Fun Retro Dances
Retro – it's everywhere these days. Retro is present as well as past, and it's a great fun and fitness activity for the whole family. The music, the clothing and the dances make the '50s and '60s fads appealing to all ages. So get out your poodle skirt, put on your saddle shoes, tease your hair and roll up your carpet for a good old-fashioned sock hop. Put on the old 45s, and let's try some of the great dance moves from eras gone by.
One of the most entertaining group dances from the '50s is the Limbo – especially if you are short. "How low can you go?" You will need a yardstick or broom handle and two people willing to hold the ends. The dancers line up a few feet from the pole, each taking a turn trying to go under the stick without touching the floor with anything other than their two feet. The pole and floor are parallel starting about shoulder high (adult shoulder height!) and lowered after all dancers take their turn. If a dancer can't make it under the pole or touches the floor, they are asked to sit out until there is one final dancer remaining. The true '50s Limbo is danced with the dancer leaning back so their knees and feet slide under the pole first and the hips, back, shoulders and head following. But if you have young dancers, the real fun is to watch their innovative ways to get under that pole. Have your camera ready for this dance.
The Bunny Hop is a great dance done in a line. The leader begins with the others following behind. Hold the waist of the person in front of you – or if you have a tiny person in front, hold on to their shoulders so all in the line move together. This dance is done with a series of hops. Hop 1: Left heel out to the side. Hop 2: Left heel closes back to the right foot. Hop 3: Left heel out. Hop 4: Left heel in. Now do the same thing with the right: Right heel to the side, right heel in, right heel out, right heel in. (You have just done eight little hops in place moving the heels.) With both feet together, hop forward, then back, end with three little hops forward. The line begins to snake around the room as everyone hops together to the music.
Another line dance that also moves around the room is done to the Latin music that became popular in the late '40s and '50s. (Remember Lucy and Ricky?) It's called a Conga Line. All dancers follow the leader holding on to the shoulder of the person in front of them. Beginning with the left foot, take three walks forward putting your heel to the side on count four. So the Conga is a walk, walk, walk, heel. Each series of steps begins first with the left foot, then the right foot, then the left foot, etc. This dance really moves, so you can snake around the room, down the hall, into the kitchen...
Elvis may be the King, but Chubby Checker was the king of the great retro dance moves – his most famous being the Twist. With your feet about shoulder width apart, one in front of the other, begin by twisting your hips. Move your weight from one foot to the other as you twist back and forth. Keeping your shoulders and arms relaxed and relatively still, the twisting hip motion is a great exercise for all ages. To try a more challenging move, lower up and down as you twist. Just a warning: Your leg muscles may feel a little sore if you are not used to this movement.
This great dance is fun for all. You will be doing your swim arm movements out of the water and to the beat of the music. Begin with the front stroke. Alternating your arms, stroke forward with one arm and then the other. Now try the backstroke. Again, stroke one arm at a time back and around, back and around. Everybody into the pool! Plug your nose with one hand, raising the other straight up over your head and take the plunge. Down and up (again!) dunking to the beat of the music. Now front crawl – arms stroking across in front and circling to the side.
Looking the Part
With a few fun dances for your sock hop and a bit of music from Chubby Checker, now let's get your wardrobe. A must is the poodle skirt. The poodle skirt is a full circle skirt that twirls when dancing. It's also easy to make:
Measure your dancer from waist to just above the ankle for the proper length. An easy way to make a pattern for your skirt is to tape together several sheets of newspaper. Begin in the center and measure out the same distance in all directions from the center point creating a large circle. Cut out the circle checking to make sure your circle is really symmetrical by folding over at the center – both sides should be equal. Use a medium to light weight felt for your skirt because the edges don't need to be finished – they are perfect when cut with a scissors and will not fray. Felt also comes in wider widths to fit your whole pattern with one piece.
In the center of your skirt, cut a circle for the waist. The circle should be large enough for your dancer to pull on over the hips. Measure the waist and cut a piece of wide elastic about two to three inches smaller than your measurement. Stitch the ends together forming a circle of elastic. Place the elastic over the center hole in the skirt right side to right side. Pulling on the elastic to fit the waist hole, stitch the elastic to the skirt. The felt will pucker slightly to fit the elastic.
This skirt was called a poodle skirt because the image of the poodle that decorated the lower edge of the skirt front. Iron-on versions are available in most sewing stores or simply make your own with tufts of fabric or paints. Remember to put on the collar and leash. Now your dancer is ready for the retro dances and your sock hop. So turn on the music and twist the night away!