Top Five Country and Western Line Dances

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Line dancing has been a popular form of social dance for hundreds of years in many different cultures. In 1950s America, line dances became a phenomenon in country and western dance clubs, honky tonks and bars, as well as in community dance groups and social clubs. Steps are choreographed and distributed via “step sheets” or passed on by instructors or "called" by a dance leader. They are usually inspired by -- and become inextricably linked to -- a specific country and western song. But even if the music changes, the basic choreographed components remain the same. The sequence of steps are performed to “walls” – this refers to the direction in which the dancers begin and end up facing. For example, a two-wall dance will have dancers completing a 180 degree turn during each set of steps – which includes stomps, kicks, shuffles and other simple moves in time to the music. []

"The Madison"

Back in the fifties, a novelty line dance with called steps dubbed “The Madison” was all the rage. The dance was featured on TV shows and in the Jean-Luc Godard movie “Bande a part." Later, it also made an appearance in the 1988 John Waters movie “Hairspray.” Calls for the dance include pop cultural references including one to the Western TV series “The Rifleman.” The laid back and loose dancing style established for “The Madison” – and its seventies successor “The Bus Stop” – has been a feature of country and western line dancing ever since. []

"Achy Breaky Heart"

Line dancing regained popularity in the nineties with the release of the Billy Ray Cyrus song “Achy Breaky Heart” in 1992. The music video that accompanied the platinum-selling single featured a performance by Cyrus at the famous Paramount Arts Center in Ashland, Kentucky. Members of the audience “spontaneously” break out dancing the simple line dance steps that have forever become associated with the song.


The film “Footloose," a huge hit in 1984, spawned a renewed interest in social line dancing. Although the finale dance sequence includes virtuoso solo turns and references to break dancing culture, it’s the line dancing aspects that have survived into the 21st century. We see this with the 2011 remake of the film and the adjacent popularity of the Blake Shelton re-recording of the theme song. It remains a staple at country and western line dance clubs and bars across North America. Who can forget the immortal line delivered by actor Kenny Wormald just before the dancing busts out: “But it’s country line dancing – it’s a white man’s dream.” []

"Honky Tonk Badonkadonk"

The 2005 Trace Akins’ country and western hit “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” sparked another persistent trend in line dancing. The term “Badonkadonk” has become slang for a shapely female posterior. The video made to go with the song features a hyper-sexualized version of country line dancing, but the song and dance are solid staples on the contemporary line dance scene nonetheless. There are numerous step sheets outlining different choreographies for the song but all adhere to the conventional 4-wall, simple step line dance format. The song and the dance have legs, as they say. []

"Boot Scootin' Boogie"

The 1992 song “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” by country and western duo Brooks and Dunn was written as a tribute to country line dance culture Texas honky tonk-style. The lyrics include “Yeah, heel-toe, do si do, come on, baby let's go boot scootin'” – it refers to the boot scoot sequence of steps in this four-wall staple of the contemporary line dance scene in North America. [


About the Author

Margot Callahan has Bachelor of Arts degrees in philosophy and film studies. She has written for newspapers and magazines such as the "Toronto Star" and "Toronto Life Fashion" since 1991, in addition to producing and directing documentary films.

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