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Step dance

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Bronx's P.L.A.Y.E.R.S. Club Steppers[1]
Demonstration of a simple step.

Step dance is a generic term for dance styles in which footwork is considered to be the most important part of the dance and limb movements and styling are either restricted or considered irrelevant.[citation needed]

Step-dancing is a percussive form of dance that employs hard-soled shoes and is synchronized with music played at a specified tempo using instruments like pipes, whistles, fiddles, or puirt-a-beul (mouth music). It entails producing rhythmic beats through intricate and diverse footwork, involving striking heels, toes, and feet, all the while ensuring impeccable timing with the musical rhythms found in strathspey, reel, and jig compositions.[2]

The terminology used in percussive dance styles reflects a wide range of naming conventions, highlighting both shared features and unique distinctions. The umbrella term "percussive dance" encompasses dance forms where the foot serves as an intentional source of rhythmic sound, akin to a percussion instrument. The specific footwear associated with each style contributes to variations within this genre.[3]

While "percussive dance" is the overarching term, colloquially, "step dance" is commonly used. However, nuances exist in the application of this term across different communities. For example, in the Ottawa Valley tradition, the preferred term is "step-dancing" rather than "step dance". In Scotland, both "step dance" and "step-dancing" are recognized. The Irish-Newfoundland style may be referred to as either "Irish-Newfoundland step dance" or "Irish-Newfoundland tap". In Métis and certain aboriginal communities, the practice is often known as "jigging", and in French, the dance form is called "la gigue".[3]

Clog dancing


Step dancing includes clog dancing in which the steps are performed by performers wearing clogs. The sound of the clogs against a hard surface produces a characteristic sound which is an important element of the dance.

Cape Breton step dance


The traditional Cape Breton step dance, reminiscent of the style brought by 19th-century Scottish immigrants, is characterized by its exceptional precision. Throughout the dance, the feet stay close to the floor, executing each step with unwavering accuracy, ensuring no beats are missed. The repertoire consists of concise, symmetrical steps, with each foot taking precise positions. In contrast, contemporary Cape Breton step dance blends influences from various styles such as Irish, tap, Acadian, and Ottawa Valley step dance. These modern versions depart from the traditional precision, incorporating "offbeat" steps that don't strictly adhere to a four or eight-bar musical phrase. Additionally, asymmetrical elements introduce subtle divergences between the movements of each foot, deviating from the mirrored actions seen in the conventional dance form.[4] The Cape Breton step dance is distinguished by its unique musical accompaniment, particularly the exceptional rendition of the strathspey performed skillfully by acclaimed Cape Breton fiddlers like Carl MacKenzie and Howie MacDonald. The heart of Cape Breton step dancing is closely linked to the captivating interplay of the "drive and the lift" inherent in the Cape Breton strathspey. What sets this dance apart from similar step dances globally is the incorporation of the Cape Breton-style strathspey, a musical expression less commonly found in other Celtic regions where jigs and reels are more prevalent.[5] In present-day Cape Breton step dance, the vibrant melodies of the fiddle, accompanied by the piano, play a central role, marking a shift from an earlier period when the dance tradition was primarily influenced by the piping tradition.[6]

Irish step dance


Irish stepdance is a widespread form of step dance. The earliest feis, or competition, occurred in 1897. It descends from traditional Irish dance, but global popularity of the Riverdance troupe significantly altered its competitive form from traditional Irish standards. Both traditional and more modern competitive styles are characterized by the use of specific shoes and by costumes that can be remarkably elaborate. Irish stepdance is, as of 2017, the only form of step dance to which a Broadway production, Lord of the Dance, has been devoted.

Other forms of step dance


Tap dancing is a modern form of step dancing taking its influence from a variety of older step-forms.[dubiousdiscuss]

A traditional form of individual step dancing is still found in certain areas of England such as East Anglia and Dartmoor. This style of dance is commonly performed informally in pubs to traditional folk tunes,[7] with dancers often bringing a wooden board to dance on.

Step dancing ("stomping") can also be found in other countries such as Malambo from Argentina and Zapateado from Mexico.

African-American stepping


Another form of step dancing, stepping, has been popularized by National Pan-Hellenic Council. This step dance has African roots and is an African American tradition as well as part of black history. The members of the fraternities and sororities join in steps—elaborate synchronized group routines that are performed in competitions between the fraternities and sororities called "step shows". Step shows incorporate cheerleading, military, and drill-team moves, especially the call-and-response element inherent in those forms. These aspects are not only important to the energy of stepping for entertainment use but also for bonding and pride within their organizations.

See also



  1. ^ 2007 Fort Greene Park Summer Literary Festival website. Archived July 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine See also the Flickr.com photograph album of the 2007 Festival
  2. ^ "The Scottish Dance Tradition". Traditional Dance Forum. Retrieved 2023-12-11.
  3. ^ a b Sparling, Heather; Harris, Kristen; Johnson, Sherry (2015). "Introduction to Step-Dancing in Canada". Canadian Folk Music/Musique Folklorique Canadienne. 49 (2/3): 1.
  4. ^ Ballantyne, Pat (2008). Closer to the floor: reflections on Cape Breton step dance. University of Aberdeen: Elphinstone Institute eBooks. p. 135.
  5. ^ MacInnes, Sheldon (1996). "Stepdancing: Gach taobh dhe'n Uisge ("Both Sides of the Water")". In Corbin, Carol (ed.). The Centre of the World at the Edge of a Continent. Cape Breton University Press. pp. 111–118. ISBN 978-0-920336-82-3.
  6. ^ Melin, Mats (2013-10-25). "Step Dancing in Cape Breton and Scotland: Contrasting Contexts and Creative Processes". MUSICultures. 40 (1). ISSN 1920-4221.
  7. ^ Malster, Robert; Cleveland, David (22 December 2012). "Industrial Archaeology in East Anglia". You Tube River Gipping Trust. Retrieved 9 October 2022.