Dance Story Shorts:
By: Mr. Roger M. Christian
The Cha Cha Revolution:
In Havanah, Cuba during the early to Mid ' 50s, several roving bands of Cuban youth went around asking Americans for
nickles, times etc. Their torn tee-shirts told their story all too well. Moreover, the city in which they play,
beged and lived, Havanah was growing. Populations from the country side fled to Cuba's major cities in the hope to find
work. Previous rains and flooding caused problems with Cuban agriculture.
About that time, American popular culture was making significant in-roads into Cuban Middle Class Society - which
also meant that it was also American Mob influenced. The Organized Crime Families owned much of the Hotel and Gambling
Casinos at that time. The Batista Government was totally bribed by thase thugs- Myer Lansky was the fait accompli Prime
Minister and Exchecker of Cuba..
Never-the-less, it was the growing popularity of Elvis, espeically his hip action, which finally ignited the
cultural clash. The Cuban teens-who were trying to survive, and whose desires and expectations looked to the Cuab mountains
knowing there was Castrol-were about to launch themselves into cultural history.
A couple years earlier. Cha Cha Cha / Chas Chas Chas had already made some initiative forewrays into Cuban culture
by those who desired a slower version of the Mambo. This percepitated the : chasse : movement to also appear-for they
were not that too old.
Never-the-less, and a couple years later, with the coming of Elvis, along with his hip action , into the
picture of Cuban mainstream middle class culture, what also followed was the jitterbug - a Southern version of the Lindy Hop
( then ). The convergence of these cultural developments inflamed the nationalistic passions of these Cuban teens. There
was the foreseen vision by these teens of Elvis's radical hip action replacing Cuban Motion ever looming over the horizon.
Then Chas Chas Chas exploded in Nationalistic cultural revival epitones to Latina Musica.
The first appearence of radical street dances first appeared in Cuban cultural history and now " established " traditions,
and have not stopped since, and what happended is that these teen started to play a faster form of Chas Chas Chas ( the Cuban
word for Cha Cha - etc ), and took of the flare swing and under-arm turns of the Jitterbug and Cubanized it with Cuban hip
motions into a full blown Chas Chas Chas street dance. The influence of Elvis, hip and all, was suddenly lost,
the only time in popular culture history to have ever occured.
About then Castrol made his move, and when Chas Cahs Chas was at the height of its Cuban popularity, and virtually invading
every American urban center where there were Latinas playing Latina Danza - Salsa, Castrol enter the City of Havanah.
At the center where all this took place, the plaza was renamed to Chas Chas Plaza, and adjacent is a dance hall
with some of these at one time torn tee - shirted teens, now aged dancers still cling to their dance, and among
some of the best cigars in the world. Whose smoke mixes with the most delightful scent of perfumes-all Cuban made.
Since the 50's, and even though the Castrol government tried to curb creativity with in Cuban music, and subsequently
dance, the cycle of innovative street dances still is on-going. There are still roving teens with torn tee - shirts,
and even though the American mob has left, except for the newer forms coming from Columbia. Thus during every 6 year
cycle a new dance appears, and it all started when the first batch of Cuban teens who went into a nationalistic cultural revival
to resist the intrusion of popular American culture into the folkways of Cuban society.
Ask any one who is Elvis in Havanah, and you get nothing but a very perplex face.
Mr. Roger M. Christian
August 7, 2004
The unknown force in swing dance during the 1950s and 60s was Arthur Murray Dance Studios. The leading factor which
brought AM's dominace to the swing dance scene was two fold:
One: It was the Vietnam War in which several young emerging dance personalities went, mostly to join up in the
various military branches-essentailly to stand up for America. Dick Clark, American Bandstand, leter lament this
fact, as he became the first to acknowledged this. Moreover, as the war got more of this group of American youth,
it left a vacume on the social dance floor, and as result ushered in the era of disco-following the new dance craze of Lindy
Hopper ( yes he is a " Lindy Hopper " ) Chubby Checkers Twist .
Two. Freddie James appearance and emergance with " his " Lindy Hop styles started to electrified the whole
studio system of Arthur Murray Dance Studios, Inc. Then came the money.
The interesting fascet about his styles, is that power and froce of his dance styles, from time to time he would
split his pants. Everyone knew of this. So during every given performance, his wife would bring aleast two more
pants. He almost earned the name " Splits " as a result. The energy he employed and the movements he threw in
were all dynamic and awsome, and kept alive some of the stuff which could have disappeared if it was not for his dedications
to this American Folk Dance.
What may surprise the present " Lindy World " is that he was also responsiable for encouraging the Artisit and personal
rescue of Frankie Manning, the behind the scene scoop of the present dance Lindy World. That perponents of Arthur Murray,
and then later Fred Astaire Dance Studios in New Yrok City region had the availabe student base which further triggered and
then supported this urgent artistic rescue-ever wonder were his first core of students came from, and those who supplied the
April 14th, 2004