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Boot Scootin’ in the DMV: Why Line Dancing is So Popular

May 2024

Local patrons of The Original Cancun Cantina line dancing in Hanover, Md. (Caroline Koutsos/Capital News Service)

by Caroline Koutsos, Capital News Service

The Electric Slide, Cupid Shuffle, Cotton-Eyed Joe and Cha Cha Slide: Just a few of the most popular ways to get everyone up out of their seats and onto the dance floor at any function.

These iconic songs are also forms of line dancing, a choreographed movement with a group of people that has repeated and sequential steps.

Where did line dancing originate?

Line dancing comes from myriad cultures. Traditional country line dancing originated in the folk music of American settlers and was distinct among regions in the United States, according to the Grizzly Rose, a decades-old saloon and concert hall in Denver. American folk music developed into the country and Western flair we know today.

Soul line dancing is similar to country in that it is a group, choreographed dance. However, soul line dancing uses R&B, hip-hop or contemporary music, according to NPR. It has roots in African and Caribbean culture.

As music has evolved with the times, line dancing has adjusted to fit the culture and genres of the day. Today, you can look up a YouTube video and learn how to line dance to Ed Sheeran’s “Shivers”.

What is the experience of a beginner line dancer?

Mason Joseph, a 21-year-old who works in concrete and the carnival industry, became a frequent visitor as soon as he was legally allowed to go to the Original Cancun Cantina, a popular 21-and-over line dancing bar in Hanover, Md.

“I just remember being a kid, always driving by that road and seeing Cancun Cantina. And I always wanted to go there,” Joseph said. “People say Disney’s claim to fame is ‘the most magical place on earth.’ Well, they haven’t been to Cancun Cantina.”

The building, brightly adorned with a large neon sign and a longhorn skull with glowing eyes, transports you directly into what feels like a Wild West movie with a thumping bass soundtrack.

Despite falling in love with the atmosphere, Joseph was hesitant to join the dance floor at first.

“It’s a little intimidating … your first time you won’t catch it right away,” Joseph admitted. “Watch a YouTube video or two, maybe a TikTok … and you’ll be rolling next time you go around. Because trust me, you will be wanting to go back.”

Tyler Breitschwerdt, 32-year-old manager of Cancun Cantina, said that line dancing started picking up in popularity at the bar around two years ago.

“A lot of the people that come up here, it’s not even as much for the drinking or any of that,” Breitschwerdt said. “It’s the camaraderie, them and all their friends dancing together [and] having a hobby to do.”

Want to give it a go?

Line dancing is a great way to experience a sense of community and get some exercise. Below are five places and organizations in the DMV that offer line dancing events and lessons, no matter the experience level.

The D.C. Rawhides: LGBTQ+ country-western style line dancing organization in the D.C. area. They teach and hold same-sex dance events.

LDW Studios: This dance studio located in District Heights, Md. encourages people to “experience fun, fitness and fellowship through line dancing.” They offer regular line dancing classes.

The Original Cancun Cantina: A line dancing club in Hanover, Md. They have a floor for line dancing and live music featuring country, pop and hip-hop artists.

Jessie’s Soul Line Dancers: Line dance organization that started in 1998. Based in the DMV area, this group emphasizes the fun of line dancing.

Cowboy Coast Saloon: The first country bar and restaurant in Ocean City, Md. Features southern-style food and a dance floor for line dancing late into the night.

Capital News Service Maryland is a student-powered nonprofit news organization led by professionals at the University of Maryland.