I love Nightclub Two-Step ("Two Step" for short). As a dance teacher in the Sacramento/Roseville area, Nightclub Two-Step is one of my favorites. Here's why. My students can do it in nightclubs as well as ballrooms and weddings. It's perfect for medium-slow popular music; for example, Lady In Red (from the movie of the same title), or Heaven in the album "So Far, So Good" by Bryan Adams (a popular choice for a couple's first dance at a wedding reception).
In 1992, I decided to introduce Nightclub Two-Step (NC2S) to a lady I was chatting with at a local Swing club in San Mateo, California. "This is a new dance," I told the lady proudly. "It was developed just two years ago by a dance teacher in Los Angeles."
"That's interesting," she said politely, "but I think I learned it 15 years ago."
"Impossible! Maybe you learned something similar."
"No, it was Two-Step."
"Where did you learn it? Who was your instructor?"
"I learned it at a Buddy Schwimmer dance workshop."
I began to turn a little red. I was so proud of my knowledge of this "new" dance. But could she be right? After all, at a major ballroom, I had heard that Buddy Schwimmer had invented the dance just two years ago. Hmm, I thought to myself: those same teachers were also mistaken about other things. But could they be so wrong about when Nightclub Two-Step was created?
I decided to check my facts. I took every Nighclub Two-Step class I could from San Francisco Bay Area teachers. But no one else mentioned anything about the history of the dance. Finally I decided to call Buddy Schwimmer himself. In the rest of this article, you can "listen in" on our conversation, which was recorded in 1995. From time to time, you will notice that I have added notes that amplify or clarify what Buddy is talking about. These notes appear in brackets.
|Seyer:||Nightclub Two-StepI think it is a terrific dance!|
|Seyer:||But it's not so well knownlike say, Rumba, Cha-Cha, Waltz, Tango, and dances like that.|
|Schwimmer:||You'd be surprised how many people do know about it, though. You know it's on the Internet. The university students are chatting about it all the time.|
|Seyer:||What kinds of questions do they have?|
|Schwimmer:||They want to know more about it, where it came from and what kind of music does it go with, and about the different movements for nightclub two step. Also, I teach people up and down the coast and in Europe and London, too. So it depends on where you go.|
|Seyer:||Is it true that you developed it more than 30 years ago?|
|Schwimmer:||Yep. I was 15 years old. I was doing a line dance called Surfer
Stomp, where the guys stand on one side and the girls on the
other. You do Side, Cross Side, Stomp. Side, Cross, Side,
Stomp. We'd join hands and push 'em up in the air on the
stomp. The count was: one, two, three, touch four; one, two,
three, touch four. We'd do that to the faster music and it
worked fine. But when a slow piece would come on, we still
wanted to dance, but the footwork was too slow. We'd be
That's where the name "Two Step" came from.
[NOTE: Leaders part: On beat 1 (expressed as an 8-count pattern), you step back. On 2, you don't step to a different location, but replace your weight on the right foot and then on 3, step left with your left foot as a slow that lasts through beat 4. On beat 5, you step back with your right foot. On 6, you replace your weight on the left foot and then on 7, step right with your right foot as a slow that lasts through count 8. So, the rhythm is a quick-quick-slow, quick-quick-slow rhythm, and as a result, no feet land on count 4 or 8. The follower mirrors the leader's steps.]
|Seyer:||Can you name some songs that you first danced Two Step to?|
I can't tell you, pal. It's just mostly the ballads. Songs that come to mind, now, are things like Jeffrey Osborn's On the Wings of Love, and Kenny Rogers' Love the World Away.
[NOTE: Although Buddy Schwimmer most likely created Nightclub Two Step around 1965, there is documenation of a dance called "two-step" being done long before that. Arthur Murray, who founded the famous (infamous?) Arthur Murray dance studio chain, did two-step as a teenager. Here is what Katheryn Murray writes in her book My Husband, Arthur Murray (1957):
Arthur first turned to ballroom dancing as a means of meeting girls and becoming more popular. He envied a friend, Joe Feigenbaum, who was known as the best dancer in the neighborhood. Joe gave Arthur a few lessons in the two-step and then dropped out of his life to enter the dress business.
Arthur was in high school at this time and 16 years old. Since Mr. Murray was born April 4, 1895 (current biography), we know a dance called two-step was being done as early as 1911! But it probably wasn't nightclub two step as Buddy developed it.
The term "two step" apparently has a wide range of meanings. For example, take a look at an online video of Two Step from the 19th century, done to a tune called "Washington Post." (Source: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/dihtml/divideos.html#vc007)]
The above video clip takes a while to load and may be jittery at first, but it should be clear on second playing.
Two Step is something that people need, because in a nightclub it's kind of stupid to go out and do a rumba, sticking your elbow in the air. If you did that in the Marriott Hotel, they'd laugh at you. The dance position for Two Step is more natural, what people tend to do without lessons. Street dancing, in other words.
|Seyer:||I've noticed that some instructors teaching Two Step are recommending a ballroom dance position.|
|Schwimmer:||Ballroom teachers try to make it, well. . . ballroom. I had one teacher, many years ago, said "Why don't we start calling it 'Contemporary Foxtrot.'" That's a really stupid name as far as I am concerned because it always means that something is up-to-date. For example, people do swing a lot now days, but we don't call it "Contemporary Swing." Swing is just swing. Swing is not the same as it was years ago, it has been modified. Two Step has gone through changes over the years, just like anything else.|
|Schwimmer:||Ballroom teachers try to make it Side, Rock Step, instead of Rock Step,Side. That makes it more like Bolero.|
|Seyer:||So you don't recommend starting Two Step with on the Slow.|
|Schwimmer:||It's totally ludicrous. Also, in Eastern Swing and West Coast Swing I recommend starting with the rock step because that's the step that makes you move. If you start with the rock step you can immediately lead an underarm turn.|
|Seyer:||Many teachers, it seems, are teaching people to start on the slow because it's easier to do it that way.|
|Schwimmer:||It's easier, but then people don't look like they are doing the dance.|
|Seyer:||If you start on beat Two, would it still work to start on the slow?|
|Schwimmer:||You mean hold the one and then side on count two?|
|Schwimmer:||That's fine as long as you end up doing the rock step on the
[NOTE: Some country tunes work well with Nightclub Two-Step. However, it is interesting that many country tunes have accented quick steps on the 2& and also on the 4&. In these tunes, beat 1 is a slow! So, when dancing to this music, it makes sense to start with the slow on beat 1. The key, here, is to listen to the music and match your quick steps with the quick drum beats in the music. When possible, start dancing at the beginning of the musical phrase.
|Seyer:||Being a music educator myself, I've noticed that some teachers don't teach to the music very much. They just teach steps and patterns, but not in relation to the music.|
|Schwimmer:||Right. But dancing is to music. What happens is that they teach what is easy to get people to do.|
|Seyer:||It must have been easy for you when you created the dance. You were only 15 when you developed Two Step! Incredible. When did you seriously start teaching Two Step?|
We were teaching in nightclubs all the time, but I opened my first studio in 1978 and that was without everything that I loved in my life. But I had won over 2,000 dance contests because we used to have contests every other night in nightclubs. People kept asking me to teach this. So finally me and my, well, girlfriend, opened this studio. It cost me $50 to start it. I started in her dad's warehouse in Costa Mecca. We went from there. The people liked the American style street dancing (and it's a big thing in Europe now). They didn't like the ballroom, Latin, international, or whatever so much then. They were into American style dancing, because it was more free and more what's actually being done in clubs.
Studios sometimes design their programs to keep people at their own studio. They tell their people not to go to open dance competitions. But we teach people so they go out and dance with other people as opposed to dancing only with dancers at the same studio. You'll never get better until you go out and see what other people are doing and try to improve on what they are doing.
|Seyer:||Do you have any tips for dancers or dance teachers?|
|Schwimmer:||Learn why you do steps a certain way. Fifteen people will do the same step differently. Figure out which one is correct and why. Don't just do a step a certain way because so-and-so is a bigshot and says to do it that way.|
|Seyer:||Can you say a little more about how Two Step evolved?|
As I said, we would do side, cross, side stomp as a line
dance. When we didn't have any lines, we would hold hands with
our partner and do the same thing. When the music got slow it
was kind of stupid to
Some people say that Two Step is combination of Merenge, Samba, and Rumba put together. When me and my sister first did it, we hadn't seen any of these dances. I was just a kid going to the park dance and never did that kind of stuff. My sister and my mother and father taught me how to dance. They taught me to do the Surfer Stomp. I decided I would only dance it with my sister since it was the only step I could do easily, fast, and well. Then we started doing it together as the Nightclub Two Step.
|Seyer:||So were your parents pretty good dancers?|
|Schwimmer:||My mother and father were never beaten in my life! I know all the major swing dancers in the world. I teach most of them. I have people compete against them. I've never seen a swing dancer better than my mother and father. Ever. We used to go the Carnation place in Disneyland and when my parents got on the floor, everyone else would get off to watch them.|
|Seyer:||Are they still living now?|
|Schwimmer:||My dad, Abel Schwimmer, is dead. My mother, May Schwimmer, is still alive, but she is quite old and doesn't dance any more. We used to live in the Chicago/Gary Indiana area. They competed in Chicago and New York at all the Jitterbug competitions. They used to call Dad "Jew Boy," "Rubber Legs." He used to compete against Shorty George. (Shorty George was a black guy named George, who was 4'10". He used to dance with a 6'4" lady and do a step where he would go between her legs and come out the other side.) They used to compete at the Harvest Moon Ball. My dad won it four years in a row.|
|Seyer:||So that's why you didn't need lessons.|
|Schwimmer:||I was a terrible dancer when I started. I was the worst dancer in the world. My sister was a natural and my whole family (I have five brothers and sisters) all danced. But none of them did it for business. I disagreed and decided to teach, dance, have a good time and do my thing. I've made a living from it for many, many years, traveling around the world.|
|Seyer:||When did the Night Club Two Step become popularreally take off?|
|Schwimmer:||It depends on where you were (chuckle). As far as we were concerned it was popular when we were 15 years old, in 1965. So if you were in Whitaker, Illinois where we were raised, it was popular then.|
|Seyer:||But when it did it become popular nationwide?|
|Schwimmer:||It's still not popular nationwide, like swing is. But it is
becoming more and more popular. For example, I recently taught a
group of 650 people in Santa Rosa, California. All they wanted
for a whole weekend was Two Step. At BYU, Brigham Young
University, Two Step is as important as Waltz in that, in their
curriculum of dance, you must also learn Two Step. Recently they
have started to teach Two Step in the European ballrooms even
though it is very hard to get any new dance in Europe.
[NOTE: Buddy's comment was made in 1995. As of December, 2003,
nightclub two step is still gaining popularity. It is popular in
various states, for example, check out:
Nightclub Two Step in New York
|Seyer:||What I'm getting at is when did Two Step start to be required and taught in ballrooms?|
|Schwimmer:||It's hard to say. For different people it became popular at different times. I've been teaching in Canada for a long time. Lot of people do it there. Country and Western dancers are starting to do it and even use it for competitions. It's more popular now than it ever was.|
|Seyer:||I was told by a dance teacher in San Francisco that Two Step was invented four years ago.|
|Schwimmer:||[Hysterical laughter...then...cough, cough]|
|Seyer:||He said that, that's when you started touring and going around teaching the Two Step to other dance instructors.|
|Schwimmer:||That's when he came into the scene. That's like a person who is a disco dancer relates everything they do to disco. A Latin dancer relates everything to Latin. Now everyone he teaches will think that's true. Unless you were there when I was 15, you don't really know.|
|Seyer:||What do you like best about Nightclub Two Step?|
|Schwimmer:||It's the alternative to the "Why" dance. That's a dance where you stand, put your hands by your partner's waist and your partner puts her arms around your neck. You just step back and fort, back-and-forth for a while and then say: "Why dance? Let's just go home." The non-dancers do that. It's a lack of knowledge and lack of technique and that's why they do it that way. After five drinks, everyone thinks they are a wonderful dancer.|
|Seyer:||Do you have any favorite patterns?|
|Schwimmer:||I like a very easy pattern called "Around the World." I like that one and the Body Wrap and Unwrap. But remember, it's not patterns that make a good dancer. It is how you do them.|
|Seyer:||Do you have any particular technique tips you can give?|
|Schwimmer:||The number one tip is to start with the rock-step on beat one--don't start with the side step. That's because The music is going quick, quick, slow, not slow, quick, quick.|
|Seyer:||It seems that the drum part is often going quick, quick slow.|
|Schwimmer:||That's true. Usually, your second beat (or your upbeat) is your
heavy beat. Ba, Ba, |
|Seyer:||Is the rock step a Fifth Position or is it a Back Step?|
|Schwimmer:||The toe is to the heel, but not further. Don't twist your hip. If your hip opens up, you have gone too far.|
|Seyer:||So the rock step, it is a Fifth Position Break, right?|
|Schwimmer:||Yes, it's not just a back break. The fifth position also opens you up to move the girl. If you do nothing more than step straight back, you will just keep doing the basic step. Where the man rocks, denotes where the girl is going to go next. I uses the side check a lot. [Side rock step] If I'm going to do a left turn, I "side check" because that's where I want her to go. So the principle is that the man will rock in the direction that he wants the lady to travel.|
|Seyer:||It sounds like you are really insistent that the dance should start with the rock step.|
|Schwimmer:||The point is that it is best if we dance to the music. People who have learned Bolero always start by breaking side because Bolero music starts with a slow. Another example of the importance of dancing to Cha-Cha music. Do you start Cha-Cha on Two or One?|
|Seyer:||There's an accent on Beat Two.|
|Schwimmer:||Yes, there is an accent in Latin music. Now, if you dance Cha-Cha to a disco piece that doesn't have that accent, should you start on two?|
|Seyer:||Well, it wouldn't feel like cha-cha if didn't start on two.|
|Schwimmer:||Yet, 90% of the fast music played in nightclubs, doesn't have an accent on count two. Yet people who do Cha-Cha in nightclubs tend to start on count two regardless of the accent. But the reason for starting on count two was because of the music. So if our whole idea is to dance to the music, then dancing on count two to all music is incorrect! But it's what you like. Some people will say, "Well, that's not a real Cha-Cha, so I won't dance Cha-Cha to it. I'll do something else." That would be the smart thing to do. But it doesn't matter. It's what you feel comfortable with. If you're having a good time out there social dancing, the important thing is what you feel comfortable with. But if you are teaching, it's not what you feel comfortable with, it's what is best for the student you are teachingin the long run. It may be easy today to teach them something, but not good for them in the long run.|
|Seyer:||In Latin dances like Cha-Cha we use a lot hip movementdo you recommend that in Two Step?|
|Schwimmer:||What kind of hip movement?|
|Seyer:||Any hip movement.|
|Schwimmer:||Heh,heh! There's hip movements in every dance that you do, whether it is a hip that stays still and then moves on the delayed count or or a hip that moves out first or a hip that rolls. But I don't recommend a Latin hip movement. If you do that, you start looking like a Latin dancer trying to do Two Step. You wouldn't want me to do Latin or Cuban hip movement in Waltz, would you?|
|Schwimmer:||Then don't do it in Two Step. Heh, heh, heh, ha. Heh!|
|Seyer:||What about about a hip lift?|
|Schwimmer:||You're trying to say, "Can I do this or that?" It varies.|
|Seyer:||A teacher that I like very much in the San Francisco Bay Area strongly recommends a hip lift on the "and" of count one. He says to lift your hip as you press into the floor.|
|Schwimmer:||Does it raise your head up?|
|Seyer:||No. He stresses that you should not be bobbing up and down.|
|Schwimmer:||I'd have to see it, but it sounds like it wouldn't be too bad. But that would be my personal opinion. I might not like something, but that doesn't mean you can't do it.|
|Schwimmer:||An important point here is that a good teacher will teach students more about the differences between dances than the similarities. For example, there is a box step in Foxtrot, Waltz, and Rumba. But are they the same? A good teacher will show you the differences. Have you ever seen a good ballet dancer who doesn't yet know ballroom? She will look like she is doing ballet no matter what dance she is doing. That's because she hasn't been shown the differences. She's just been told to keep her arms and up and lifts from the body.|
|Seyer:||How do you feel about integrating some of the old "swaying" steps into Nightclub Two Step?|
|Schwimmer:||You can integrate anything you want as long as you don't take away the style of the dance. For example, I wouldn't try to integrate a Whip from West Coast Swing into Two Step. You'll be a better dancer if you concentrate on doing the steps you know cleanly instead of throwing in everything but the kitchen sink.|
|Seyer:||I'm thinking of a swaying step you do in close position.|
|Schwimmer:||There is a "close body" Two Step pattern like that. It starts out with a touch and lifting the hip first. Touch, step side, touch, step side.|
|Seyer:||That sounds like variation I'd enjoy doing. Do you have any videos that teach movements like that?|
|Schwimmer:||I have two videos that teach Two Step. Each one has 25 different patterns on it.|
|Seyer:||Where can that be obtained?|
|Schwimmer:||Just call me or write to me. I have a summer dance camp they can go to learn and I also put on the World Swing Dance Championships. My dance camp will be Hawaii this year; the year after that we will be in San Diego. Mine is the longest-running dance camp in the US. This is our 18th year.|
|Seyer:||How long does each camp session last?|
|Seyer:||I'm sure you do a lot of Two Step lessons at your camps. What are your favorite Two Step songs right now?|
|Schwimmer:||Mine? Oooo, Gosh! I like Circle of Life from the movie Lion King. There's all kinds of 'em. That's my favorite right now.|
|Seyer:||When it comes to tempo, what kinds of songs do you think are suitable for Two Step? Like, how many beats per minute is Two Step music?|
|Schwimmer:||I never worry about the beats per minute. It depends on the person dancing it. Some people, like in triple-time swing, can dance it very fast and get though the triple with no problem. Other people say it's too fast and they go to single time. I, myself, like a medium tempo, like in The Circle of Life. My wife likes it a little faster. Everyone is a little different. If it gets too fast, it looks like you're running and that's not good. If it gets too slow, it looks like you're waiting. So you have to figure out what's best for you and what you can handle.|
|Seyer:||I heard one teacher say that we can actually use Two Step patterns for Salsa music.|
Yes. Well, actually Two Step is similar to Cumbia (a dance I never knew about before I created Two Step). It's a Latin dance that's done by more people than any other Latin dance. It's a street dance that's well known to the Latin nightclub community, but not the Ballroom community.
[NOTE: Many Salsa and Two Step moves are interchangeable. But with Salsa, Cuban hip motion is appropriate, with NC2S it is optional. Just keep in mind you can expand your NC2S dancing by studying Salsa and vice a versa. When you learn a step in one dance, see if you can apply it to the other. This is especially true of Salsa and NC2S. A comprehensive set of vidoes for learning Salsa are available: Salsa Instructional Videos. Recently, I've found that many Argentine Tango steps work well with Nightclub Two Step. In fact, one of Buddy's favorite moves is similar to a Corte in American Tango--a step where the leader breaks forward instead of back and gives the follower a hug and gently leads her forward as he steps back. The Argentine Tango Leg Wrap also works well as do Ochos. In some of these patterns, you break away from the regular ballroom-like regular rhythm. You just hold and enjoy the Tango hug or Leg Wrap for a while before returning to the basic rhythm. Remember, folks, this is a sexy nightclub dance and does need to follow straight-laced ballroom styling! Ballroom teachers have adopted Nightclub Two Step and stylized it and over-simplified it in the same was they oversimplified Argentine Tango. Perhaps this article will help stem the tide of the "ballroomization" of Nightclub Two step.
|Seyer:||Is there an official step list for Two Step like there is for other dances?|
|Schwimmer:||I have my own. I have a step list of 123 patterns. But there are many more steps than that because everyone makes up their own, too.|
|Seyer:||Are all of those covered on your videos?|
|Schwimmer:||There are 25 patterns on each tape and I have two tapes.|
|Seyer:||So where do people learn the other 73 patterns?|
|Schwimmer:||In workshops. I teach all over the world, all the time. Every week I teach somebody different. I make 60 trips a year on the road.|
|Seyer:||Do you publish your itinerary?|
|Schwimmer:||If people call me and they want to know when I'm in a certain area, I'll let 'em know.|
|Seyer:||I've been concentrating on Two Step for some time in my area.|
|Schwimmer:||Where are you located?|
|Seyer:||Near the Avenue Ballroom in San Francisco. I'm teaching Two Step there now. [Update: Phil Seyer is now giving dance lessons in Roseville, Sacramento, and San Francisco California!. Yes, I like to travel. :) ]|
|Schwimmer:||Oh, yeah! I used to go there years ago. Who runs it?|
|Schwimmer:||He used to be known as Oz. He sent out letters to everyone saying, "I'm now to be known as Joel, instead of Oz." Oz was his nickname, like Buddy is mine.|
|Seyer:||Well, then, Buddy, do you have any cautions to offer us? Things to watch out for?|
|Schwimmer:||Definitely. And this is the bad part, I have to tell you. Watch out how you learn a dance. If you learn it wrong, it's hard to break your bad habits. It is easy to learn Two Step. But it is hard to break those bad habits; they will start to feel is natural. Out of every 100 teachers, 2 are good. Ninety-eight are just there doing a service.|
|Seyer:||What other Two Step "tips and traps" can you offer?|
|Schwimmer:||Breaking to the side on count one, as we've already discussed. Cranking the girl's arm on a turnyou've got to get rid of that. Thumb holdsthat should never happen; you can hurt a lady's arm that way. Keep in mind that the area from the shoulders to the hip is the lead zone. Never lead turns above the shoulders; don't lead turns below the shoulders. Initiate from the body. If you start turning a lady with your arm held high, you have done a disservice to her. You should move her body first and then the hand goes up. If you are in dance position, the leader's right hand is the lead hand. The upper hand is a guide for direction only. If a teacher notices a problem in this area, the teacher needs to point out to the leader why what he is doing is wrong.|
|Seyer:||Buddy, undoubtedly there will be some dance teachers as well as students reading this article. Let me finish by asking you this: how can students and teachers can continue to improve and be in that top 2% you talked about earlier?|
|Schwimmer:||Take workshops and ask questions. A group of 60 teachers brought me up to the Bay Area one time. But all they wanted me to do was to give them materialsteps and patterns. They didn't care about "Why?" or "Why not?". But the best teacher is the one who knows why. When a student asks me a question about a step, I always start by explaining why it should be done a certain way. If it doesn't seem logical to the student, we talk about it. We keep talking until either I convince the student or the student convinces me. There is a logical way of dancing. It's got to make sense. If it doesn't, something is wrong.|
|Seyer:||Buddy, I like your idea of focusing on why. You've inspired me to ask teachers to give the reasons behind their techniques. So at your next workshop, when you point directly at me and insist that I point my toes out slightly. . . I'll be ready for you!|
|Schwimmer:||Heh, heh! Excellent. You do ask a lot of good questions.|
|Seyer:||Buddy, you've given us a lot good tips. Thanks for being so generous with your time.|
|Schwimmer:||You're welcome. I'm glad to have been of help.|
Philip Seyer has authored books on music, computers, and psychology, and is currently working on composing original music for a new CD album entitled Starlight Room. He has been dancing more than 20 years and is now teaching Nightclub Two Step, Argentine Tango, Hustle, West Coast Swing, and other nightclub-, ballroom-, and Latin dances in the Roseville/Sacramento area as well as in the East Bay and San Francisco, California. You can reach him by calling 866-401-3535 (toll free). Phil also teaches guitar, piano, and music theory.
Buddy Schwimmer gives dance workshops in Two Step, Swing and Hustle and tours the West Coast, Europe, Canada and England. He also hosts dance camps and the American Swing Dance Championships. You can write to him at 26860 Ironwood Ave., Moreno Valley, CA 92555.
For group or private dance lessons call Philip Seyer, 866-401-3535 (San Francisco, California, Bay Area, East Bay, Roseville, Sacramento).
If you have comments about this article on Nightclub Two Step, please write to Phil. You may also contact Phil about private dance lessons by clicking here. Thanks for your interest in Nightclub Two Step!