Soul Train Line Dance to Earth Wind & Fire's - Mighty Mighty
Uploaded by carwashlondon on Dec 22, 2009
Disco Dance Moves
This post is Part 1 of a two part series on the Soul Train Line. Part 1 explores the roots of the Soul Train line formation.
Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/02/soul-train-line-formation-video.... for Part 2 which provides examples of the Soul Train line and, in so doing, showcases how that line changed over time.
As an update to Part 2, I posted a video, with comments, and a link to another video of this Time Square Flash Mob tribute to Don Cornelius and Soul Train.
This post is not a comprehensive study of the Soul Train line, but is published with much respect & appreciation for the memory of Don Cornelius and the enduring legacy he has left African Americans and the rest of the world.
Click http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soul_Train for general information on Soul Train television show.
Click http://www.freep.com/usatoday/article/52913978?odyssey=mod%7Cnewswell%7C... for additional information about Soul Train television show and Don Cornelius.
Don Cornelius, the creator and host of the iconic American television show Soul Train is no longer with us. But his wonderful legacy lives on. The Soul Train line is one enduring and much loved aspect of Don Cornelius' legacy.
...[Don Cornelius] had the satisfaction of knowing that he'd left behind an influential legacy that made an indelible and lasting mark on American popular culture.
...Soul Train was a visionary program that stands on its own (and anyone who has ever been in a 'Soul Train Line' at a party knows that the program's influence transcended television).
- KristenWright, 2/2/2012
I'm not sure if anyone ever asked Don Cornelius where he got the idea for the Soul Train line. If he was asked and answered that question, that interview isn't readily available online. I also don't know if anyone before Don Cornelius showcased Black people or people of any race or ethnicity dancing to contemporary social music while standing in parallel lines and taking turns moving down the middle of those lines. If so, there doesn't seem to be any documentation of it. No, it's Don Cornelius, creator and host of the hippest show on television- then and now- who deserves the credit for conceptualizing the Soul Train line formation.
There was also the popular "Soul Train Line", in which all the dancers form two lines with a space in the middle for dancers to strut down and dance in consecutive order. Originally, this consisted of a couple - with men on one side and women on the other.
In later years, men and women had their own individual line-ups. Sometimes, new dance styles or moves were featured or introduced by particular dancers.
My theory is that Don Cornelius got the idea of showcasing the show's dancers in those line formations from remembering the play experiences of Black children, and particularly Black girls. Check out the line formation of the first three games in the following video:
Pizza Pizza Daddy-O
Uploaded by folkstreamer on Aug 3, 2006
A 1967 film by Bob Eberlein and Bess Lomax Hawes that looks at continuity and change in girls' playground games at a Los Angeles school
Among the traditional African American singing games that I recall learning in my childhood in New Jersey in the 1950s was a game called "Zoodio" (also given as "Zudio". Here's a 2009 video of an African American family gathering in which various age groups sing & play that game:
Uploaded by JustTheFam on Aug 2, 2009
In both the 1967 children's play video and the 2009 family gathering video the performance formation is the same: All of the participants stand in what is called a "longways set".
Set: The overall arrangement of couples for a given dance, such as a big circle, square formation, longways, etc.
Longways Set: Two lines, usually made up of partners facing each other in the opposite line. Used for contras and reels.
"The longways set in which the men form a line facing the women, who form a second line is the most common formation of country dancing.
In the 1967 children's play video the girls aren't shown "walking down the alley" (the space formed between the two lines". However, that is a part of some Black game songs. In the family gathering video, one or two people at a time are shown dancing down the middle of the lines in Soul Train-like ways. It isn't far fetched to think that an African American man like Don Cornelius would have observed and even participated as a child, or teen, or adult in similar game activities and would have remembered those activities when he was conceptualizing the Soul Train music & dance television show.
But what gets deep is when we explore where Black children got the idea for that longways game formation. A lot of children's game songs and rhymes are lifted from songs that the entire family sang and danced. And I believe that the formation of the "Zudio" game song and the other African American game songs such as those shown in the above posted video came from the once very popular longways set that was called "Sir Roger Coverly" in England and the Virgina Reel in the United States.
The Virginia Reel, named after the state of Virginia, is an American dance in contra formation. The dance was first published in England in 1695 in John Playford's "English Dancing Master" by the name "Sir Roger De Coverly." It was danced by New World colonists. Perhaps because movie directors have used the Virginal Reel in many films portraying early American life, it has often been thought of in Europe as "THE" American folk dance. A similar Greek Pontic dance / game is called Miteritsa, whose origins, however, are thought to be Russian...
Sir Roger is cool because it is mentioned in "A Christmas Carol" by Dickens in the Fezziwigs warehouse scene. The 1936 Alistair Simms version on film actually includes the correct dance."
The dance may be done to a live caller, a recorded caller, or according to the dancers' memories to strictly instrumental music. The Virginia Reel is a "living" dance, and as such, has developed several variations.
In the United States, simply put, "contra formation" is another way of saying the longways set. Here's a video of the Virginia Reel:
Uploaded by jschultz78 on Apr 12, 2008
Leo and Krista as lead couple in the Virginia Reel
The Atlanta Bazaar scene in the movie Gone With The Wind includes the Virginia Reel dance. What most interests me about that scene is that the music was played by Black men: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4c5AoqUIZU
For those interested in the significant African American contribution to contra music, I highly recommend watching http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CG6vVoiFT9c "The new Contra commercial - A short history of Contra - Part 2 of 7". Thank goodness that video was honest in its telling of the history of contra music. All too often articles about that music's Appalachian roots fail to mention the contribution of Black folks. And all too often readers forget that Black people lived and made music in Appalachia and Black people till live and make music in Appalachia today.
That said, I'm not sure if Don Cornelius was hip to the Virginia Reel or contra music. But he certainly should go down in history as the person who used a revised form of the Virginia Reel to show the world how Black people dance.
This concludes Part 1 of this two part post on the Soul Train line. Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/02/soul-train-line-formation-video.... for Part 2 "Soul Train Line Formation - Video Examples.
For more information on the Virginia Reel, click http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia_reel_(dance)
For the words to "Here We Go Zoodio" and other African American game songs and movement rhymes, click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/02/five-traditional-african-america... "Five Traditional African American Game Songs" and http://cocojams.com/content/childrens-game-songs-and-movement-rhymes "Cocojams Children's Game Songs And Movement Rhymes".
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Viewer comments are welcome here and/or on http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/02/roots-of-soul-train-line-formati... where this post was first published.
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