Cajun & Creole Two Step-Dancing
The Cajun people are known far and wide for their boisterous, friendly, high-spirited nature. Their music is likewise known for it’s upbeat, dance inducing rhythmic nature. But throughout Louisiana and the United States Gulf Coast, it’s not just Cajuns who like to dance. Two-Stepping (Cajun, and Zydeco/Creole versions), jitterbugs, and waltzes abound in a musical environment that draws from French country music, the Caribbean, African Creole culture, Blues, Jazz, R&B, and Country & Western.
When you discuss the “two-step” in Louisiana, there seem to be many ways of doing it. There are 8-count two-steps, 6-count two-steps, Louisiana Two-Steps, and the Zydeco Two-Step among others. These dances have some similarities in terms of rhythm, tempo, and accompanying music. Most dances follow a fairly basic set of steps based on their rhythm count. What really makes these styles of dancing interesting are the variations thrown into the mix by expert practitioners. As with most things along the Gulf Coast, the basic ingredients are pretty straightforward. It’s the individual variations that elevate it to the level of art.
Harold Guillory, a seasoned Zydeco musician and dance instructor from Lake Charles, Louisiana describes the basic steps in two-step dancing in the form of a gumbo recipe. Gumbo, he tells us, consists of four ingredients: water, seasoning, meat, and roux. That’s it. If you can remember those four things, you can dance the two-step (and make gumbo). And with those four basic steps he gets the rhythm ringing in your ears, and before long you are dancing” water, seasoning, meat, and roux. Out, in, back, and up. That’s it. You can add whatever you want to the gumbo, seasoning it to your taste, but it’s still gumbo (uh, two-stepping).
In addition to the two-step, Cajun dancers often dance a rock-step jitterbug called the Mamou Jitterbug, a “hobble-step” jitterbug called the Cajun Jitterbug (popular in Country & Western venues), and a 3-beat waltz. There’s also a two-step Mamou waltz variation.
Today, there are dance clubs all across the country that offer Cajun dancing on specialty nights. And, there are those that say Western two-stepping is not that far off from the Cajun two-step. But if you want to try the real thing, look for a venue that hosts genuine Cajun or Zydeco acts. They are the most likely to attract real Louisiana two-steppers, and those who will teach you the steps. And, of course, festivals, live music clubs, and public events all across the Gulf Coast offer daily opportunities to watch and learn.
Regardless of what they dance, and where they dance it, it’s safe to say that dancing is an integral part of the fun and festive Louisiana/Gulf Coast lifestyle. Dances are similar, but different, wherever you go. They share common roots, but reflect the local culture, and preferences. As it is with eating the food and listening to the music, along the Gulf Coast, learning to dance the local dance is a great way to get to know the people and the place.
Sources (and External Links)
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