Country Music: How do you know which dance?

I must be stupid. How do you know what dance to do when you hear a country music song at a country bar? I know enough about music to recognize differences. I can tell the difference between a piano sonata and a symphony. But, I’ve never quite figured out how to listen to a country song and know that it is a line dance instead of a two step.

It’s pretty simple for me. When everyone else gets into line formation, then it’s a line dance. And that’s the cue for me to go sit down and take a break.

ETA: In other words, I have no idea either. But apparently someone does.

I can’t believe I know the answer.

The person barking out the orders. That’s how you know. They’re constantly giving out directions how to dance. Listen to the words…they mean something.

There are some songs that have a line dance made for them, the ones that come to mind are Achy Breaky heart, Centerfold and one about a Cannonball Train? There are others that are sort of generic. You can line dance to anything you can make the steps fit, just as you can two-step to any 4/4 song or waltz to 3/4 song. You just have to persude others to follow your lead. At most dances places it is more tradition that a particular song is a line dance or partner dance. Lastly, there is nothing to say if everyone else is doing a line dance and you want to two-step or country-swing that you have to line dance. Just don’t Cotton-eyed Joe to anything but the Cotton-Eyed Joe song.

As an aside, the first line dance I learned was called “The White Boy”* back in the early 70’s and many I have learned since derived from that. 4 counts to the right, 4 counts to the left, 4 counts back and a 4 count turn. Lather rinse repeat. Country and R&B line dances both are very similar.

  • I have no idea why it was called that or if it was a regional Southern thing. I don’t remember any particular song it was done to, I do however remember I was wearing roller-skates at the time I learned.

adhemar is right. It’s just tradition. Those that frequent the club/bar dictate the dance. How do you know what to do in the Macarena? Because someone made the dance and it caught on. As with sex, art, and anything else having to do w/ the human spirit, there are no rules to dancing

In my area, there are dancing rules about where to dance which country dance. Line dancers in the center of the floor, 2-steppers and waltzers on the outside, dancing in counter clock-wise motion, cha-chas and swings in between. It’s rare that all that goes on at the same time, but if a song with 2-step written all over it is on and a line dance has been written for it, then the dancers with the most determination win out. Everyone who dances a lot knows the rules—watch where you’re going and dip below eye-level at your own risk.
Cyn, who can 2-step like nobody’s business.

Some places have more structure than others. For instance, the dance hall that I used to frequent would always play a certain song and it was understood that people would form a sort of congo line.

But, generally, peppy, upbeat songs written in 4/4 are two-steppers. I’m not sure if you can get a better two-step song than George Strait’s “Unwound.” But, you can also do other dances, too. My parents would two-step and then break into “pushing” with some assorted spins thrown in, then continue to two-step.

There are also several different ways to waltz. When one comes on (as mentioned, they’re written in 3/4 - you count "one-two-three, one-two-three) I always take one step forward (beat one), then, starting with the opposite foot, walk in place through beats two and three. Other people do it completely differently, I’ve noticed.

I’ve never seen an actual line dance outside of the movies, but I can imagine that a song like “Achy-Breaky Heart” would lend itself to one.

Man, I hate chiming in with an “I agree” post, but it’s pretty much what the other posters have said. A trend that I did start to notice in my area back when I went out dancing was the temptation to have everything be a line dance. It used to drive me nuts. Now I enjoy a good line dance as much as the next guy, they can be a lot of fun to the right song, but a line dance to “Thunder Rolls” or somesuch is just silly. Suck it up and ask someone to dance…one of the best things (in my opinion) about country music and dancing to it is that for the most part people are much more approachable about being asked to dance. I’ve rarely had someone say no if I asked them to two step with me.