How to Line Dance Like a Pro
Learning how to line dance is a fun endeavor for you and a friend or group of friends. According to Stanford University, “the health benefits of dancing include stress reduction, increased cognitive acuity and the ability to ward off the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.” Along with lifting moods, easing anxiety and improving balance and flexibility, it’s just plain fun! You don’t even need a partner.
Movies like Sweet Home Alabama, Cool Runnings, Thelma and Louise and even Shrek Forever After feature the fun of learning how to line dance. Who wouldn’t want to get in on this social and energetic dance movement?
So what is line dancing and how do beginners get started? From stepping left to turning right, to staying in your own row, learning how to line dance can appear to be an intimidating concept to master. We’ve compiled an introduction to learning how to line dance that includes its basic steps and what it's all about to help you get on the right foot (pun intended)!
Jump to Section
- Line Dancing Lessons
- What is Line Dancing?
- Five Basic Line Dance Steps
- Popular Line Dances
- Line Dance Songs
Line Dancing Lessons
Line dancing for beginners is easy when you book classes with professional dancers. With dance classes in NYC, dance classes Las Vegas or dance classes in Colorado Springs, you can join a group of like-minded beginners for a fun and energetic evening as you learn how to line dance.
Not ready to show off your skills? You can also sign up for online dance classes to attend from the comfort of your own living room. Check out dance classes near you to find the perfect class to learn how to line dance at your own comfort level.
Another way to learn how to line dance is to jump right in there — figuratively and literally! Bars, dance clubs and group gathering places across the country are one of the best ways to learn how to line dance. Line dancing is even done at weddings. While Texas and Tennessee offer a plethora of dance halls, you’ll find places all over the U.S. to learn how to line dance. Here are a few:
- Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville, Tennessee
- The Grizzly Rose in Denver, Colorado
- Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth, Texas
- Ponderosa Lounge and Grill in Portland, Oregon
- Robert’s Western World in Nashville, Tennessee
- Cowboy Country Saloon in Long Beach, California
- The Bowery in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
- Pop’s Tavern in Baltimore, Maryland
- Gilley’s Saloon in Las Vegas, Nevada (Sound familiar? The original Gilley’s was in Pasadena, Texas and the film site for Urban Cowboy.)
- Coyote Joe’s in Charlotte, North Carolina
What is Line Dancing?
Line dancing involves synchronized movements done in unison to choreographed steps. Dancers line up in rows facing in the same direction (though it can also be done facing each other). Each movement (whether it’s a step, hip movement or a wobble) is timed to the music.
Line Dancing History
Line dancing may seem like a fairly new dance, but it goes back to the 1920s with the Shim Sham. In fact, African, Native American and European cultures have histories of dance styles like line dancing. New generations add movements, steps, songs and style to add on to the genre, making learning how to line dance an ever-evolving sport.
Country Line Dancing
The style became more mainstream and widely popular in 1992 with Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart.” Everybody and their brother wanted to learn how to line dance to country music! The song filled up country line dance saloons and bars with cowboy hat, boot and denim-wearing dancers of all ages.
This is probably the scene most visualize when they think of line dancing. And, while it has evolved from traditional country line dances like square, round and folk, the wonderful thing about the genre is that anybody can learn how to line dance.
Line dancing has millions of combinations of steps, combined with walls, so this is one dance where you can grow skills and movements the more you practice learning how to line dance.
Steps and Touches
As you get started learning how to line dance, the most important aspect is figuring out steps. A step is when you change your weight. A touch is when you don’t change the weight (this is mainly used to change directions).
Put basically, there’s a step for each beat in 4/4 time (four steps over four music beats). To time your steps, count from one to eight or do a count of 1, 2, 3, 4 – 1, 2, 3, 4.
When learning how to line dance, keep in mind that formations have either one, two or four walls. A wall refers to the direction that the dancers are facing (think of it like they’re forming a wall/barrier). With one and two wall versions, dancers are always facing the front and back walls.
One-wall means everyone faces the same direction when performing steps. Two-wall is when, at the end of each dance sequence, everyone turns 180 degrees. Then, they begin again facing the back.
Four-wall is the most difficult, especially when you’re just beginning to learn how to line dance. At the end of the steps, everyone turns 90 degrees and proceeds facing one of the side walls.
Throughout the dance, dancers finish and start again by facing a new wall. When you’re first learning how to line dance, it’s best to stick to the basics and add on as you get accustomed.
Five Basic Line Dance Steps
While it’s seen as a group effort, you can learn how to line dance alone, which makes it terrific for line dancing for beginners to practice right at home. You just have to learn some basic counting, combined with the steps and you’re ready to go. Accurate timing and the proper foot placement are the key things to remember when you learn how to line dance.
So, what are the five basic steps in line dancing and how do you do them? By becoming familiar with the five basic line dance step names listed below, you'll have a great headstart for your first official line dancing lesson.
The grapevine is a continuous traveling step that goes to the side with crossing behind and/or in front. It involves a three count move to either side. On the fourth count, you have the option of a brush, kick or scoot.
A weave is the same as a grapevine but with four counts.
A scoot, as the name implies, is a slide of the weighted foot in a forward, backward or sideways motion. The opposite leg is raised with a bent knee. A scoot can also be done with weight on both feet.
A brush is when the free leg swings forward or back as the sole of the foot brushes the floor.
A kick is a leg lift movement in any direction. Don’t completely straighten the knee.
Popular Line Dances
When it comes to learning how to line dance as a beginner, it is best to start with some of the easiest line dances. You may be familiar with popular dances, such as the Cupid Shuffle or the Electric Slide, which often play at weddings or other dance events. You can learn how to line dance these hit numbers in no time!
The Cupid Shuffle
The Cupid Shuffle is one of the easiest line dances for beginners learning how to line dance for the first time. The song tells you just what to do! “To the right, to the right, to the right…to the left, to the left, to the left...“
- Take eight side steps to the right (last step is a touch step)
- Next take eight counts to the left
- Then eight heel steps in place
- Last, do eight counts of stepping in place and turn ¼ to the left
- You’ll now be facing a different wall and you’ll then repeat the same steps
- Take a grapevine step (step to the side, step behind, step to the side) to the right
- Do a hitch (knee up) move at the end
- Repeat this same step and hitch to the left
- Next, a step forward with a hitch
- Another step forward and hitch
- Step back for three counts with a hitch at the end
- Then “boogie” with hips (this means to do a small hip movement forward and back)
- Then turn ¼ to face new wall
- Repeat steps facing the new wall
Line Dance Songs
There are a variety of different choreographed songs within the line dancing genre. Not all songs are performed to the same steps, which may make it more difficult, but certainly gives it a unique advantage and lots of fun steps to learn.
Steps are usually choreographed to a specific song, which then becomes the name of that routine. Some popular ones include: The Stroll, the Cowboy Boogie, the Electric Slide, the Achy Breaky Heart, the Macarena, the Cha-Cha Slide, the Cupid Shuffle and the Wobble.
When learning how to line dance for beginners, try “Two-Step” (by Laura Bell Bundy featuring Colt Ford). This is not to be confused with the two-step partner dance.
The Electric Slide and Cowboy Hustle (done to Vince Gill’s “What the Cowgirls Do”) are beginner line dances to try. “Watermelon Crawl” (Tracy Byrd), “My Maria” (Brooks & Dunn), “Cha Cha Caliente” (Jennifer Lopez) and "Rockin’ the Wagon Wheel" (Darius Rucker) are more on the beginner-moving-into-immediate side.
Popular Line Dance Songs
- “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” (Brooks & Dunn)
- “Achy Breaky Heart” (Billy Ray Cyrus)
- “Watermelon Crawl” (Tracy Byrd)
- “Any Man of Mine” (Shania Twain)
- “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” (Shania Twain)
- “Macarena” (Los Del Rio)
- “The Loco-Motion” (Little Eva)
- “Gangnam Style” (PSI)
- “Old Town Road” (Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus)
- “Cupid Shuffle” (Cupid)
- Electric Slide (done to the song “Electric Boogie” by Bunny Wailer)
- “Hoedown Throwdown” (Miley Cyrus)
When it comes to learning how to line dance, the best piece of advice is to just have a good time. You don’t even have to be a country music fan with all the pop, salsa and jazz-inspired line dances out there! Once you’ve gotten the steps down, you can put your own spin on what you do in between. Add some funky hip, torso or hand movements to shake it up!
Whether you’re learning how to line dance by taking line dancing lessons or joining a dance at a club, party, wedding reception or other event, you’ll be among like-minded dance enthusiasts as you learn how to line dance. You’ll be line dancing like a pro in no time!
For even more creative ideas and inspiration, check out other experiences happening on Classpop!