What's in a Name?

After nearly 20 years of teaching, one of the most consistent questions asked is, “What’s the name of that step?”

I have made a point of trying to honor the original dancers. It is a foundation of every class I teach. Part of that is not changing things around in a dance that I don’t own. With that in mind, whenever possible, I try and pass along historic names and terminology as best as I can.

But this is not always as simple as one might surmise.

Many names of steps have changed over the years. Dance language is like any other and continues to be fluid. For instance, “Tandem charleston” is a near universally recognized term amongst the lindy community today. According to Frankie Manning, that same step was previously known as “back charleston." Try mentioning back charleston to most lindy communities today they will have no idea what you are talking about.

So what do we call it? The name everyone uses today or it’s name from before?

Complicating things further is that some original names may use language that we might not be comfortable with today. The “Pimp Walk” had a different meaning in the 1930s but would carry a very different connotation today. But using its original name, particularly when understanding the context might help some better understand the step. The same might go for “Spank the Baby.”

Don’t even get me started on Jig Walks.

So I do the best I can and walk a very fine line between using original terminology (while providing context) and names we are all more comfortable with. I try to honor the past and pay respect to its contributors but recognize that we live in the present.

MARK KIHARA