Bookmark and Share

Zydeco and Hip-hop workshops slated for Aug. 15

Zydeco and Hip-hop workshops are scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 15.

This week’s article is about a relatively new-to-Pagosa dance form called Zydeco, that was born in America, and has actually been around for the better part of the last century.

The dance style of Zydeco, gets its roots from a form of folk dance that corresponds to the heavily syncopated Zydeco music, originating in the beginning of the 20th century among the Francophone Creole peoples of Acadiana (southwest Louisiana). It is a partner dance that has been primarily danced socially and sometimes in performances. You do not need a partner to attend this workshop, however.

The follower usually mirrors the steps of the leader, however, in some figures the steps may be completely different, allowing for self-expression and improvisation. Because of the very lively music, the overall technique is small sidewise steps with relatively steady upper body and no hip swinging, wiggling or jumping. There are exceptions to this rule, but the feel of it is very real and consistent. Zydeco has been described as the opposite of swing or ballroom since the direction or feel of the dance is down, not up.

The lively Zydeco music with its accented second and sixth beats will compel you to do something rather than simply “pause” on counts two and six. Usual “fill-ins” are kicks, toe or heel taps, flicks, or brushes with the free (unweighted) foot; or a little twist on the weighted foot. This action is sometimes known as “eat-a-beat”. These accents can be strong or subtle depending on the inclination of the dancer and the feeling of the music.

Contrary to recent media description, Zydeco music is not Cajun music. Simply put, Cajun music is the waltzes and two-steps played by the white descendants of the Acadians, who were exiled from Nova Scotia in the 1700s. Zydeco arose as a synthesis of traditional Creole music, some Cajun influences, and African-American traditions, including R&B, blues, jazz, and gospel. Early black Creole musicians were heard playing an accordion and a washboard in front of a store, near New Iberia, La., in 1938.

The word Zydeco in French is “les haricots” or “le zaricot,” which means “green beans” or “snap beans” in English. Zydeco’s rural beginnings and the prevailing economic conditions at its inception are reflected in the song titles, lyrics, and bluesy vocals. It was also often just called French music or le musique Creole known as “la-la.” Amede Ardoin made the first recordings of Creole music in 1928. This music served as a foundation for what later became known as Zydeco. It now fuses old Creole tunes and rhythms with blues and soul and more recently funk and hip hop to create an infectious dance groove designed to fill the floors worldwide.

Zydeco music is featured in the pop song “Cupid Shuffle,” and country music legend George Strait’s 2009 “Twang” album includes a song called “Hot Grease and Zydeco.”

This exciting dance form will be taught by Malia Durbano, who is currently living in Durango. She has been dancing Zydeco for over 12 years, and has taken lessons in Philadelphia, Lafayette, LA, and on the Zydeco Cruise in the Caribbean. Attending numerous summer festivals and regular dances, she is a certified Zyde-holic and wants to share her enthusiasm and sheer joy for this music and dance. Malia has also studied hula in Hawaii, African dance in Guinea, West Africa, salsa in Puerto Rico and is a former Ballroom dance instructor.

Malia will be partnered by Brad Buckley, who now lives in Mancos and enjoys all styles of dance. Brad began learning some of the standard Ballroom dances at Oregon State College, and is proficient in foxtrot, waltz, swing, tango, salsa, and rumba. His favorite of these is swing. He has also studied African dance for two years, and has Contra danced off and on for 10 years. Zydeco is his newest dance form.

Registration for the Zydeco workshop begins at 9:45 a.m. on Sunday, Aug 15. Class will start promptly at 10:, and will continue until noon with a refreshment break midway. The cost is $15 per person. Please wear cool comfortable clothing and shoes that do not leave black marks or mud.

The Hip-hop workshop on that same day will be from 1-4 p.m. and taught by Makaila Hart. Stay tuned next week for some surprising details about the history of Hip Hop and more details about the second workshop of the day.

Both workshops will be at the PLPOA Clubhouse, 230A Port Ave. in Pagosa. They are sponsored by Let’s Dance! and presented by In Step’s Deb Aspen, whom you can call at 731-3338 with any questions.