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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

Goodbye cowboy hats, hello hip-hop

Forget country tunes. These days, the music for line dancing can range from genres such as hip-hop to K-pop, and the moves are more complicated and longer than before.
The Straits Times - January 16, 2012
By: Cheryl Faith Wee
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Goodbye cowboy hats, hello hip-hop -- ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

If you think the line-dancing craze of 10 years ago has long since boot-scooted its way off the dance floors, think again.

Line dancing is still alive and kicking, although the boots, cowboy hats and country music have headed off into the sunset.

Those rotating rows of earnestly concentrating, non-touching dancers have moved with the times and are tapping their toes to pop music - even the older brigade in their 50s and 60s.

And many of them get their line-dancing fix every week at classes organised by the People's Association at various community centres.

More than 20,000 participants moved and grooved line dance-style at such classes in 2010.

Line dancing, which became popular here around 2000, was characterised by easy-to-follow dance steps and country music. But simple moves and slow-paced country beats no longer entice veteran line dancers.

Instructors have to keep in step with seasoned students by teaching more complicated and longer dances. A beginner- level dance involves around 32 counts or beats of music, while advanced-level dances can have up to 64 counts.

Part-time line-dancing instructor Peter Ng spends four to five hours on weekends preparing pieces for his classes.

The marketing manager, who is in his early 40s, says: 'It is not so easy nowadays. You actually have to spend time practising.'

As the movements have changed, so has the music. Line dances are now choreographed to pop songs such as Rain by Bruno Mars and Here by Beyonce.

Part-time line-dancing instructor Lim Chee Kiang, 53, says: 'The mass media tend to portray line dancing as a country-Western-style dance with cowboy boots and hats but this perception is antique.

'It may have been the case 10 years ago but that's boring now. Line dancing can be choreographed to top songs by current singers such as Beyonce and Shakira.'

In fact, tunes can range from genres such as pop and hip-hop to Latin and Bollywood. Even fads such as K-pop music are catching on with line dancers, who are usually in their 40s to 60s.

However, groups such as the Country Line Dance Association (Singapore) still prefer to keep things country-style. But even members of the 11-year-old association have lost the cowboy garb synonymous with line dancing in the early days.

Mr Yeo Kok Pang, 50, treasurer of the association, says: 'In the first place, our objective was to promote country line dancing. It was never really about the hats, the boots or the gear. It was more about dance steps geared towards country music.'

Membership in the association has remained at 300 to 400 for the past five years.

Full-time line-dancing instructor Ong Kee Lin, 61, prefers pop music and attends mass line-dancing sessions that suit this preference.

He says: 'Those who like country music might find pop songs noisy. But it is fine. You go to your dance session and I will go to mine. We all have our cliques of dancers.'

One thing the line dancers have in common - a passion for their hobby.

Take, for instance, Madam Rose Yap, 56, who worries about missing her weekly classes when she goes overseas for holidays.

The housewife, who has been attending classes at various community centres for around 10 years, says: 'Line dancing has a lot of steps and once you stop practising, like when you go on holiday, you will forget them.

'So I take along my laptop to learn the steps.'



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