What Is Line Dancing?

A group of women practicing line dancing.

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Line dancing is exactly what its name implies: people dancing in lines to music. Line dances are choreographed dances with a repeating series of steps that are performed in unison by a group of people in lines or rows, most often without the dancers making contact with one another.

All the dancers performing a line dance face the same direction and perform the steps at exactly the same time. Although there are usually several lines, small groups may only form one line, but it's still considered a line dance even if only two people are participating.

From the American immigrants' adaptation of polka and the waltz in the 1800s that developed into square dancing to folk dances in schools of the 1900s, the origins of this dance format are widespread. Discover more about this centuries-old dance format and how to line dance below.

Line Dancing History

Although many popular line dances are set to country music, the first line dances did not originate from country-western dancing. Line dancing is believed to have originated from folk dancing, which has many similarities.

Contra dancing, a form of American folk dance in which the dancers form two parallel lines and perform a sequence of dance movements with different partners down the length of the line, probably had a huge influence on the line dancing steps we are familiar with today.

During the 1980s and 1990s, line dances started being created for popular country songs. One example is a dance made for Billy Ray Cyrus' 1992 smash hit "Achy Breaky Heart." Even pop music began to see an upswing in line dances in the 1990s, with "the Macarena" serving as a sort of hybrid folk-pop dance number that swept the world by storm.

Line Dance Format

Basic line dances focus on movements of the legs and feet, with more advanced dances including the arms and hands. The movements of a line dance are marked as "counts," where one count generally equals one musical beat. A particular movement or step takes place at each beat.

A line dance will have a certain number of counts, meaning the number of beats in one complete sequence of the dance. For example, a 64-count dance would contain 64 beats. The number of beats does not necessarily equal the number of steps, however, as steps can be performed between two beats or over more than one beat.

Line dances are made up of a certain number of steps, with each step identified by a catchy name. The Texas Two-Step, the Tush Push, the West Coast Shuffle, the Redneck Girl, and the Boot Scootin' Boogie are all well-known line dances still performed in country-western bars today.

Line Dancing Today

Because its steps are simple and don't involve dancing with a partner, line dancing is ideal for singles and people who don't normally dance. Line dancing is taught and practiced in country-western dance bars, social clubs, and dance halls around the world.

One of the most popular line dances performed today is the "Cha-Cha Slide," whose easy-to-follow steps are dictated right in the lyrics to the song. The "Cupid Shuffle" also became largely popular at high school dances in the early 2000s and is still played in clubs.

Wherever the line dance originated, one thing's for certain: this easy-to-learn group dance format isn't going anywhere anytime soon!