Happy June, Danceloguers! As the temperatures rise (or as the raindrops continue to fall 😰) and we inch closer to the sultry summer solstice, the pull to dance with wild abandon around a beach bonfire is getting stronger. For me, initiation into the most sizzlin’ of seasons always involves some variation on a steamy dance party with all my friends. There is something undeniably alluring about the summer solstice - maybe it’s the promise of an increased exposure to Vitamin D, or having so many fun outdoor events to look forward to after being cooped up for months on end. Either way, the lust for celebration and merriment is heightened every June 21st. And it's no wonder, as its bewitching vibes have been imprinted on our consciousness through traditions and rituals passed down through our ancestors.
Throughout history, diverse cultures around the world have celebrated the summer solstice through their own honorary ceremonies, often involving dance of some kind. In Scandinavia, the celebration of midsummer historically involved dancing around a maypole. Closer to home, the Native American Sioux tribes originated the tradition of the Sundance, starting every June 21st and often lasting four days. The literal ground we walk on holds a magnetism that draws us out of our wintry cocoons, pushing us to reconnect with the abundant soil beneath our dancing feet. There’s no better way to launch into summer than by dancing outdoors, giving gratitude to mother nature and all she provides for us.
So this year, why not learn some new dance moves while you’re frolicking around that bonfire, that maypole, or that minibar? However you decide to celebrate the solstice, these moves will prepare you for an evening of magic:
- The Charleston: This historic dance move is often regarded as the quintessential flapper dance of the Roarin’ 20’s, but the move actually originated on the Charleston coast at the turn of the century. Thought to have been a variation on the juba dance, the Charleston was introduced to America by African slaves during the late 19th century. Southern African Americans brought the Charleston to New York during WWI, where it was performed by Harlem stage productions before being featured on Broadway in 1922. Famous dancer Josephine Baker performed the dance in Europe, spreading its notoriety across the pond. There have been many adaptations of the Charleston since it’s incarnation, but a tutorial of the original dance can be found under Dancelogue’s Jazz tab.
- The Barrel Turn: This turn, while considerably more challenging than the Charleston, would work quite well as you’re making your way around a ceremonial focal point, but maybe only try it around a fire once you’ve mastered the specifics. Your solstice celebration could quickly end in an ambulance ride if you messed this one up by the bonfire. Not much is known about the origins of the barrel turn, but we do know that it’s a common move in Jazz, Contemporary, and Lyrical dance, as well as in gymnastics floor routines. This move is eye-catching and exuberant, and would be an impressive addition to any advanced dancer’s toolbox. Check out a tutorial on Dancelogue’s Jazz tab.
- Shaku Shaku: This party move originated on the streets of Nigeria, and would be the perfect way to end your night of solstice dancing, as it is often thought to resemble the way one’s body moves while intoxicated. If your celebration includes alcohol and other substances that may affect your ability to dance, nobody would bat an eye if you decided to break out into shaku shaku. The steps transition well into free-styling, so even if you don’t know what you’re doing, just make it up as you go along! Popularized by Nigerian hip hop star, Olamide, the shaku shaku has exploded on the Afro dance scene, inviting countless variations and additions, and even referred to as the “Nigerian Gangnam Style”. For a step-by-step guide on how to shaku shaku, refer to the Afro page on Dancelogue.
However you decide to celebrate this upcoming solstice, enjoy all the daylight and fun the occasion brings. Hopefully the sun will actually show its face and clear the rain clouds away, so we can dance all night long.