Dance Crazes! Northern Soul

Up North during the 60s a music and dance scene, which was later labeled ‘Northern Soul’ by Blues & Soul journalist Dave Godin, emerged out of the British Mod scene. It developed through dedicated groups of soul and motown fans who frequented clubs such as The Twisted Wheel in Manchester, Blackpool Mecca and the Wigan Casino.

Athletic Dancer

From 1963 all-nighters were held at the Twisted Wheel on a Saturday. Roger Eagle a DJ and collector of imported American Soul, Jazz and Rhythm and Blues was booked around this time and so began the clubs reputation as the place to go to hear the latest music of this genre. The music moved towards the fast paced soul favoured by those who went there to fill it's vast dancefloor and northern soul dancing became more athletic, somewhat resembling the later dance styles of disco and break dancing featuring spins, flips, and backdrops. The clubs attracted visitors from all over the country as fans travelled far and wide to hear their favourite music.

The music, which defined the scene, is a type of mid-tempo and up-tempo heavy-beat soul music mainly of African American origin. Dance floor stompers included more obscure Northern Soul 'hits' such as Edwin Starr's "Double-O-Soul," Major Lance's "Monkey Time," and Jerry Butler's "Only the Strong Survive." To dance the Northern Soul way you'll need flat soled shoes, loose fitting trousers, a wooden dance floor and talcum powder.

Blackpool Mecca

Northern Soul Dance Steps...

1. Choose an up-tempo track with a steady 4/4 beat. In time with the music, take four steps left, than four steps right and keep your torso upright.

2. Repeat the four-step cycle, while shifting weight on the ankles and balls of the feet - dancers with inflexible ankles have been known to sprinkle talc on their dancing surface to make this easier. This should create the effect of a side-to-side "glide." This movement is the foundation of dancing to Northern Soul.

3. Allow your arms and hands to follow along with the glide, but remember to keep the torso rigid. This is indicative of the Northern Soul style, which, it should be noted, is not so much about technical competency as it is energy and enthusiasm.

4. Improvise to the rhythm of the music. Common flourishes include traditional 1960s-era "dance craze" moves like the Mashed Potato and the Monkey, in addition to more frenetic movements like the acrobatic twists, drops and spins that would later become a staple of the late 1980s' house music scene (where many Northern Soul DJs eventually would up plying their trade). The most impressive displays of the latter are usually reserved for the "peak" (either the chorus or instrumental riff) of the song in question. Keep in mind that the average Northern Soul song is only about 3 minutes long, so once the peak has passed, repeat steps Step 1 through 4.

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Once you've mastered the gliding moves of Northern Soul dancing you're ready to hit the dancefloor in the Soul Casino at Vintage which is recreating the sounds, styles and smells of the classic club scenes from Wigan Casino and the Blackpool Mecca with DJ sets by Craig Charles, Colin Curtis and Andy Smith.

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