One of the things I like the most about watching solo Charleston dancers and by extension solo Charleston competitions, is the amazing amount of musicality and expression that can happen when they dance. The two clips below show some evidence of this.

What I find inspiring about both these clips is besides featuring amazing dancers in terms of technical skill, each dancer is performing and giving away ‘who they are’ to the crowd.

Below I have two more modern examples that I think this is present:

One thing that bothered me slightly lately as a trend in recent solo Charleston competitions, is it seems acrobatics is being awarded over being musical and really layin’ it out on the floor.

Now take my words with a grain of salt, I do not claim to be an amazing solo Charleston dancer or experienced judge of solo Charleston myself.  However I am expressing the sentiment of a conversation that I have had with many dancers on the East Coast, and that even some others have expressed online.

Don’t get me wrong, acrobatics are amazing. Done musically and appropriately they can bring the room to a tumultuous crash of energy. However like aerials in partnered dancing, just done for the sake of looking impressive leaves me with a kind of ‘meh’ feeling.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Rik’s Blog that I linked to, The Click Heard Around the World in which he wrote about Jana Grulichova dancing in ILHC 2010’s solo Charleston comp,

“What she brought, that no one else really had, was 300% commitment to what she was doing, plus a beaming joy to be doing this dance.  It reminded me of the first time I saw Hurley Francois at the first ILHC in 2008.  Jana didn’t need to do any of the acrobatics or flashy tricks that the boys were pulling out in their solos.  She delivered very classic charleston and jazz vocabulary, but amped up to a whole new level.  So incredible”


4 thoughts on “The Joy of Charleston

  1. Great post highlighting how fun solo charleston can be. If anything I think the solo charleston competitions have shown more content in the past few years. Look at Juan Villafone and Kevin St Laurent. I can see how the Berry Brothers and Gene kelly have inspired their movments. Or look to Sharon Davis and you can see influence not only from Burlesque legends such as Sally Rand, but also a little Fred Astaire.

    Yes acrobatics have played a bigger part, but I think this is a natural result of more people working on solo jazz. The videos from a few years ago where Hurley won everthing were great! His personality shined through, and he certainly added some tricks. Now I see the whole community delving even deeper and it is exciting to see.

  2. Thanks for a great post. Can you recommend any instructional DVDs that focus on solo Charleston? Or lessons online? I don’t live in the US, so there aren’t lesson where I live.

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