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Lining Up and Letting Loose

It's a little hand jive, a little Hokey Pokey and lots of fun. The Macarena is sweeping dance clubs.

August 19, 1996|DENNIS ROMERO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Forget the Republican National Convention--so boring that even Ted Koppel bolted--and the Olympics in Atlanta. (Michael Johnson who?)

The media event of the summer is the Macarena.

This dance--so simple some pets could do it--is taking on a life of its own in nightclubs, at weddings and on cruise ships throughout the world. It is a one-song line dance, belonging to the flamenco stylings of Spanish duo Los Del Rio, but there are many versions of "Macarena" the tune--12 at one count.

The song and the dance have been going strong for nearly three years, but they hit stateside last winter when Miami's Bayside Boys remix team worked a little magic on Los Del Rio's original Spanish version.

The result is a No. 1 U.S. hit complete with thumping house beat and a flirty woman singing in English ("Move with me / Chant with me / And if you're good / I'll take you home with me").

It's a simple line dance that recalls a bit of hand jive, Hokey Pokey and traffic direction. It doesn't involve a lot of leg work, so it's accessible to the masses.

"People love it," says Lela Dobbs, dance instructor at Cowboy Boogie in Anaheim, Orange County's largest country music club. She has been teaching there for five years. "It's easy to learn . . . and everyone has fun with it."

Dobbs, who first caught wind of the Macarena about six months ago, doubted it had staying power.

"I originally thought it would be one of those fad things, but it's still hanging in there and people still love it, I think because it's just so simple," Dobbs says.

"People can make a mistake," says Albert Torres, who runs the Studio City club Salsa Cabaret, "but rejoin the line easily and not feel intimidated."

Greg McConaughy, president and owner of Shooter's nightclub in Costa Mesa, said the line dance craze is especially big on weekends.

"It kind of reminds me of the twist: Everybody seems to know it. I don't know if it is quite that popular, but it might get to be," McConaughy says. "All of the girls know it, and none of the guys," he adds, laughing. "You know how that goes."

His club's disc jockey, Roy Simental, says the Macarena is among the top five songs requested by dancers, and a slam-dunk for boosting the pulse of a party.

"I try to play it at least once a night, but sometimes I end up playing it early and then again, late," he says. "I really didn't hear about it until last year, around November. Then I went to a business convention . . . and they had seminars teaching you the dance.

"If I play the Macarena, I'm definitely going to get people on the dance floor," he adds.

Some fitness clubs play the song during aerobics classes. Cheerleaders for teams at the Pond of Anaheim dance to it, and the fans do the moves collectively at games. The song is a must at some grade school dances.

"I deejayed a 60th birthday party in Bel-Air," says mobile deejay Hector Flores. "We were playing swing and they asked for the Macarena."

No one seems to know the exact origin of the dance. One theory has it being invented in Miami nightclubs about two years ago. Another says it came from Mexican tourist meccas such as Mazatlan, Acapulco and Cancun, where it made its way to cruise ships that then brought the dance to America.

It is one of a long line of line dances that have evolved in recent years--from the Electric Slide to the Achy Breaky Dance to the Caribbean Cowboy.

"Line dances have been around since the '50s," says Santa Monica dance instructor Ron Arciaga.

Perhaps none have been as popular. "Macarena," the song, has sold nearly 3 million copies worldwide. The Macarena dance has been performed at an Olympic exhibition by the U.S. women's gymnastics team, at NBA games and in soccer stadiums, and it has evolved to include new variations such as hip-hop steps, extra hip grinding and more involved turns.

But the bread and butter of this little jig is its basic form, performed in suburban nightclubs such as San Bernardino's Brandin' Iron, where the country line dance rules.

"It's not just for boots and hats," says head instructor Mike Bowman. "It's a crossover phenomenon. We have to play it four or five times a night."

Cruise ships and mobile deejays in particular are credited with keeping this fire burning, since they haven't had such a universally well-liked party device to lean on since the Electric Slide hit more than five years ago.

"It makes my job easier," says Flores, owner of Explosive DJ Service in Venice. "It's easier to get people out on the dance floor."

Others aren't so enthusiastic.

"I hate it," says dance instructor Arciaga. "That song just gets in your head and it doesn't leave."

Will it last?

"As soon as the song wears out," predicts Bowman, "the dance will wear out, because it doesn't go to anything else."

But then again, as one executive with Los Del Rio's record company, BMG, once salivated: "We tremble to think what ['Macarena'] will do in Asia."

Times staff writer Nancy Wride in Orange County contributed to this report.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Hey, Macarena!

Dancing the Macarena is easy, fun and only as slinky as the dancer desires. The steps:

1. Right hand out, palm down. Left hand out, palm down.

2. Right hand out, palm up. Left hand out, palm up.

3. Right hand on left arm. Left hand on right arm. 4. Right hand on head. Left hand on head.

5. Right hand on left hip. Left hand on right hip.

6. Right hand on backside. Left hand on backside.

7. Sway back and forth three times, then turn 90 degrees to the right.

Sources: AP research.

* RELATED STORY F1

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