The Skinny on Chicago Style Steppin'

The Dark Passion of the Tango by MuffinSome may ask ‘Why would you want to write an article such as this?’ I don’t mind the question because the answer is simple to me, at least. I like to inform. Criticize? No. Share a view? Yes. Stating well-based knowledge, of course.

Nothing in this world can be considered 100%. Even iron and steel have the most minute little airways even though we would think of them as completely non-porous! So things like dancing can be something that many of us share an opinion on, simply because there is no iron-clad rule which brings me to a very strange Phenomena that has been going on for a few decades now in my Community of people and it never fails to both irritate, interest and amaze me at the same time and that is: Chicago Steppin’. That’s just the phrasing. It’s called Stepping which somehow has taken on a life of its own. In actuality, there is no such thing as Stepping per se, but better put, the first time I heard the phrase was from women in my age group from back in the day who were really good Club dancers. They would hold Dance Contests and the couples who were doing more Gymnastics were told that did not dictate a true Stepper which meant dancing with style and cool.

Growing up, dancing means so much and almost seems like a ‘right of passage’ for us who are growing up. In my time we learned the Minuet, the Waltz, Tango, Cha Cha, Bunny Hop, Barn Dancing and B Bop in Gym class when you get right down to it. It was a good time in Public Schools because you didn’t just receive an Education but classes on Life! Even if it was not in your Gym Class, your families or friends taught you how to do the basic steps of the B Bop and Ballroom dancing in the comfort of the home, for instance in the basement, in the kitchen, the family room….again, dancing was a right of passage and a needed thing. School mixers, social centers, proms and graduations were going to approach us and all of these events were times when you would show off any dancing skills. Dancing was a supreme way of socializing and getting close to the opposite sex which made it a popular past-time.

Even if these type of dances were not formally taught at all, we learned because they came natural. All of aforementioned dances have their place for the most part, except the B Bop which is now termed Stepping.

The phrasing alone, has made this common touch-style, Swing Dance seem like it has morphed into something else and it really hasn’t. Great Dancers who wanted to dance and look stylish at the same time is nothing new. But the basic counts in a dance remain the same, if it is authentic and as much as the Generation behind me has put out Tutorials, classes, videos and all of those things on so called Stepping is simply telling something I learned at about six years old: How to B-Bop which is now termed Stepping, which is so misleading.

One of the odd things I have found in some Tutorials is that the demonstrator has the female lead with her left foot. Since when does a woman start with her left foot in any dance. The rule is that women lead with the Right foot and the men lead with the Left foot.

Another mysterious point is the count. The tutorials will tell you how to count. The way we learned is no different but without detailed tutorials that are making the newcomer to this old dance a bit anxious. No matter how you slice it or count them, there will always be eight basic steps to the Bop and that is 1-2-3. 1-2-3, back and (which equals 8) or 1-2-3, 4-5-6, 7-8. That’s the Skinny! The numbers, no matter how you cut them will remain the same and has always been.

Stepping is not a new creation, in fact it can be limiting. True swinging and bopping meant that you can dance to just about any beat but Steppers seem to be able to function only on the beats that help them complete the dance. They seem to be improvising but they are not really because when you do, the music can be up or down tempo and the Dancer can meet the beat so to speak. So let us get real. We don’t need Stepping clothes and competitions. People need to go out and Dance and let their feet fly where they may. I know some extremely great Dancers!