Country/western dance, also called Country and Western dance, encompasses many dance forms or styles, which are typically danced to country-western music, and which are stylistically associated with American country and/or western traditions. Many of these dances were "tried and true" dance steps that had been "put aside" for many years, and became popular under the name(s) "country-western", "cowboy", or "country". Country dancing is also known as "kicker dancing" in Texas.
Western couple dancing is a form of social dance. Many different dances are done to country-western music. These dances include: Two Step, Waltz, Cowboy or Traveling Cha Cha, Polka, Ten Step (also known as Ten Step Polka), Schottische, and other Western promenade dances, East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing, and Nightclub Two Step. The Two Step and various Western promenade or pattern couples dances are unique to country western dancing.
Country dancing is informal. Because of cowboy boots, country western dance is more likely to feature a flat-footed glide with some heel and toe touches rather than a lot of "toe type" dancing. In addition to a quiet upper body, there is very little hip movement. Pumping of the hands, bouncing, and waddling are not encouraged.
Cowboy, or "country" waltz consists of gliding steps that are consistent with wearing cowboy boots, rather than "on the balls of the feet" quick steps of the classic version. Neither foot is lifted completely from the ground. Steps should be a light footed glide rather than a flat footed shuffle.
There are many versions of each dance. They may go by different names depending on the area of the U.S., and even in the particular dance hall. There may be no one "correct" way to a particular dance.
Lead and Follow
Traditionally the man set the pace, established the length of stride, and decided when to change step, and the woman followed. A woman having more dance skills sometimes provided a tactful guiding push or pull, as long as it wasn't obvious. As soon as the man learns the routine, he takes the lead by combining firm, but gentle (never obvious) pushes and pulls. The leader should move assertively, and the follower should duplicate the countermovements, or perform her part of the dance. A photograph from one early "stag" dance shows a "closed" dance position, with the "man's" right arm around the back of the "woman".
In frontier days men danced with each other when women were not available. According to an early settler in Texas, "The gentle sex were few in number at the dance... Two men had to dance together to make a set." Another account states that "due to the scarcity of young women, a number of young bachelors who were either smooth shaven or wore polished shoes were designated as ladies." There were also "stag" dances with no women. "Heifer branded" men, those dancing the woman's role, wore handkerchiefs tied around one arm. At other times men dancing the role of the woman wore aprons. Miners in the California Gold Rush danced with one another if ladies were not available.