Last week I had the pleasure of teaching a dozen high schoolers some basic charleston and jazz steps for my friend Rosalyn, who teaches at a school in San Francisco. Apparently this school allows the students to take a dance class as their physical education requirement. I wish they had this at my school!
I decided that I wanted to give them a crash course in jazz step and charleston vocabulary. My hope was that the teens would leave the class with some specific dance steps learned, but also a general appreciation for the feeling and awesomeness of solo charleston and jazz.
Here's how the class went…
I started off with a basic introduction of the charleston, it's history, and why it was such a huge craze in the 1920s. Then we went to some clips of awesome historic solo dancing by Al Mins and Leon James and then more contemporary footage of a solo jazz competition. Both of these clips totally blew away the teens.
We did a light and easy charleston warm up so I could see how quickly they picked up steps, and what their energy level was. The kids I could see were quick studies for the most part, so we quickly segued to teaching specific steps. Rosalyn and I demonstrated a 11 jazz and charleston steps for them, so they could see what they were, including:
- Boogie Back
- Boogie Forward
- Spank the Baby
- 20s Charleston
- Shoe Shines
- Dirty Knees
- The Sailor
- Rusty Dusty (my all time favorite!)
Some of the steps were already familiar to the students and others were easy to pick up. What kid doesn't love to do "itches"?
The majority of the class was spent having them come up with their own charleston routines, using the steps we just demonstrated. We broke them up into two teams of six students each. Each team got to pick out five jazz / charleston moves from a list for their team. Then they had to figure out how to incorporate all of them into a little routine.
The team I was helping was super enthusiastic about putting on a performance, brainstorming the order, timing and blocking of each of the steps. After deciding on their choreography and who was doing what, they all ran from the room.
"Where are you going?" I asked. "We aren't done here."
"We need costumes!" one of them shouted back.
A few minutes later they appeared with mostly appropriate dresses, hats and scarves that they found in the costume closet of the school. The boy of course had to wear the flapper dress. So cute!
After both teams had decided on their choreography, we had them perform their routines for each other, cheering each other on. They were so excited that a neighboring teacher told us to keep it down!
And for the final wrap-up, Rosalyn and I had them do their routines together, each team trading off move for move. Here's the final result!
According to Rosalyn, after class, the kids were so excited about the moves they learned that they started calling each other by their favorite steps. That's the best I could have asked for.