tours Africa, Asia and Europe. ''If these kids hadn't joined that team, a lot of them would be in gangs,'' he said.

A half hour into the rehearsal, Mr. O'Neil asked his young charges, ''Need a break?'' They sank to the floor in exhaustion. Gospelfest rules stipulate that routines can only last three minutes. It was going to take a lot more rehearsing to get theirs down to that.

''I don't mind the work,'' said one team member, Jeffrey Princivil. ''It helps keep all the negativity around me out of my life.''

A version of this article appears in print on June 2, 2002, Section 2, Page 24 of the National edition with the headline: DANCE; Stepping and Stomping in an Old-Time Gospel Mood"
Click for a YouTube video of Kirk Franklin's "Reign" that is mentioned in this article.

Click for a YouTube sound file of  John T. Kee's song "Let Us Praise Him".

This may be the John T. Kee's song that was mentioned in this New York Time's article as ''Praise Him".

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Kirk Franklin's 1997 Christian Hip Hop Song "Stomp" (with a video of praise dance, mime, line dancing, or modern dancing to this song)

olsKool Jamz, April 12, 2020

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post showcases a 1997 YouTube video of "Stomp" performed by Kirk Franklin & God's Property, Chery; "Salt" James.

Four other YouTube videos of African Americans dancing to this Christian Hip Hop song are also included in this pancocojams post.

The content of this post is presented for religious, cultural, and aesthetic purposes.

 All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Kirk Franklin. "God's Property" and Cheryl "Salt" James for their musical legacy. Thanks also to all those who featured in videos that are embedded in this post and thanks to those videos' publishers on YouTube .
Click for the 2016 pancocojams post titled "Kirk Franklin & God's Property, featuring Salt - Stomp (Gospel video, information, lyrics, & comments)." Information about the artists and that song is included in that post along with information about some of the African American Vernacular English words that are found in Kirk Franklin's "Stomp".

SHOWCASE VIDEO #2 [praise dancing]

Rufus Turner, Aug 8, 2010
Anointed Hands Ministry of Victory In Praise Church of Stockton Hip Hop dancers dance to Kirk Franklin's Stomp at the 2010 Summer Musical Blast

Song: Stomp

Artist: Kirk Franklin, God's Property

Album: Stellar Awards 30th Anniversary


SHOWCASE VIDEO #3: Kirk Franklin "Stomp" [mime dancing]

Travis Mimms, Nov 1, 2011

Travis Mimms Mime Dancing at Lighthouse of Faith Community Church in Ft. Walton Beach, FL.

SHOWCASE VIDEO #4: Gospel Line Dance - STOMP! [line dancing]

Roland Ford, Nov. 22, 2011

Roland Ford and members of the Pittsburgh Soul Steppers perform "STOMP!" at the Gospel Line Dance 'pre-party' before Kirk Franklin's Concert at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall.  This dance choreographed by Roland was the kick-off for an hour long program of Gospel Line Dancing…

SHOWCASE VIDEO #5: Kirk Franklin - Stomp (Dance Video) | quintonakeem. [modern dancing]

Q FLEX MOVES,  Feb. 20, 2018

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Saturday, December 4, 2021

How Black Dances And White Dances Differ (Symmetry, Asymmetry, Posture, Bounce, Improvisation & More)

 Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post presents several online articles about the differences between Black dance and White dance. 

The content of this post is presented for cultural and educational purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.
Each of these articles help me better understand the different characteristics and aesthetics (values) that determine and continue to determine some major differences in the ways that  Black people and White people (in general) value certain ways of dancing and the different ways that Black people and White people (in general) perform other performance movements such as cheerleading and marching band routines.  

I strongly recommend clicking the links for these articles to read these entire articles. Article #1 includes photographs and a YouTube video that help explain the text. Article #3 also includes photographs.

..."A history of jazz dance and historic perspective helps us acknowledge tradition. Where jazz dance, and it’s related styles of Lindy hop, solo jazz, tap, shag etc. come from and pay respect to its origins and community.

 When we talk about jazz dance we need to talk about the cultural history of jazz dance, we need to talk about black dances, and it’s African influences. It is impossible to think of the heritage and history of jazz dance and music in America without acknowledging its African roots.

 Birth of the Jazz Dance

Today if you say the word “jazz” it almost has to go with a little add -on or description, for it carries many meanings and is quite a complex subject.

The roots of Jazz are African and, particularly, West African.

In the beginning of the 17th century an enormous amount of African people were forced to the North American content and elsewhere to be then enslaved. During the slavery period African dance developed into African - American vernacular jazz dance culture. It is important to acknowledge the connection between the dances of traditional African cultures and the history of jazz dances of Black Americans.

Today we really can see how many branches of vernacular jazz dance, such as tap, broadway jazz, classical jazz, modern jazz, latin jazz , solo jazz and so on, developed.

The history of jazz dance and specifically Vernacular dances developed on plantations. Black dances such as buzzard lope, turkey trot had direct animalistic references. They were observed by white people who found the dances intriguing because of the vitality, expression, dynamism and freedom in improvisation.

Black dancers, on the other hand, observed white people dancing in salons and adopted the idea of close embrace in a couple dance, verticality and composition for their Cakewalks, Charleston and, later, the Lindy Hop.

Jazz dance developed through coming together, on American soil, of African and European culture. It was influenced by many factors such as mixing of African people from different tribes, mixing with European traditions and being influenced by it in the horrible circumstances of restrictions that were imposed upon slaves in regard to music and dance.

In order to understand what are the specifics of the Africanist influence in the history of jazz dance, we need to research its characteristics and fundamental elements.

Characteristics of black vernacular dance

The six definite characteristics of African American vernacular dance are rhythm, improvisation, control, angularity, asymmetry and dynamism
"Steppin' on the Blues", p. 32

Nowhere is African American style manifested more than in dance. Let's look into some of those characteristics closer.


“Rhythm is the architecture of being, the inner dynamic that gives it form, the pure expression of the life force”
(Thompson “African art in motion”, p.13 - 14)

African - American dance is a rhythm, beat - oriented dance. To be in the beat is essential and vital. If you dance fancy steps but you are outside of the beat, you are not living with the music, you are not dancing. Coming together with music, getting on the “beat train” and then embellishing the rhythm, adding something new is the heart of jazz dancing.


 “Like all good dancers, practitioners of this style do not throw their bodies around; they do not cut completely loose. When the musical break comes , it is not a matter “of letting it all hang out,” but a matter of proceeding in terms of “ a very specific technology of stylisation. A loss of control and a loss of coolness places one squarely outside of tradition”
"Steppin' on the Blues", page 34

Vernacular and jazz dance styles are expressive and might seem almost frantic  in comparison to stiff and even reserved European dance tradition. One might lose themselves in rhythms, shapes and energy when dancing. Though here comes a fascinating concept of “aesthetics of the cool”. The idea that we shouldn’t let the dance overwhelm us. By keeping a cool face expression and cool attitude we manage to have control in jazz dance, lightness and effortlessness in the movement. And you see this on so many black faces as they dance these dances, cool, calm and collected.


 “It is the lack of symmetry which makes (African - American) dancing so difficult for white dancers to learn. The abrupt and unexpected changes. /.../ The presence of rhythm and lack of symmetry are paradoxical, but there they are”
"Steppin' on the Blues", page 35

Asymmetry as characteristic is understood not only in the movements itself, but equally in the relationship between the dance and dancer state. “Although the dancer may be performing a fury of complex steps and figures they never lose the asymmetrical  juxtapositions of coolness, equilibrium and control” - African Dance: An Artistic, Historical, and Philosophical Inquiry, p.107


Simply explained, every posture is another angle. This concept can be quite a challenge for a body trained in European tradition of dance. In European dances transitions between postures are more fluid, that makes the difference between poses more imperceptible. In west African and many African derived dances transitions are more dramatic and even geometric. Angularity in jazz dance and solo jazz dance can be achieved with high control and tension - release approach.

In all African culture and doctrine we find angularity. Black non verbal communication is full with angles as well. Rex Stewart Jr.,  an American jazz cornetist, in Jazz Masters of 30’s talks about Louis Armstrong's personal style, that was “his loping walk, the cap on his head tilted at an angle, which back home meant: Look out! I am a bad cat -  don’t mess with me” 
(The Routledge Dance Studies Reader, p. 233)

It is as well the African influence that gives jazz dance and solo jazz it's rhythmic component and as-symmetrical, angular forms.


Improvisation is what drew me to solo jazz dance and Charleston personally. When I was young I remember saying “Ksenia this is the exactly what you want to do, Ksenia this is freedom, this is liberation” and let’s face it, Black dances give you so much room to express yourself in the moment, as opposed to the European counterparts. Simply put into words, improvisation is creation on the spot, in that very moment. It’s a process of playing, experimenting with new ideas. While Improvising one is expected to stretch the tradition and bring something new to the table. All African - American social dances and music allow for some degree of improvisation, even in the performance.

As a trained competitive ballroom dancer I never heard or tried to express myself in a dance freely. In ballroom dance you follow quite strict technique and choreography. My instructors always said “Ksenia that’s not the right step... go again” It used to hurt me so much. It was such a controversy that I couldn’t do what I felt in the moment. The idea that you can make free choices and play with the beat and movements was for me Joy. Jazz dance and black dances such as African dance, House really are a process of continuous invention. A sense of play, curiosity and  bravery, deep connection to your own self and your body and music really are an essential part of improvisation, and when you get it right your face lights up with joy and feels it instantly.

“The African American aesthetic encourages exploration and freedom in composition. Originality and individuality are not only admired, they are expected. But creative must be balanced between the artist’s concept of what is good and the audience’s idea of what is good. The point is to add the tradition and extend it without straying too far from it”
Steppin’ on the Blues, page 35

Personality and individual voice are a vital part of the culture. In this dance tradition executing the dance exactly the same way as someone else is usually not valued.  When groups perform a number together, the audience expects each performer to bring his own personality to the overall style, in this way creating diversity within unity.

Fundamental elements of Jazz Dance

As we discussed, the roots of jazz dances lie in West African dance traditions. So many of the technical elements are opposite to the European tradition in dance. I’d like to cover the fundamentals of solo jazz & swing dancing such as posture, bounce (of feel, pulse), backbeat, swinging 8th note and syncopation.

The posture

It’s important to define the centre from where all the movement comes. In European dances (such as ballet, ballroom, folk dances of Europe, etc.) the centre of the body movement  is in the chest. When dancing those styles we tend to grow up and have a more erect spine with straightened limbs. We tend to search for symmetry and beauty in the form and the main trajectory of the movement is up.

While in African derived dance forms the centre is in the naval, we work with gravity and the intention and accent is towards the earth. That has an affect on the posture. As Kongo proverb goes "dance with bended knees, lest you be taken for a corpse".

“The bent knees and angulated bodies (of black dancers) ….were in striking contrast to the erect spines, straight legs, turned-out feet, and rounded arms of the European American dancing instructors” (Steppin’ on the Blues, page 49)

"To many western and central Africans, flexed joints represent life and energy, while straightened hips, elbows and knees epitomised rigidity and death"
from"Steppin on the Blues"

The bounce

Bounce or pulse is an essential element of swing dancing and solo jazz. Steps may be similar in many dance styles, but the “feel” which is embodied in bounce or pulse is unique to a style. Bounce represents the timing of the music, the 4/4 pulse, it’s your “double bass” inside. When keeping the bounce, pulse steady and in time, you are your own metronome.

Solo Jazz dance movements are characterised by a weighted release into gravity, a dynamic spine and rhythms. When bouncing we should search for exactly that sensation. It is already a dance by itself.

While practicing bounce consider those ideas from the West - African movement. Those are comments gathered by Thompson in interviews with experts in dance in Western and Central Africa, from the book “Steppin’ on the Blues"

1. You should not align limbs in a too straight manner (Kongo)

2. You should dance bending deep. (Kongo)

3. Keep your elbows and hips close in to the body; you must move your entire body; vibrate the whole, but you must keep the movement self-contained, not to go too far out with the gestures and thrusts of the arms and legs (Kongo)”…

Backbeat In the history of Jazz dance and music

Backbeat is a term used to describe a heavy accent on 2 and 4 in 4/4 common time.

In the European music tradition it is common to stress only the strong beat which is 1 and 3. Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States, and one of its main characteristics that defines the way we dance is the accentuation on the so-called "weak" or "backbeat", the 2 and 4.

"We don't snap our fingers on the beat. It is considered to be aggressive. In jazz we don't push it, we let it fall" as says genius African-American composer Duke Ellington"...

Dance Resources: Dance Styles and History [no author or publishing date given]
...."African dance has also been an important influence on social dance in all parts of the African Diaspora, but particularly throughout the Americas and the Caribbean, and on modern dance since the second half of the 20th Century. Dance scholar, Brenda Dixon Gottschild, wrote in 1993, “Any serious attempt to study Black dance (in the United States) demands a study of African and New World Black cultures.”

African dance is polyrhythmic—the simultaneous sounding of two or more independent rhythms in drummers and dancers, the relationship of rhythm to movement is key. African dance is notable for the close, multi-directional relationships among participants, often called a conversation, between drummer and dancer, and also drummer to drummer and dancer to dancer. During stage performances the fourth wall often comes down, communication extending between dancer, drummers, and audience members.

African dances are performed in lines or circles of dancers. The body is used asymmetrically. All parts of the body articulate in African dance; arms, legs, and torso all appearing angular, bent, the body slightly forward. Shoulder and hip movement are notable. Feet are flattened against the ground in a wide stance. Steps include: scuffing, stamping, jumping and hopping steps. African dance is often said to be “earth centered;” even in jumping styles, (such as the Tutsi of Rwanda,) the orientation is towards the earth."...

"There are many aspects of choreography that are important and note worthy. One basic choreographic property that I want to focus on, is the principle of symmetry and asymmetry. This is a simple idea but one to focus on and one to consider. This very basic principle is one that will dominate every dance performance you will ever see. Everything either falls under the category of symmetrical…or asymmetrical. Each property has it's use and effect.

A balanced body position, spatial pattern and relative balanced design features encompass symmetry. Symmetry is a calm, logical and simple design factor in choreography. Symmetry is found in many early ballets, where the dancers are lined together, equally in number and spatial distance on the stage… It also is when all dancers are doing the same movement in the same space in time.

Quite a few ballet positions are symmetrical. First and fifth position, for instance, are symmetrical. Symmetry is predictable, familiar and fun to watch sometimes. It presents harmony. Many dances are based on this principle. Take the old musicals for instance; like Ziegfeld Follies and Broadway when the dancers were the set. These dances relied on symmetry for a grand design scheme. Although used often, a choreographer that uses too much symmetry falls into the pit of monotony. This almost always will cause the dance to lose life. It has a place and time of necessity, and symmetry cannot be highlighted without asymmetry close by.

Moving away from symmetry, as an art community in general led to the creation of some very innovative a memorable works of art. This spans from modern art and architecture to of course dance. Many modern works developed the use of asymmetry though it already existed naturally with movement. The spatial pattern, count of dancers and the sets or body positions started being overwhelmingly asymmetric. Today we see more of a balance of symmetry and asymmetry.

Asymmetry presents some interesting patterns and possibilities that symmetry doesn’t. It is unpredictable, interesting and odd. It represents nature and roots. It gives movement more possibility. Too much asymmetry is not going to keep a dance interesting though. There needs to be a balance as to not suggest randomness of everyday life. We see asymmetry everyday, but oftentimes no symmetry. A balance of the two can bring together a dance in a desirable way.

Of these two divisions are subdivisions; oppositional and successional. Either can exist within the divisions of symmetry or asymmetry. This means the lines are in either in opposed angles, or flowing curves as in the picture examples. Oppositional asymmetry is a more forceful, angular pattern and successional symmetry is more of a soft curved line that still flows though it may be in opposition.

Knowing these properties prior to choreographing can help to define the movement for you to arrange. There are so many more movement properties from a choreographic perspective, that are important and need exploration as well.

These two basics though, are ones to know when building the basic structure of the dance. Knowing the most inevitable perspective outcomes will ensure a fair and clear presentation that will more likely be interpreted as you wish. The more you know about spatial relation, the more power and control you have over your vision. No go finish your piece!

Reference: The Art of Making Dances by Doris Humphrey & Learning About Dance by Nora Ambrosio"

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Friday, December 3, 2021

Roland Ford's "Dance And Be Fit" Line Dance/Exercise Video - "Ringing in the Season"

Roland Ford, December 3, 2021

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post showcases a "Dance And Be Fit" line dance for the Holiday season.

This music for this dance is Donny Hathway's 1970 song entitled "This Christmas".

The line dance was choreographed by Roland Ford who is the Founder/Director and Fitness Instructor of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania's "Dance And Be Fit" program. Roland is joined in that video by instructor Tazi Hughes, and her eight year old daughter Jaiya Hughes, a "junior instructor" with that program. 

Some information about Roland Ford's "Dance And Be Fit" program is also included in this pancocojams post.   

The content of this post is presented for cultural and recreational purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Donny Hathaway for his musical legacy. Thanks also to Roland Ford for developing his "Dance And Be Fit" program and choreographing this line dance. Thanks also to Tazi and Jaiya Hughes for performing this line dance along with Roland Ford in this video.     
Click for a 2020 pancocojams post entitled "Donny Hathaway - This Christmas (Official Audio) And Chris Brown - This Christmas (video) with information & lyrics".
Full Disclosure: Tazi Hughes is my daughter and Jaiya Hughes is my granddaughter.

for a 2016 pancocojams post entitled "Almost Three Year Old Jaiya Lip Syncing Two R&B Songs".

Also, click for the 2011 video entitled "
Black and Yellow Super Slide". That line dance was choreographed by Jim Weaver who is an associate of Roland Ford. The line dancer wearing #43 on her Steelers' jersey is my daughter, Tazi.  "Black and gold" are the colors for all of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania's professional athletic teams including the Steelers (football), the Pirates (baseball), and the Penguins (ice hockey).    

Roland Ford is an African American fitness instructor who developed the "Dance And Be Fit" program to help people of all ages and abilities enjoy themselves while staying fit, and/or helping to increase their physical mobility.

Roland Ford's "Dance And Be Fit" program is based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania since at least 2015. However, people throughout the world have been introduced to Roland Ford's "Dance And Be Fit" program via his YouTube channel:

"Dance And Be Fit" encourages people to exercise while doing line dances that Roland Ford and his team have choreographed to R&B and other popular music. While people of all ages can enjoy themselves while perform these line dances, the "Dance And Be Fit" program is especially tailored to senior citizens and/or people who are mobility challenged. For these populations, Roland and his team have also choreographed chair dance/workouts that incorporate line dance movements. Two examples of these chair dance/workouts are  "MOVE" (choreographed by Roland Ford) and "Car Wash" (choreographed by Tazi and Jaiya Hughes, November 2021)

Roland Ford has held in person line dance sessions in various Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania parks and other open spaces, at community centers, schools, and senior citizens centers throughout the Pittsburgh, Pen
nsylvania area and elsewhere. People of all ages can also participate in "Dance And Be Fit" sessions online via Zoom. These line dance sessions are free with funding provided by UPMC Health Plan, Pittsburgh Parks And Recreation, and others.

For information about Roland Ford's "Dance And Be Fit" program, please address your queries to Roland in the discussion thread of one of Roland Ford's recent videos such as the one that is showcased on this pancocojams post. 

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