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Choreographers' Steps Give Some Dances Legs : Catchiest Versions Work on Many Songs

June 24, 1993|ZAN DUBIN

You think the Boot Scootin' Boogie you learned is the very same line dance country fans are doing from sea to shining sea, right?

Think again.

There are at least 15 versions of this popular stomper, according to Kristine Robbin, who teaches country dance at the Crazy Horse Steak House in Santa Ana. And there are 12 versions of the Achy Breaky Line Dance, done to Billy Ray Cyrus' hit song "Achy Breaky Heart," which many say ignited the current country dance craze.

So the question is just who choreographs these line dances, how do they do it, and how is any single dance--or version thereof--embraced by one cowboy bar after another?

Anybody can take a stab at putting steps together, says Carrie Lucas, a local dance instructor who choreographed a version of the sassy Romeo line dance that she says is performed around Orange County, the nation and in Canada.

But it takes some know-how to make a dance stick, Lucas says.

She decided to make up a Romeo line dance the moment she heard the "Romeo" song, written by Dolly Parton and sung by Parton, Cyrus, Tanya Tucker and others.

"That song was screaming to be choreographed to," she said, because of such lyrics as: "Step to the side, let it slide, step it up again, stepping high, stepping low, step it up again."

So Lucas created moves to correspond to these words, sung by Cyrus.

"It's fun because the dancers are really doing what Billy is saying," she said.

Line dances with staying power must also be danceable to songs other than those they are choreographed to, Lucas said. If not, "when the song dies, the dance will die," she said, citing Achy Breaky Heart, which was released early last year and is rarely heard these days in dance clubs.

The Romeo is adaptable to at least three other popular songs, Lucas said. To achieve this, she made sure its more interesting steps, such as sensuous "hip rolls," came on the major breaks, or shifts in the song, or any song with a similar count.

Choreographers say "if you want to be good, you have to hit the breaks," said Lucas, who specializes in swing and teaches that and other dances at In Cahoots in Fullerton.

"What's happened in the past, is that lots of amateurs have been choreographing line dances without being aware of phrasing, they just start doing steps."

To get dancers doing her steps, four months ago Lucas sent 48 complimentary videos to dance instructors in the United States and Canada. In the videos she instructs viewers how to execute her Romeo. She followed that up with letters suggesting the dance be taught to three additional songs.

Recently, "a lady from North Carolina called me to say she had taught the dance to 200 physical education teachers from all over North Carolina," Lucas said. "I know it's a version that's caught on."

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