History of Line Dancing

A Wiki history of line dance

line dance is a choreographed dance with a repeated sequence of steps in which a group of people dance in one or more lines or rows, all facing either each other or in the same direction, and executing the steps at the same time. Line dancers are not in physical contact with each other.

Everyone dances alone, side by side, facing the same direction in lines or rows. The major emphasis is on country-and-western music. The dances are done one-wall, two-wall, or four-wall.

Line dancing is practiced and learned in country-western dance bars, social clubs, dance clubs and ballrooms. It is sometimes combined on dance programs with other forms of country-western dance, such as two-stepwestern promenade dances, and as well as western-style variants of the waltzpolka and swing. Line dances have accompanied many popular music styles since the early 1970s including pop, swingrock and rolldiscoLatin (salsa suelta), rhythm and blues and jazz.

Dances like the Cha Cha Slide, Electric Slide, and Cupid Shuffle are a few of the line dances that have consistently remained part of modern American culture for years.

Line dancing is most directly descended from the 1970s disco era, when America saw a variety of new dances emerge”, including the Electric Slide, “in this same era, country-and-western line dancing emerged”, including the Walkin’ Wazi and the Cowboy Boogie. “Some claim that line dancing finds its roots in historical folk dances; other say it stemmed from contemporary disco. Whatever its source, popularity and growth of line dancing has been inextricably tied to country-and-western music.”Since its birth, “line dancing began incorporating many musical styles besides country…Country music began to appear on the pop charts, and line dancing began to cross boundaries of income, race, age, and gender…Now line dancing is considered an art form of its own, with its own terminology and standardized steps.”

“If you were to ask 10 people with some knowledge of when line dancing began, you’d probably get 10 different answers”, including:

  • “In the 1800s, European immigrants traveled west to North America, bringing with them a wealth of culture, including such native dances as the polka and waltz, whose movements joined and evolved into what was called round and square dancing. Many believe that this style of dancing introduced the terms and steps used in country line dancing today.”
  • “Some people feel it was the cowboys on the western frontier, from the 1860s to the 1890s, that took these more traditional dance moves and assimilated them into a country-western style.”
  • “Other believe that the settlers of the western states, such as Texas and Oklahoma, should be credit [sic] with the simple footwork and the country flair that reflects the culture of their time.”
  • “In the early 1900s, schools began to include folk dancing in their physical education programs. Many believe that American servicemen returning home from war influenced the spread of line dancing after being introduced to traditional European folk dances. As large numbers of youth learned country-western dance, its popularity grew in leisure and social activities.”
  • There are those, “who believe that the real popularity of line dancing evolved from the disco era. … Line dances were performed to disco-style music.”
  • “Many say that ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ was a major turning point in the popularity of line dance.”
  • Some say it started out in the slums of Calcutta; the intricate and diverse range of movement were used as a form of silent communication. This travelled across the turbulent seas to the west coast of America, on trade ships, where its popularity increased. It is not documented when the communication aspect was dropped.


The Madison was a popular line dance in the late 1950s. The 1961 “San Francisco Stomp” meets the definition of a line dance. At least five line dances that are strongly associated with country-western music were written in the 1970s, two of which are dated to 1972: “Walkin’ Wazi”and “Cowboy Boogie”, five years before the disco craze created by the release of Saturday Night Fever in 1977, the same (approximate) year the “Tush Push” was created. The Electric Slide was a Disco-based line dance created and popularized in the mid-1970s. The “L.A. Hustle” began in a small Los Angeles disco in the Summer of 1975, and hit the East Coast (with modified steps) in Spring of ’76 as the “Bus Stop”. Another 70s line dance is the Nutbush.


Over a dozen line dances were created during the 1980s for country songs. The 1980 film Urban Cowboy reflected the blurring of lines between country music and pop, and spurred renewed interest in country culture, and western fashion, music, and dance. Many early line dances, though, were adaptations of disco line dances.”Boot Scootin’ Boogie” was choreographed by Bill Bader[17] in October 1990 for the original Asleep at the Wheel recording of the song of the same name.The Brooks and Dunn version of the song has resulted in there being at least 16 line dances with “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” in the title, including one by Tom Mattox and Skippy Blair under contract to the recording company. The Chicken Dance is an example of a line dance adopted by the Mod revival during the 1980s.


Billy Ray Cyrus‘ 1992 hit “Achy Breaky Heart” helped catapult western line dancing into the mainstream public consciousness. In 1994 choreographer Max Perry had a worldwide dance hit with “Swamp Thang” for the song “Swamp Thing” by The Grid. This was a techno song that fused banjo sounds in the melody line and helped to start a trend of dancing to forms of music other than country. In this mid 1990s period country western music was influenced by the popularity of line dancing. This influence was so great that Chet Atkins was quoted as saying “The music has gotten pretty bad, I think. It’s all that damn line dancing.”

Max Perry, along with Jo Thompson Szymanski, Scott Blevins and several others, began to use ballroom rhythms and technique to take line dancing to the next level. In 1997, the band Steps created further interest outside of the U.S. with the techno dance song “5,6,7,8“. In 1999 the Gap retailer debuted the “Khaki Country” ad on the Academy Awards ceremony. Line dancers performed to the 1999 version of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Dwight Yoakam.

The Macarena was a hit based on a line dance in the mid-1990s.

Line dancing reached Europe, nourished by the arrival of Country Music Television and in 2008 gained the attention of the French government.

Line dancing now has very traditional dances to country music, and not so traditional dances to non country music. It now uses more than just the “stereotypical” country music, in fact line dancers dance to most styles of music: country as well as modern pop music, Irish, Latin just to name a few.


The global number of participants is difficult to establish, however, it is arguably in the many millions if not tens of millions. The participants are often linked together by social media and line dance themed websites. These sites offer step sheets and videos demonstrating various dances to specific songs. It is very normal for Youtube demonstration and teaching videos of a specific dance to receive millions of views.


There are now many well developed websites devoted to the publication of instructional videos and stepsheets. The community of dancers are very connected on social media sites.