Music is both universal and regional, with certain styles calling to mind specific countries and cities. Who doesn’t think of the mysteries of Turkey and Persia when they hear belly-dancing music? Or the United Kingdom when watching the curiously elaborate Morris Dancing? Music colours our perception of a place just as much as a destination calls to mind certain music. Pull out your dancing shoes and take a min-vacation by putting on your headphones and listening to these types of tunes...
Buenos Aires – The Tango
Creativecommons.org/Suzana Gudolle Dias de Bem
Argentine tango is legendary and quite different from the more standard ballroom tango; the music is more variable and the freedom of style lets couples tango away the night without become bored with the dance. Partners can be arms-length apart or so close together that their bodies move as a single, swaying entity. And that variety is key to good Argentine tango – the dance must fit not only the rhythm of the music but also the mood.
Soulful Buenos Aires with its shady undertones and a hint of Latin mystique, showcases the sultry and fluid aspects of the dance, from a lighthearted flirtation set to music to seduction-on-the-dance floor. To watch a professional couple is to see the complex dynamics of romance, Latin style. At first, the man is in control – skillfully throwing his woman aside and retrieving her in a series of motions that seem misogynistic – until you realize that it’s really the woman who has the upper hand – controlling her man with her burning gaze, finally bringing him fully under her power as the music fades away.
Paris – The Can-Can
Creativecommons.org/ ashley hurst
It’s hard to imagine, but the can-can began in the ballrooms of Paris in the 1830s as a dance for couples and was quite scandalous at the time (the French cancan can be translated as “scandal”). Over the next hundred years the dance evolved to something more like today’s version with a line of entertainers proffering amazingly high kicks while still giving a scandalous glimpse of dark-stockinged legs. Performers display their talents by using flexibility and strength to combine the kicks with cartwheels, jumps, splits and single-leg spins.
Although professional performers add some amazingly athletic moves as they dance, anyone can have a blast with this style. The music is familiar and has a strong beat that most people can feel, letting them know when to kick. The hard part is being able to do it for more than a minute or two. It takes exceptional endurance to do that ‘hop-kick-turn’ move that characterizes the dance let alone do it gracefully, but if the evening has progressed to the point where you are dancing the can-can, you probably aren’t concerned with style anyway.
Havana – Salsa Dancing
Creativecommons.org/ James Emery
Oddly enough, salsa originated in New York although it stems from the Cuban cha cha cha, the mambo and other Latin dances - add a bit of American swing and you have salsa! While dancing, the upper body is relatively still and all the movement of the legs causes the hips to sway and twist. Cuban-style salsa has the couple dancing around each other similar to the Cuban son, although it is constantly evolving and highly improvised.
The fun of Cuban salsa is the freedom to incorporate movements from other dance styles, particularly Afro-Cuban and elements of rumba. Even more fun is sitting back with a fresh-mint Mojito, listening to the Cuban rhythms and watching skilled dancers take salsa dancing to levels you never imagined.
Seville – Flamenco
Flamenco actually refers to the entire production of singing, guitar, hand claps and dancing. Although there are groups that only perform as that group, it’s also possible that each individual involved in a show was selected for their skill and the group has had only a few combined rehearsals. The music/dance has changed surprisingly little since the 19th century, perhaps because of its deep roots in Spanish folk music. A performance can include solo pieces by the singer and guitarists, and the dancer might perform with just handclaps, vocals or guitar.
Flamenco originated in Andalusia, an autonomous region of Spain, and Seville is the largest city in Andalusia. The streets are steeped in history and there is evidence of the importance of Flamenco everywhere. Glorious splashes of colour on the walls depict brightly-gowned dancers and the voice of the cantor singing drifts lightly through the windows. The best shows might be on stage, but the fun events are in the bars as the night air cools and the party heats up.
Seoul – Gangnam Style
You knew this was coming – and now that song will be stuck in your head for hours, but that’s part of the reason why Gangnam Style has made the list. The Gangnam District of Seoul, South Korea is one of the richest areas in the city and has developed a unique culture to go along with the money. The financial district and upscale shopping centres are trendy and attract a higher class of Korean. Psy juxtaposed this self-perception of “Gangnam Style” with music and moves that were definitely not high class, creating a lively, humourous dance that appeals to Koreans with a sense of humour and other cultures that love the wild-abandon movements and the easy-to-dance-to music.
The dance is easy – pretend you’re riding a horse. That’s really all there is to it, just straddle your pony, grab the reins and kind of lope back and forth while moving your hands. You can add in variants such as spinning a lasso, breaking into a canter or even switching that horse to get him to move a little faster. You can ride in one place or move from side to side, I guess it all depends on the imaginary terrain you are covering and maybe how crowded the dance floor is. If you think you look silly, then you’re doing it right. Remember, the whole point was to make fun of stuffiness anyway.