Educating the world about Texas one Yankee at at time.

Educating the world about Texas one Yankee at a time.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Boot-scooting explained

I grew up dancing, even though I was raised Southern Baptist. Even my Southern Baptist father was known to cut a rug.

He was a Texan, after all. So we danced, but not in drinking establishments. That was right out. If I admit to ever having been in a “honky tonk,” or country and western bar, my father will rise from his grave and haunt me forever, so for the purposes of this blog, we shall refer to them as “dancing establishments.”

So what exactly are the dances we do when we go “boot-scootin’?”

The primary dances with which I grew up were the Waltz and the Texas Two-Step, though we simply called it the Two-Step. Only people from out-of-state call it the Texas Two-Step. I never knew there was any other kind until I lived in Montana for about 3 months.

I remember sitting in a “dancing establishment” watching Montanans hop around like they were stomping fire ants and wondering what they called their peculiar brand of choreography.

It was a two-step.

I was shocked. It looked more like they were trying to get the circulation back in their legs and, considering that it was November and practically Arctic outside, the theory made sense. But I was advised that they danced like this in the heat of summer up there, too.

Clearly our Montana brethren follow a different terpsichorean muse.

Let’s get back to Texas.

Down here, when one “two-steps,” one remains static above the knees and slides rather than hops while dancing the Two-Step, which is why we call it “boot-scootin’.” Regardless of a song’s tempo, the dance is versatile and, when in doubt as to how to move to a song, the Two-Step often is the answer. More than that, it is about the only dance that lets a man maintain a James Dean aura of “cool” while he shakes his tail-feathers.

The Waltz is, as it has ever been, the Waltz. If you need clarification on that one, consult your local ballroom dance school. If you’ve spent time in a “dancing establishment,” you also might have noticed that in addition to the Two-Step and the Waltz, there is the Cotton-Eyed Joe and the Schottische. The latter two dances generally are performed when closing time is nigh and everybody’s relaxed (euphemistically speaking). Both are performed one right after the other, with the Cotton-eyed Joe being first.

The Cotton-Eyed Joe, in my daddy’s day, was danced minus hollering a profane compound word used to refer to cow manure. I have a recording of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys performing the tune, and nowhere in it do I hear “(Bee Ess)” being shouted. Adolph Hofner and His San Antonians were the ones who made the song popular, and I don’t hear it in that recording either. So I have to assume this is a latter 20th Century addition to the dance. While I’m good at the dance, I think all that hollering is tacky, so I don’t do it.

Essentially, the Cotton-Eyed Joe is a line dance which consists of a mess of heel-to-toe polka steps and immense trust in your fellow dancers, since you link arms to do it.

This dance is followed by another line dance, the Schottische, which is German for “Scottish.” Confused yet? Just wait until you dance it.

The Schottische, as it is currently danced, uses four counts and requires a step, close-step, step movement. But on the fourth count, any step remotely polka-esque rests, and then at the very end of the beat, like a grace note, it calls for a quick hop as a sort of “preliminary” to the first count of the next measure. While in the Schottische, one hops deliberately and squarely on the fourth count.

I just wrote that and I’m confused too.

Scooting a boot in Texas is more about muscle-memory than formal training and just having a good time. You can take lessons, but until you just get out there and do it, you won’t understand it. Whether at the Rio Palm Isle in Longview or the Broken Spoke in Austin…or any other famous (and sometimes infamous) “dancing establishment,” someone will be happy to show you how to dance.

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