What is the Two-Step?
A popular country western dance style typically performed to country music, the two-step is an energetic and spirited dance that is surprisingly easy for beginners to learn. Regional variations are abundant, but all offshoots of the two-step maintain the same focus on the lively tempo and rhythms of country music. River Oaks School of Dancing teaches the two-step.
Origins of the Two-Step
The variations in American Style dancing referred to as Two-Step have been around since the late nineteenth century, and though sharing the same name, those historic ballroom dance figures with roots in European and Mexican dance traditions from the 1800’s bear little resemblance to the Two-Step of today. The evolution of this popular country dance style proceeded slowly through the first three-quarters of the twentieth century. Changes began to escalate as country music gained a larger following during the 1970’s. At this same time, the two-step in its current form first began to make waves when several Foxtrot instructors from Fred Astaire dance studios in Houston, Texas began to combine American Style Foxtrot with country music. Due to the faster nature of this type of music, early two-step instructors quickly began to replace the traditional American Style side steps with forward walks. Additionally, the smooth feel of the Foxtrot was largely discarded in favor of pulsating movements. With the 1980 movie “Urban Cowboy,” and it’s depiction of the Pasadena, Texas bar, Gilley’s, the country music explosion became a trendy phenomenon. As the two-step continued to grow in popularity, its inventive instructors gradually began to incorporate the unique turns and ducks put on display every weekend at Gilley’s. Four decades later, these motions remain two-step signatures.
Music of the Two-Step
Danced predominantly to country songs with 4/4 timing, the two-step maintains a strong accent on the first beat of each bar, although the next three beats are also strong and even. The music’s quick-quick pulse effortlessly drives dancers down the floor while establishing a slightly undulating feel. Although the music used for two-step dances is generally fast-paced, it is especially so in competitions, with music typically maintained at between 168 and 200 beats per minute. 180 bpm and faster is standard among advanced competitive dancers.
Characteristics of the Two-Step
Although not quite as smooth as the American Style Foxtrot that preceded it, the two-step maintains a focus on relaxed hips and level heads. Driving and weaving motions are incorporated to great effect as the dancers move progressively around the floor in a counter-clockwise manner. In addition to abiding by the pulsating feel established by traditional country songs, dancers are expected to keep up with the frequent changes in slow and quick rhythms. While beginners focus on basic promenades and turns, advanced two-step dancers are encouraged to explore more intricate moves such as check turns, underarm turns, basket whips, grapevines and side-by-side free spins. The possibilities for embellishment are limited only by the space on the dance floor and the imagination of the two-steppin’ couple as they keep time with the music. Even non-cowboys & their partners will find this dance a lively and energetic addition to their social dance repertoire.