Saturday, May 4, 2024



Dance Name Origins



There are several theories regarding the origin of the word tango, none of which have been proven:
  • An African culture is often credited as the creator of this word; in particular, it is theorized that the word derives from the Yoruba word shangó, which refers to Shango, the God of Thunder in traditional Yoruba religion. This theory suggests that the word “shangó” was morphed through the dilution of the Nigerian language once it reached South America via slave trade.
  • According to an alternative theory, tango is derived from the Spanish word for "drum", tambor. This word was then mispronounced by Buenos Aires’ lower-class inhabitants to become tambo, ultimately resulting in the common tango.
  • It is also sometimes theorised that the word is derived from the Portuguese word tanger, which means "to play a musical instrument".
  • Another Portuguese word, tangomão, a combination of the verb tanger ("to touch") with the noun mão ("hand") meaning "to play a musical instrument with one's hands", has been suggested as the etymon of tango.
  • According to some authors, tango is derived from the Kongo word ntangu which means "sun", "hour", "space-time".



The word waltz is derived from a German word that means "to revolve" This refers to the rotating pattern used by waltzing dance couples.

The waltz originated from Austria and Bayern in the Germanic region of Europe. It spread from there throughout Europe, where it became very popular as well as infamous.


The waltz was initially decried by older generations of the aristocracy and religious leaders as an obscene and immoral dance, due to the proximity of the dancers. Whereas previous formal dancing styles involved very limited human contact (hand-holding at most), the waltz was far more tactile and fast-paced than its predecessors, leading to newspapers panicking about its impact on the traditional sexual mores of the time.

The rapid popularisation of waltzing in the late 18th and early 19th centuries led to the opening of public dance halls. London was home to one of the first, Carlisle House, which was opened in 1760 by a Venetian opera singer.


Hokey Pokey:

The Hokey Cokey, as it is still known in the United Kingdom, Ireland, some parts of Australia, and the Caribbean, (now known as Hokey Pokey in the U.S and Canada), is a campfire song and participation dance with a distinctive accompanying tune and lyric structure. It is well-known in English-speaking countries. It originates in a British folk dance, with variants attested as early as 1826. The song and accompanying dance peaked in popularity as a music hall song and novelty dance in the mid-1940s in the UK.

The words hokey-pokey date from c 1847, "false cheap material," perhaps an alteration of hocus-pocus, or from the nonsense chorus and title of a comic song (Hokey Pokey Whankey Fong) that was popular c. 1830. The modern dance song of that name hit the U.S. in 1950 ("Life" described it Nov. 27, 1950, as "a tuneless stomp that is now sweeping the U.C.L.A. campus"). But a dance of that name, to a similar refrain, is mentioned in a 1943 magazine article (wherein the "correct" title is said to be Cokey Cokey), and the dance is sometimes said to have originated in Britain in World War II, perhaps from a Canadian source.

An alternative version is that in 1940, during the Blitz in London, a Canadian officer suggested to Al Tabor, a British bandleader of the 1920s–1940s, that he write a party song with actions similar to "Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree". The inspiration for the song's title that resulted, "The Hokey Pokey", supposedly came from an ice cream vendor whom Tabor had heard as a boy, calling out, "Hokey pokey penny a lump. Have a lick make you jump".




There are various explanations as to the origin of the name foxtrot:
  • Foxtrot took its name from its inventor, the vaudeville actor Harry Fox;
  • "a slow trot or jog trot, a pace with short steps," such as a fox's, especially of horses, from fox (n.) + trot (n.). As a type of popular dance to ragtime music, from late 1914, a fad in 1915.


Rumba refers to a music style, rumba rhythm, traditional and ballroom dance style, and a generalised term for Afro-Cuban music in the 20th century before the popularity of other Latin-American dance styles. The word rumba itself is a Cuban word for "party".

Ballroom rumba differs completely from Cuban rumba in both its music and its dance. Hence, authors prefer the Americanised spelling of the word (rhumba) to distinguish between them.


The Charleston is a dance named after the harbour city of Charleston, South Carolina. The rhythm was popularised in mainstream dance music in the United States by a 1923 tune called "The Charleston" by composer/pianist James P. Johnson, which originated in the Broadway show Runnin' Wild and became one of the most popular hits of the decade.

While the dance probably came from the "star" or challenge dances that were all part of the African-American dance called Juba, the particular sequence of steps which appeared in Runnin' Wild were probably newly devised for popular appeal.

At the time, it was common for dance styles to carry the name of the city where they first appeared, and the Charleston was no different. Once a dancer from Charleston performed this step in other cities people started referring to it as the “dance from Charleston” or “Charleston dance.”

When people hear the word “Charleston,” they tend to picture a glamorous White flapper girl, in a gorgeous gold and silver dress, gloves up to her elbows, feathers in her hair, twisting her knees while puffing away on a cigarette. Well-known films, such as The Great Gatsby, Chicago, or any black & white films from the 1920s, paint the image that Charleston dancers were upper-class, White women.
However, the origins of this fascinating dance couldn’t be further from this depiction. That global craze might have been represented in the media by White women, but it certainly wasn’t their creation.

Charleston is an African American vernacular jazz dance. It was done to both Ragtime and Traditional Jazz music that embodied quick, syncopated rhythms and improvised steps taken from several African dances.

During the slavery period, Charleston, South Carolina had the largest slave port in colonial North America. Nearly 150,000 enslaved Africans arrived through that port. After emancipation in 1863, Black people accounted for 56% of the city’s population, which was the highest black-to-white ratio of any of the Southern cities.


More dance name origins to come.


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