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Chicago-Style Stepping, (also known as Chi Town Steppin' or Steppin') is an urban dance that originated in Chicago, and continues to evolve, defining its unique style and culture, within the context of mainstream Swing dance. Chicago-Style Stepping has gained popularity, particularly, but not limited to, the urban neighborhoods of America. "Chicago-Style Stepping" makes reference to other urban styles of dance found throughout the United States larger enclaves in cities such as Detroit, Cleveland, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
In these and other cities one will find very similar customs and cultures accenting local dance movements that are very similar to movements of the Lindy Hop, West Coast Swing, Jitterbug and the Shag, just to name a few. Each city bears its own name such as the Hustle or Swingout. Although unique to its own style, customs and accents the basic structure involves the movement of triple-steps, rock-steps and anchors, with the leader and follower synchronizing their steps in a complementary manner. Ballrooming (Ballroomin') and Bop are popular in Detroit and Cleveland; while Hand Dance is poular in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore; Texas Swingout (Swingout or Swing2Step) is popular in Texas (Dallas, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio); Two Step is popular in Kansas City, Missouri; and West Coast Swing is popular in the major cities along the West Coast of the United States (Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, Sacramento, Portland, Seattle, and Tacoma) Urban forms of line dance which is popular in all the major cities in America trace their roots into Chicago-Style Steppin. Chicago-Style Stepping is very popular in other major cities such as Atlanta, Miami, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Denver, Tulsa, Raleigh, Cincinnati, Memphis, Little Rock, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Columbus, Nashville, Pittsburg, Charlotte, Louisville, Omaha, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, St. Louis, and Boston. In many of the major cities in America, there are different "Steppers" clubs or organizations who will have dance classes on a weekly basis as well as citywide events that will include Steppers from nearby major cities.
Chicago-Style Stepping, or steppin' as it is also known, has it roots imbedded in the traditional dance movements of Swing Dancing. The history extends to Ragtime and animal dances, which documents the polyrhythm movements and sounds of its heyday. Ragtime was not only a unique music form, it was a dance as well. Ragtime was a play on John Phillip Sousa's music, combining improvisation and syncopation in between to draw upon melodic themes and percussions. The end result was a richer melodic sound that was well received by local patrons as well as those abroad who would hear the new sounds coming from traveling musicians and dancers on the Vaudeville circuit.
Swing dance is style of dance which encompasses partner dances. Steppin is codified as a Nightclub dance. The swing dance known as Steppin’ is a part of the WESTERN SWING family the parent dance “Chicago Bop” may have been more EASTERN SWING but Steppin’ has characteristic more towards the west; especially its usage of a lane or slot. Steppin’ has a 6 count basic pattern. This is equal to 1 ½ measures of music in 4/4. Its tempo ranges 70 to 100 Bpm. Its basic rhythm pattern consists of a double and two syncopated triples. The patterns start traditionally on the downbeat of one. The leader’s footwork is normally started on their left and finished on their right. The follower dances natural opposites. Steppin’ is danced with a lane or slot. Take inconsideration the term “Bop” was used to describe the dance form by Chicagoans until the early 1970’s. Prior to that time “Bop” was the known term and its origin in began sometime between 1945 & 50 to express music and dance. The dance known as Chicago Steppin’ was Bop and is more likely a derivative of Jitterbug. No published syllabuses exist for the dance.
Disco and Chicago-Style Stepping
Even with the onset of Disco music, there was still a strong contingent that would still dance "The Bop" (followed by Chicago-Style Stepping) to any kind of music, and that trend continues to this day. Chicago-Style Stepping gained a real foothold when a local radio station, WVAZ (102.7FM/1390AM), started playing two particular records by artist Jeffree, "Love's Gonna Last", and "Mr. Fix-It" in the mid to late 1970's. Neither song was a major Billboard R&B chart hit ("Mr. Fix-It" made it to number 53, "Love's Gonna Last" didn't chart), but they perfectly complemented the newest version of Chicago-Style Stepping. In a classic case of a dance making a record a (local) hit, due to the massive request and playing of "Love's Gonna Last" on WBMX, it is now considered the ultimate Chicago-Style Steppers cut. William DeVaughn's classic, "Be Thankful for What You Got," was also a ground-breaking cut for Chicago-Style Stepping. More common is R. Kelly's "Step in the Name of Love", "Step in the Name of Love Remix", and "Happy People" which all popularized the dance in the mid 2000s. The TV show The Soul Man, as well as the movies Love Jones and Beauty Shop have also featured scenes of Chicago-Style Stepping.