One of the most iconic parts of any proper country hoedown is the line dance. From the activity itself, to the music that accompanies it, it has been a staple in many country festivities for decades. Even if you’re a big fan of line dancing already, you may not be familiar with the history and evolution of these keystone country dances. We’ve gone ahead and created a rough summary of important moments in line dancing history for those interested in learning more about both the type of dance itself and it’s origins.
The Origins of Line Dancing
Like many things, the evolution of dance is not always clear-cut. While traditional country dances have been around since the pioneers of the West, the history of line dancing as it is known today are widely contested.
While many believe that the start of line dancing can be traced back to the round and square dances of Europe, others would argue that it is a contemporary phenomenon only starting as early as the 1970s. For the sake of completeness, we would be remiss not to discuss early traditional dances for the impact that they would eventually have upon line dancing.
The origins of country music were rooted in the regional folk songs of the American settlers. Each state, county, and town would have their own songs, instrumentation, and sounds. The folk dancing associated with this music was likewise unique to its’ locality. As the diverse sounds of American folk music evolved and coalesced into the genre of country music, so too would folk dances turn into country dances. These dances would over time form the base for what would eventually come to be line dancing.
Line Dancing in the 1970’s
While forms of dancing which informally and vaguely resembled line dancing were around for a while as a part of the DNA of country dances, it wouldn’t be until the 1970’s that line dancing would solidify as a genre in and of itself.
Famously known as the disco era, the 1970’s were a period defined by a number of dance crazes which swept America. From discos to dance halls, dancing was an incredibly popular social activity at the time. While many people are quick to associate the 1970’s with disco and disco alone, the era also saw huge changes to the country music scene. It was during this time that many popular country line dances were created one right after another, such as the “Cowboy Boogie” and the “Walking Wazi’.”
Achy Breaky Heart and Mainstream Rise of Line Dancing
While already firmly established as a trend at this point, the arrival of 1992’s country Western hit, “Achy Breaky Heart,” launched the dance format into the wide spread public consciousness. While still primarily centered around Western songs, it’s newfound mainstream appeal would see the dance format spread out to other more pop-centric musical genres as well. This would lead to the creation of a flurry of popular songs made with line dancing in mind such as the Macarena, “Swamp Thang”, and “5,6,7,8.”
Where Is Line Dancing Today?
Much like disco, the massive popularity of line dancing has declined in the eyes of the public as the years went on. Despite this, the line dancing as an activity is still alive and well within country circles. While there isn’t a consistent stream of new line dancing music being produced, the old classics are still danced to in country music halls around the world.
Many bars, ballrooms, and community centers still offer line dancing classes and meetups, such as our very own Grizzly Rose.