I love Nightclub Two Step ("Two Step" for short).
It's a dance you can do in night clubs as well as ballrooms and at weddings.
It's perfect for medium slow popular music, for example "Lady In
Red" (from the movie of the same title) .
A few years ago I decided to introduce Nightclub Two Step 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
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, I had heard that
Buddy Schwimmer had invented the dance just two years ago. I decided to check
my facts. I took every Two Step class I could from San Francisco Bay Area
teachers. But no one mentioned anything about the history of the dance.
Finally I got the courage to call Buddy Schwimmer, himself. In the rest of
this article, you can "listen in" on our conversation.
Two Step is Becoming more Well-known.
Seyer: Night Club Two Step -- I think it is a terrific
Schwimmer: Thank you.
Seyer: But it's not so well known--like 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 new computer super highway].
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 it. Also, I teach people up and down the coast and in Europe and London,
too. So it depends on where you go.
How Two Step was Developed
Seyer: Is it true that you developed it 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 going:
o---n---e........, t---w---o......... So we double timed it
and the count became One & Two & Three & Four. We thought of
taking two steps with the left foot and then two steps with the right foot
like this (leader's part):
Left & Left -- Right & Right. Or 1 & 2 - 3 &
That's where the name Two Step came from. [NOTE: the first
"Left," here, is similar to a 5th position break. On the
"&" you don't step, but replace your weight on the right foot
and then step side with your left foot onto the slow. .]
Seyer: Can you name some songs that you first danced Two
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 Roger's "Love the World Away."
Two Step is even popular in New Zealand.
You may to also see: http://www.nzdances.co.nz/dance/danstyle/nightclub/ncindex.htm
for another perspective on Nightclub Two Step.
Why People Need Two Step
Two Step is something that people need, because it 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
Starting with the Rock Step
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
Schwimmer: It's total 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 One-And.
"Dancing is to Music"
Seyer: Being a music educator, myself, I've noticed that
some teacher's 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.
How Buddy Got Started as a Dance Teacher
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
serious start teaching Two Step?
Schwimmer: We were teaching in night clubs 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
it. I started in her dad's warehouse in Costa Mecca. We went
from there. The people liked the American style street dancing (and its 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
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.
How Two Step Evolved
Seyer: Can you say a little more about how Two Step evolved.
Schwimmer: 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 go S..I..D..E, C..R..O..S..S, S..I..D..E. So we double timed it and it felt
more fun to do.
Some people say that Two Step is combination of Meringue,
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.
Buddy's Parents Gave Him the Gift of Dance
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
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.
Night Club Two Step Takes Off!
Seyer: When did the Night Club Two Step become
popular--really take off?
Schwimmer: I 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 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.
Seyer: What I'm getting at is when did Two Sep 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. Lots
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, cough, cough]
Seyer: He said 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 the dance?
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.
Buddy's Favorite Patterns
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.
Two Step Technique
Seyer: Do you have any particular technique tips you can
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,
Schwimmer: That's true. Usually, your second beat (or your
upbeat) is your heavy beat. ba,ba, B--A--A!, ba,ba, B--A--A!
quick, quick S-L-O-W!, quick,quick S-L-O-W!
Seyer: Is the rock step a fifth position or is it a back
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 music is Cha-Cha. 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
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 teaching--in 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
movement--do 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.
The Hip Lift
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
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.
Learning the Differences Between Dances
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
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 known cleanly instead of
throwing in everything but the kitchen sink.
Close Body Position
Seyer: I'm thinking of a swaying step you do in close
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.
Videos and Dance Camps
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?
Schwimmer: One week.
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 from the movie Lion King. There are 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
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
its 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.
Salsa and Cumbia and Two Step
Seyer: I heard one teacher say that we can actually use Two
Step patterns for Salsa Music.
Schwimmer: 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 night club community, but not the Ballroom
Two Step, Step List
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 teach tape and I have
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
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
Schwimmer: Where are you located?
Seyer: Near the Avenue Ballroom in San Francisco. I'm
teaching Two Step there now.
Schwimmer: Oh, yeah! I used to go there years ago. Who runs
Seyer: Joel Kosei.
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 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 girls arm on a turn--you've got to get rid of
that. Thumb holds--that's 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 two
percent you talked about earlier?
The Best Teachers Know Why
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 material--steps 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
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.
For more information on music and dance you may want to see:
About the Authors
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 20 years and is now
teaching Nightclub Two Step, Hustle, and West Coast Swing. You can reach him
by calling 415-665-8933.
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 or call him at 909-243-9438
For more tips on dancing from Buddy Schwimmer, click here
Phil has been dancing "20 years." Yes, that's
true, but remember that for 12 of those years Phil was dancing free style in
singles parties and inventing his own sexy version of Nightclub Two Step. Phil
has been doing Buddy Schwimmer's style of Nightclub Two Step and other
ballroom dancing for 8 years.