I don't do a lot of choreography other than the ephemeral variety like
setting figures to tunes in Regency-era country dancing. But I do
occasionally get inspired, usually by a particular piece of music.
Here are a few original dances (and one adaptation) I've created.
In memory of Paula Montrie Music: "Throw Them Overboard" by Abney Park (requires editing for more repeats)
This dance was designed to teach to people who don't have any
couple dance skills but can be talked through figures. The figures
are mostly nineteenth-century-inspired.
Music: "Wanderlust" by Abney Park (requires editing for more repeats)
A ragtime/country dance mashup which requires figure skills
(including heys) but no couple dance experience, though there is a
brief (8b) segment of
Walk which requires briefly taking closed ballroom hold. It was
written originally for the dancers of Kyiv, Ukraine, and can be easily
taught to beginners. The figures are my response to the numerous
Russian troika mixers that have as their progression either the
gentleman walking forward to the next two ladies or the ladies walking
forward to the next gentleman. I wanted a more interesting
progression, so I hid it inside some heys!
This was originally written as part of the Waltzlab weekly
choreography challenge project run by Richard Powers back in 2012.
The challenge that week was to create a waltz line dance. The
original music was "Sunday in the Park", by Jonathan Jenson, as
recorded by Amarillis, but any slow tempo waltz with a 16b structure
will work. The recording I used was 127bpm, which I now consider too
fast; I would recommend 115-120bpm. This is a four-wall line dance
with a "wavy line" figure, which makes it most interesting
done in multiple lines of dancers so the wavy lines form in all four
directions. No actual cross-step waltz or turning waltz experience of
any kind is needed.
The original two-couple Waltzlab video featuring members of the Monday Night Gang:
Masha Poka! is an adaptation of the Welsh circle mixer "Farewell Marian"
or "Ffarwel Marian" composed by Gwyn Williams in the 1950s. The
original, danced with varying degrees of success, may be
and here. Some background and a good description may
be found on Colin Hume's website.
Personally, I find "Farewell Marian" unbalanced - the opening
section with eight (!!!) sideways slides in the first sixteen bars is
rather dull for experienced dancers, but, as can be seen on those
videos, the final eight bars of waltz are difficult for beginners. In
my adaptation, I've retained the original progression but complicated
the first part and shortened the number of consecutive waltz turns
required to try to make it work for a wide range of dancers. The
opening S-curves were inspired by sixteenth century Italian dances.
I created this in Moscow, so the official name is the Russian
version, pronounced "MAH-shuh pah-KAH". "Bye, Masha!" is the direct
English translation. The name is a play on the name of the original
dance ("Masha" is a Russian nickname for "Maria"), the tendency in
Russia for "Masha" to be used as a sort of generic girl's name, and
the repeated partner-changes (bye!) in the dance.
The name turned out to be sadly prescient; just a few weeks
after writing this dance and teaching it for the first time, I left
Russia for what I thought would be a few months of pandemic but
has turned into a yearslong, possibly permanent, absence.
Formation A circle of couples facing line of dance; gentlemen
stand to the left of their partners and start the dance by putting
their backs to the center of the circle and turning slightly to the
Figures 4b All ladies leave partners and progress counter-clockwise around
the outside of the circle, moving forward two places to second
gentleman after partner). Gentlemen don't move.
4b Taking left hands with this gentleman, make a half-turn
to put the ladies in the center; all turn single to the right
4b All gentlemen progress counter-clockwise around the outside of
the circle to their own partners. Ladies don't move.
4b Taking left hands, partners make a half-turn to put the
gentlemen in the center; all turn single to the right
4b Taking right hands, partners balance forward and back,
then make a bit more than a half-turn to bring the ladies
to the center and get everyone aimed toward their left diagonal
4b Taking left hands with the person on the left diagonal, balance
forward and back, then make a half-turn, changing places, the lady
turning clockwise under the gentleman's arm (he pushes his arm out and
away), coming into a closed ballroom hold
4b One complete turn of waltz (2b) followed by two sideways
4b One complete turn of waltz (2b) followed by the gentleman
raising his left arm and the lady turning clockwise under it and
curling in a wide circle outward, ready to restart the dance
Watch points (1) dancers traveling around the outside should pace themselves for a just-in-time arrival at the end of four bars
(2) turn single is not a spot-turn; use the six steps and make it a beautiful curved movement
(3) there is no underarm turn after the right hand balance, really truly, it should be a nice, big, flowing right hand turn
(4) the circle tends to shrink; don't let the gentlemen back up at the end or there will be no space in the center for the turns single
Special note Masha Poka! also works just fine to polka music, becoming Masha Poka Polka! (Sorry, sorry...but it really does work!)