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Sunday, October 13, 2019

Dancing in Taipei

By Ken Lin Translated by Patricia Li

If you think ballroom dancing is no longer "in", think again. You may not catch me out on the ballroom floor (my friends say I'm too "up tight"), but there are plenty of people who enjoy ballroom dancing. Like the Cha Cha Cha and even watching is a thrill. Just ask anyone at the famous pub "Funky" where fashionable young dancers line themselves up on weekend nights to get in while the DJ pumps up the volume. They rarely miss a beat as they cha cha away, resembling marching troops in a National Day Parade. Foreign friends who witness this scene remark, "What a fascinating thing!" or "I've never seen anything like it!"

"Social dancers may sometimes remind themselves to
be the social in social dancer."

I couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. Why, the Cha Cha Cha is just a thing of the past, I thought. With all the new dances coming in. That is, until I went to the ballroom dance party in London's BJ's White Swan. I felt the same rush as my foreign friends. At first glance, the party seemed like any other. The crowd appeared conservative, all dressed up in their Sunday's best. But these folks weren't coming from Church. They came to dance! As the night wore on, the club filled and some serious dancing began. Once the music started up, I realized that this hip crowd wasn't amateur.

"Fly Me To The Moon" by Jimmy Borges

Everyone had taken lessons with hours of practice. And, they were good. They knew all the steps to the Cha Cha Cha, tango and rumba. I was dumbfounded. Can you imagine row upon row of men and women ballroom dancing? They were smooth, intoxicated by the music. And, everyone was in sync from the toss of their head, the kick of their heels to the look in their eyes. Mesmerizing! This was the first time that I recognized ballroom dancing as something beautiful.I finally realized what my foreign friends were getting at. Ballroom dancing is amazing. Check it out - you'll be amazed, too!

"Can we dance a good old fashion Cha Cha Cha on Oahu too?

Friday, October 11, 2019

A Point Of View

By Randall Tanaguchi, Nanakuli

Why do social dancing? Fish swim, birds fly, and I think social dancing offers the nearest equivalent satisfaction for humans. Furthermore, it is easier to get people together to meet and socialize when there is something this enjoyable to do. A good reason for the existence of our many dance clubs. Human beings are psychologically constructed so as to achieve fulfillment and satisfaction from dancing. They like to socialize and have fun as a couple. Even single people are grateful for the opportunity to be a couple with one other person even if for only one dance which is very predominant in our social dancing circles.

"Social dancing means we are aware of our own limitations and
the limitations of others – without prejudice or judgement."

A really democratic dance club expects the dancers to be citizens responsible for their own choices, not subjects. However all dance clubs on Oahu are "Benevolent Oligarchies." People like it better if they can attend a social event in the role of adult citizens, not subjects.There was a large Viewer Class developing in the last century when the Internationals were at the height of their glory but it is getting smaller,. Still many dinner/dance meetings and concerts are social events where people attend as subjects and observers, not participants and citizens. Our smaller club dances can be where people can attend as citizens and participants, not subjects.

"My Molokai Woman" by Willie K

Of course, line dancing is a very pleasant diversion. As I get older, recreational dancing seems adult and civilized and feels like real dancing. Swing and Salsa seem more juvenile and feels much more like calisthenics than dancing. Furthermore, while you may be dancing in collaboration with each other, you are no longer dancing so much together as a couple.The dances typically done to rock, hip hop etc. seem infantile and dance tricks not quite civilized. Group dances can reduce people to being subjects, not citizens; some people find them degrading and humiliating. And of course, most are finding that social dancing can be fun and folk dances have existed for centuries.

"Social Dancers believe that the person who says
they never told a lie - just told one."

Tuesday, October 8, 2019


Hula was danced in Hawaii for hundreds of years as a sacred ritual before the missionaries arrived to show them the missionary position. Naturally, it was relegated to being a somewhat distasteful item on any party agenda by the missionaries. During the 19th century, the hula almost vanished. King David Kalakaua is generally regarded as saving it during the late 1800's, when as King he could form his own troupe and encouraged the dancers to learn the old hula. Since that time it has progressed slowly forward because there have always been fans along the way.

"Posture itself in dancing strengthens the core of the body and
not only provides a physical benefit, but improves the
appearance and promotes a confident air."

Hula is a Polynesian dance form accompanied by chant or song, It was developed in the Hawaiian Islands by the Polynesians who originally settled there. The hula dramatizes or portrays the words of the oli or mele in a visual dance form. There are many sub-styles of hula, with the main two categories being Hula ʻAuana and Hula Kahiko. Ancient hula, as performed before Western encounters with Hawaiʻi, is called kahiko. It is accompanied by chant and traditional instruments.

"Music Of Hawaii" by Melveen Leed

Hula, as it evolved under Western influence in the 19th and 20th centuries, is called ʻauana (a word that means "to wander" or "drift"). It is accompanied by song and Western-influenced musical instruments such as the guitar, the ʻukulele, and the double bass. Terminology for two main additional categories is beginning to enter the hula lexicon: "Monarchy" includes any hula which were composed and choreographed during the 19th century. During that time the influx of Western culture created significant changes in the formal Hawaiian arts, including hula. "Ai Kahiko", meaning "in the ancient style" are those hula written in the 20th and 21st centuries that follow the stylistic protocols of the ancient hula kahiko.

"Dancing is just discovery, discovery, discovery." ~ Martha Graham

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Dance Evolution in Hawaii

Yes, the breakdown of social dancing happened during the cultural revolution in the late 1950's when everything that had been associated with previous generations was rejected. Yes, dress and behavior standards also changed.The baby-boomers rejected the traditions of their elders, but there is more to be said about the atmosphere of a dance than the music played. The music may have been different, but that was nothing new. Social dancing had been around for centuries regardless of the kind of music played. What was different? A search on dance etiquette will readily bring up several pages which indicate anything but what we tend to practice in Hawaii in this century,

"Social dancers gain assurance as they learn new patterns and techniques
and see that they can apply them with their dance partners."

Why? That is the heart of what the baby-boomers rejected. Social dancing as it existed before World War II was compared by Emily Post to a cocktail party. It was the intent for people attending a social dance to dance with as many different partners as possible. One was discouraged from dancing with their escort more than one or two times (the first and last dances). There was, "If a husband and wife want to dance with each other, they should go somewhere else more accommodating." Many people are under the impression that the gentleman always asked the lady to dance and a "Sadie Hawkins" dance was the only exception. And yet we don't really know.

"Fly Me To The Moon" by Jimmy Borges

Most of of the gender in the majority always asked, though gentlemen took precedence if the two were fairly equally represented. The host or hostess was charged with trying to make the numbers as even as possible, though it was more common for gentlemen to outnumber the women. The etiquette of a social dance makes it clear that it was intended to be a social event. It wasn't an event intended for you to spend time with your loved one. This is what was rejected by the baby-boomers. They rejected the socialization of the social dance and started turning it into what it is today. Even when you play the music of the period, whether a Viennese Waltz or a Big Band Swing, the mentality of the "social" dance is not what it was 100 years ago. Where are we today?

"Social dancers know how wonderful it is that nobody need wait
a single moment before starting to improve the world."

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

La Milonga

The first 300 years after the arrival of the first illegal aliens in South America was slow. The Milonga of the Incas went to Chile and over the Andes mountains to Argentina. It became the preferred music and dance among the newly arrived which were mostly men. The center of Buenos Aires in the 1800s, was of course where most families lived but mostly the upper and middle classes. As higher classes came in they gravitated to the center and pushed out the lowers farther away from the center. When it got too big it began going up to two, three and even four stories. But the poor were pushed out ever farther. So the biggest houses and the commercial districts developed in the center and the waterfront became a less desired district.

"Social dancers know that the beginning and the end of the tango is the walk."

After the independence of most of the Latin Countries in the 1820s and 30s, the entire section in the lower parts of South America became inundated with people from Europe. The people on "the edge" (La Orilla, pronounced Oh-ree-ya) were the poorest and lived among dirty industry such as the stock yards and butchering of animals for meat and the tanning of skins. And most were men and newcomers from Europe with easy to reach brothels and drinking places. The most common music and dance was the Milonga which had belonged to the Indians and Mestizos for centuries. However it was promptly picked up by the poor, uncouth and remained at the bottom of the pile.

"El Dia Que Me Quieras" por Carlos Gardel
Over 100 years old and still one of the worlds most beautiful classics.

This music and dance became a common language that united the lower class people from many different cultures. It was here in the surrounding neighborhoods, that other music and dance styles blended together much of it as fads that came and went. It was still an easy walking dance with an even rhythm and accepted by the poorer immigrants from the different countries and by the lower class people already in Argentina. But slowly because of the brothels, a newer partner Milonga emerged with a Quick, Quick, Slow.

"Social dancers do have problems. It takes two to Tango so they look for signs -
something to help them to find their perfect partners."

Sunday, September 29, 2019


From the Social Dance Rag:
The character of the dance establishes the styling technique. Rise and Fall in Waltz has a natural and graceful rise and fall because of the pressure on the one count and relaxing on the two and three counts. Yet, in Foxtrot there is little rise and fall, and the dancers just glide across the floor.Though the two dances share many figures, those figures will be danced differently for each of the two dances. Applying the appropriate technique to capture the character of each dance, rather than the blindly trying a "one size fits all" approach, is one of the most joyful aspects of learning to dance socially.

"Being a social dancer may mean you are ready and willing
to help others enjoy the dance."

Finally, there is the technique associated with each figure -the amount of turn, sway etc. Nice if you want to be an exhibition or competition dancer. However, what is often overlooked is that these are actually descriptions of what the finish product should look like, not prescriptions for how to achieve it. Many instructors teach by the book, but most social dance instructors discourage students from referring directly to a technique book because it was never intended for social dancers. The technique described in books were developed by watching good dancers perform and describing the result.

"Waikiki" by Amy Hanaialii

Without a good instructor to provide information about the actual method of achieving these results, the technique books can seem overly legalistic and extremely cryptic. It's understandable that someone whose exposure to "technique" consists of dealing directly with a book would have a bad image of technique. So, even if you are a recreational or competition dancer, dancing is about enjoying yourself. Dancing technique is not meant to take away from your enjoyment, its purpose is to enhance it! The more you understand about the categories of technique, the more enjoyable dancing will be to you, and the more enjoyable you will be to dance with.

"Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a person's growth
without destroying their roots."

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Belly Dancing

No one ever told me that they had belly dancing in the Philippines. Perhaps just to tell me it was illegal or something like that. Actually Belly dance is a Western-coined name for a traditional Middle Eastern dance, especially raqs sharqi. Then the term "Belly dance" is a misnomer as every part of the body is involved in the dance; the most featured body part in raqs sharqi being the hips. (The Hula?) Belly dance takes many different forms depending on country and region, both in costume and dance style; and new styles have been invented in the West as its popularity has spread globally.

Belly dance websites, provide their online information on performers,
information about selected dances and dance styles, musical
instruments, and sometimes history of their dance.

Malia Delapenia, Hawaii’s premier belly dancer is an acclaimed professional performing artist, instructor and choreographer based in Honolulu Hawaii. Raqs sharqi (literally "oriental dance") is the style more familiar to Westerners, performed in restaurants and cabarets around the world. It is more commonly performed by female dancers but is also sometimes danced by men. It is a solo improvisational dance, although students often perform choreographed dances in a group.

"In this life" by Amy Hanaialii

Social dance classes on Oahu
Raqs baladi, (literally "dance of country", or "folk" dance) is the folkloric style, danced socially by men and women of all ages in some Middle Eastern countries, usually at festive occasions such as weddings. This blog will come as a surprise to those that have been taught that they dance "correctly," without any qualification to that dictum. Some people don't realized what a small cog we are in the entire world of dance. Meanwhile I have to drop into a little Salsa on Saturday.

"A complete life depends on what it was lived for"