Get your kicks out on the floor – northern soul dancing
Northern Soul dancing isn’t just celebrating a genre of music, it’s an entire culture. Northern soul is rooted in the North of England, from the late 1960s and beyond but is now enjoyed all over the world. The scene thrived on a love for American soul music. Writing about anything related to northern soul is asking for trouble as whatever I say, lots of people will disagree. That’s fine, and that’s just how it is. However, this is a general post about northern soul dancing for anyone interested in finding out more about it. If you’re already on the scene, then you know, and you don’t need to read on.
Northern Soul dancing is often (but not always!) energetic, and incredibly unique. Each move is an expression of the rhythm and soul that underpins the music.
The dance style is often improvised. This spontaneous nature keeps it fresh, exciting, and personal. Every dancer brings their own style and personality to the floor. There’s no wrong or right way to dance to Northern Soul.
Fast footwork is a key characteristic of Northern Soul dancing. The dancers’ feet often fly across the floor in a flurry of movement. This element showcases their agility and athleticism.
Spins and kicks are also common. Dancers whirl around, their bodies flowing with the music. They might kick their legs high into the air or even drop to the floor. These moves require both skill and daring.
The most iconic move is the “backdrop”. This involves a dancer falling backwards onto the floor, then bouncing back up. It’s a thrilling move that requires immense courage and physical control.
Yet, Northern Soul isn’t about showing off. It’s about feeling the music and expressing that feeling through dance. Every stomp, spin, and kick embodies the raw emotion of the songs.
Dance competitions are sometimes held at Northern Soul events – usually weekenders though they might also happen at an allnighter as well. Dancers set off in friendly competition, showcasing their moves. The focus is on enjoying the music and the company of fellow dancers. Eventually the field is reduced to a few, and then a winner is chosen.
Dressing for dancing success
The dancers dress for comfort and style. Loose, wide-legged trousers known as “baggies” are liked by some people on the northern soul scene. These allow for maximum movement and also look great during spins. Others look down on anyone wearing what they consider to be “retro” clothing such as these, or circle skirts etc. and wouldn’t dream of “dressing up” like that.
At the end of the day, wear what you like wearing, and dance how you like dancing. Some nights and promoters cater more specifically for “oldies” – and that may or may not also include having more people wearing baggies etc. If in doubt, read up on the event online – try and find some reviews and some playlists. Find the sort of night that appeals to you. There are lots to choose from.
Dancing to Northern Soul is more than just a physical act. It’s a form of self-expression. It’s a way to connect with the music, with fellow dancers, and with oneself.
So, next time you hear a Northern Soul track, don’t just listen. Feel the beat, get up, and dance. Let your body express the soul of the music. Embrace the spirit of Northern Soul dancing. While as we have said, there is no right or wrong way to dance, there are definitely conventions that are broadly followed – and you’ll quickly work these out.
What not to do when northern soul dancing
The main no-no’s that anyone should be aware of are that drinks should never be taken on to the dancefloor – you don’t dance with a drink in your hand. Secondly, talc is now widely banned. It used to be very popular but due to concerns about people slipping and injuring themselves, and also worries about potential carcinogens, not to mention the mess of trying to clear it up, most venues now ban talc. Ask in advance if you were hoping to use it. Better still, get some nice leather soled shoes instead.
Finally, you dance on your own. No holding hands, no jiving. Nothing wrong with dancing near to those you’re with, but your space is your own. Talking of space, you also need to adapt to the amount of space available. If the dance floor is packed, you may have to contain your urge to do wild spins and backdrops. Part of the fun is adapting to the surroundings. Sometimes slight collisions can’t be avoided but can usually be resolved with a respectful raised hand in apology. However, if you bump into the same person three times, they might start to get a bit annoyed.
As I said at the start, northern soul dancing is different to different people. The main thing is to enjoy yourself, while trying hard not to annoy other people and not to mess up the venue. Sounds simple doesn’t it. It should be. To coin the old cliche – dance like nobody is watching. Unless it’s a dance competition!
In conclusion, Northern Soul dancing is a celebration. A celebration of music, of movement, and of a unique cultural heritage. It is vibrant, exhilarating, and full of soul. It’s a dance style that truly embodies the spirit of Northern Soul.