How to dance like soul train

Learning to Dance From the 70’s Soul Train Line | by Don Be | MuddyUm


And loving every minute of it

5th Dimension and Don Cornelius / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

For the record, I missed the 70’s. Wasn’t born yet. And seeing as how the slightest hint of a Disco tune can induce within me a feverish swell compounded by catatonic tremors — I sure am grateful.

But, as a kid and well into adulthood, this never stopped me from gleaning non-Disco inspiration via reruns and clips of that great and underrated American institution: Souuuuul Train.

Never mind the free education, I defy anyone to watch it and not be at least 10 decibels happier.

The originality, the verve, the moves, the couples!

The “Line” was the Holy Grail for series regulars. It was where they could strut their stuff and hope to make the cut. And, apparently, it was a Saturday afternoon must-watch for anyone with a beating heart.

By virtue of being blessed denizens of the information age, we can still tune in to brush up on our moves in preparation for all those pent-up post-Corona bashes heading our way.

This clip can help you master the art of dancing like no one is watching — not even a national TV camera getting all up in your nostrils. Come for the robot, stay for the slow-mo at 1:15.

Not a Line but my all-time favorite segment is this Stevie Wonder performance. Get a load of the couple at 12 o’clock / 1:35. A master class in how to move like you are an electric current.

A classic. Right out of the gate, the guy with 10-inch platforms shows how to be subtly smooth — lest you care to take a tumble. And proof-positive that well-timed semi-splits are just as impressive as full ones.

Sadly, things went downhill past the disco and heroin decade.

Don Cornelius stayed the same. But not the music, and definitely not the dancing. Even the wardrobes somehow started to look…crummier.

Originality went out. Copying came in. And stayed in.

The 80’s ushered in the solo-MJ era. With everyone seemingly wearing the same faux-leather jacket and the same semi-mullet and the same Hammer pants while attempting to perfect the same cheesy moonwalk.

I often wonder if they had any inkling that they were moonwalking off the edge of a cultural cliff.

By the 90’s, it got worse. Much worse. Guys flashing their bling, flanked by scantily-clad women, lifting up their shirts to reveal six-packs. In the immortal words of Seinfeld truth-bomber Kramer: “that ain’t dancin’, Sally.”

But at least we can click our way to remembering what once was, and what could be — if we get creative juices flowing to make the Gods ragingly jealous — once more.

So next time you’re feeling down in the dumps and need a pick-me-up, go on and take a ride on the original Soul Train where there was — and always will be — Love, Peace…and Souuuul!

A Love Letter to Sumayyah — voyages: africana journal

by rashida James-Saadiya & Kamilah A. Pickett

The hippest trip in America. Sixty non-stop minutes across the tracks of your mind into the exciting world of soul. 

The opening disco chords of the Soul Train theme song signaled more than just the start of a new show - for 35 years that melody (and all its subsequent remixes) called Black folks across America to a celebration. Ostensibly it was just a dance show, not unlike its predecessor American Bandstand. In reality, the differences between the two couldn’t have been more stark. While American Bandstand showcased the pop hits of the day, the show only occasionally gave non-white acts access to the performing stage and the audience of dancing teens was mysteriously void of Black people for years. Those absences were less mysterious and more intentional when considering the show was taped in Philadelphia. However, Soul Train transformed visions of Black life in America when it debuted nationally in 1971- it was a hip television program that showcased the hottest Black artists, the newest dance moves and more fashion than anyone could consume in sixty minutes. Unlike American Bandstand, we didn’t just get muted performances and stiff dance moves, we got it all. At a time when images of Black folks and Black life were riddled with stereotypes and often conformed to some manner of racist tropes, Soul Train gave us what most folks couldn’t articulate - the need for  an affinity space for Black expression and joy. 

When Gladys Knight & The Pips appeared on Soul Train during its first year, they blessed the stage with their musical gifts and left a bit of wisdom for us all embedded in the song “Friendship Train.” 

Aretha Franklin

This train stands for justice

This train stands for freedom

This train stands for harmony and peace

This train stands for love

Come on, get on the friendship train

The show was an overnight success and quickly became an indispensable platform for all types of Black creatives. Wearing a silk pantsuit and donning an Afro reminiscent of a sunset sky, Aretha Franklin sang “Rock Steady” and firmly cemented her status as The Lady of Soul. In a velvet suit with a fresh press-n-curl, Barry White graced the stage backed by a 40-person orchestra. The Godfather of Soul, James Brown, joined dancers on the floor with his sweat-slicked chest bursting out of his bedazzled purple jumpsuit. The Sugarhill Gang, Kurtis Blow, and Run-DMC brought hip hop to the Soul Train stage garnering national exposure. Even Beyoncé, pre-hive, paid her dues on the show with Destiny’s Child. You had to be there. 

Folks tuned in to see the performances and what its host, Don Cornelius, was wearing (let’s collectively skip over Shemar Moore and his aggressive hip thrusting, shall we), but the undisputed highlight of the show was the Soul Train Line. This was each dancer’s moment to shine in a room full of coordinated duos and choreographed dance moves. It was magic. Even folks who never watched a single episode knew about the Line - it might have been new to the television stage, but there was nothing new about it. The Line was a variant of the 1950s fad known as The Stroll, but its history extends back even further with roots in the American South, continental Africa and the Caribbean. The Soul Train line was a site of intentional joy, liberation and tradition - a sacred formation made with bodies carving out a slice of escape from the social and political stressors of living as Black folks in America. 

“The Soul Train line was a site of intentional joy, liberation and tradition - a sacred formation made with bodies carving out a slice of escape from the social and political stressors of living as Black folks in America.”

The Soul Train Line was not simply a magical moment trapped in a television studio; it leaped into living rooms, backyards, block parties and family reunions. Wherever there is music and there are Black folks, there will be dancing. It’s almost a rule. Scratch that - it is definitely a rule. We love a good communal dancing moment. What makes the Soul Train Line unique is its egalitarian nature. Back when folks were Lindy Hopping and doing the Hustle, the goal was to work your way to the center of the crowd and outdance the other couples (or so we assume, we weren’t actually there). Folks would break dance anywhere they could fit a boombox and  some cardboard, but there too the goal is to jump in the circle and go for what you know. Folks might hype you from the perimeter if you do something particularly dope, but it was kind of like double dutch - jump in at your own risk and be prepared to catch heat if you mess up. Down the Soul Train Line everybody gets a turn, everybody gets the claps and anybody can be a star. 

“Down the Soul Train Line everybody gets a turn, everybody gets the claps and anybody can be a star.”

The Line is both an individual and communal experience all at once. How you choose to go down the Line is up to you - you can roll solo or coordinate outfits and moves with a partner. You can hit ‘em with the shoulders or give your knees, thighs and glutes a workout. Your granddaddy can slowly twirl your grandma down and your parents can test the limits of their muscles and your second-hand embarrassment. Your little cousins can show off dances fresh from Tik-Tok. And when adults usher the littlest ones down the Line, it becomes a protective place where the community nurtures creative expression with love and applause. It’s as close as you can get to a judgment-free space. 

“In conditions that otherwise produce suffering and command silence, joy and laughter are revolutionary ideals.”

In conditions that otherwise produce suffering and command silence, joy and laughter are revolutionary ideals. The celebration of Black life in the wake of ever present death and in spite of organized terror is the preoccupation of we who believe in hope and love. Soul Train was an example of Black placemaking and cultural innovation, a lesson in how Black folks collectively reimagine and create what we need (even if what we need is entertainment) despite systemic barriers. It is evidence that family ain’t just about blood. Before Black joy had yet to root itself as an official movement, the Soul Train Line gave us an additional affinity space which we could all claim, free of charge. We might not have the snazzy outfits or the dazzling skills, but we could all turn on some music, form two lines and dance. There is an invaluable pride to be found in Black folks’ ability to lay claim to something so simple - a sense of peace and ownership found in efforts to reclaim our bodies. If the Soul Train Line came with an affirmation, perhaps it would be, “I am, and that is more than enough.” Take a lesson from the Line - throw your whole self into whatever it is you wanna do. Own it like you have your own personal hype crew, like your people have been and will always be beside you. And if things don’t go as planned, know that the beat goes on and so will you.

So will we. 

(Black) people all over the world. It’s time to get down. 

Don Cornelius

Flowers is a literary collaboration curated by Kamilah A. Pickett and Rashida James-Saadiya in celebration of Black culture. When we speak of “Flowers,” we’re talking about recognition celebration, daps and handclaps. Love for the living and those that live within us. You can follow Flowers on Instagram @flowers, and listen to their podcast adventures.

Dance of the soul on icebergs

Galina Morrell — traveler, author of numerous social projects, organizer and participant of polar expeditions, photographer, artist, journalist. She dances on ice, works in the jungles of India, swims for months on an open boat in the ocean among icebergs and polar bears, helps orphans.

Galina is an amazing person, beautiful, energetic, subtle, sincere, courageous and at the same time gentle and soft. It pushes the boundaries of the usual consciousness, energizes and gives positive, hope and joy, even from the realization that there are such people in our world.

Where does she get both interest and strength from dancing barefoot on icebergs at a temperature of minus 35 degrees or staging a ballet with Eskimo children on the drifting ice of Greenland?

The first dance on an ice floe took place as part of a social project to introduce Eskimo teenagers to contemporary art.

“I had to somehow attract their attention,” says Galya Morrell, “So I went out to dance in the snow barefoot, in a light dress. It was minus 35 degrees outside. People came from all over the village to watch me dance. They were shocked - even a dog sled passing by scaredly shied away from me. My hands and feet were terribly cold, but I danced!”

She photographs her dances with a small camera, which she places on a small tripod. Returning from another trip, Galya arranges exhibitions of her photographs. And thus attracts sponsors for the next trips. Of course, dancing on ice floes is an unsafe occupation, from time to time Galya stumbles and falls into the icy water.

She claims that this is a completely unearthly bliss. You just have to survive the first seven minutes, when the whole body is pierced by hellish pain, and it seems that you are about to die. But then, if you do not die in seven minutes, then you get great pleasure from swimming.

“The cold teaches us not to fight with nature, but to accept it,” she says.

“In my youth, I often worried that I was missing out on unique opportunities, and I was very upset about this. Only with age did I realize that the train of fortune stops at your station all the time. If you missed it, don't worry, don't despair and, most importantly, don't leave the station. The next one will definitely come. You just have to be ready to jump into it the next time it stops at your station.

Dancing has been her favorite pastime since childhood. She also fell in love with the North since childhood, thanks to her grandfather and father.

“People often ask me: there were so many events in your life that would be enough for several destinies, you started everything from scratch so many times - where does this come from in you? And the first thing that comes to mind in response is the words of Timur Gaidar, which, in essence, determined my life. Gaidar was like a second father to me.

So, once Timur Arkadyevich said to me, then sixteen years old:

“Man lives in periods of seven years. And when another cycle comes to an end, no matter if your train runs great uphill and all the passengers are happy, you need to jump off.

That is, to start all over again, from scratch. At sixteen, I couldn't figure it out. When the train has stopped and is not moving anywhere, you have to get off, this is understandable. And why at full speed, that is, on the wave of success?. .

Today I am fifty-seven years old, and recently I tried to calculate how many lives, according to this theory, I have lived. Lost about the seventh. Every time fate led me to a completely logical, even, understandable and eventful road, I reached a fork in the road and jumped off the train at full speed. What did you get in return? I'll try to explain...

Sometimes they say about me: the Soviet “golden youth”. But the point is not in the pedigree, believe me, but in the way of life. My father, Boris Terentyevich Batsanov, was the chief of staff of the chairman of the Council of Ministers. Of course, the father was a man absolutely not free. He had no right to his own time and personal space at all - no weekends, no vacations, no holidays.

Father was an extremely interesting person, spoke five languages ​​absolutely fluently, including Finnish. Thanks to this, he became a close friend of Finnish President Urho Kekkonen. They met during large state visits, and then it turned out that both are avid skiers. Then it was a completely exceptional situation for the Soviet Union: every year Kekkonen invited my father on an ice expedition, they went deep into the tundra and lived there - without amenities, in a tiny tent, with a minimum supply of food ...

Dad was also an amazing runner. When he died, I thought for a long time which monument to him would be the most correct. Everything that came to mind was wrong. And I decided to create a monument to him ... with my run. I started running marathons, one after the other. My father taught me, I taught my children, and in this, in fact, I see the connection between generations ...

The only thing is that it was not my parents who brought me up. My grandfather, who came from a family of Pomors, was mainly involved in my work. He was the bearer of incredible folklore, northern tales and legends, in which animals went to visit people, and people turned into animals, and everything was alive - even stones and drops of water.

I reveled in this world, which was so different from Moscow. And my grandfather had an amazing map of the USSR, I can’t even imagine where he could get one. In his small apartment, she occupied the entire wall in the kitchen. I climbed onto the table, then onto the chair placed on it, and only then did I reach a small mysterious island called Kolguev, where my grandfather's grandfather, a Nenets, was from. In my imagination, this island was very beautiful, and I dreamed of someday living there, in the North. I even had a favorite doll - a small wooden Eskimo.

I imagined the future of a diplomat - I seriously dreamed of how I would build an ideal world without wars. And after the fourth year, MGIMO got such an opportunity: I was sent to the embassy in Spain, as an assistant press officer.

This was the first train jump after Spain.

I traveled around the country, to military garrisons, but, in the end, the Far North became my specialization.

She roamed with reindeer herders, walked hundreds of kilometers on dog sleds, and spent spring at drifting polar stations. I was very passionate about work - flights between the poles, the southern and northern deserts, and for all this I somehow forgot that I had to get married. And then, under incredibly strange circumstances, I met a man from a fairy tale, a real Little Prince.

We were both entomologists and our passion was fireflies. But Seryozha Nametkin caught them for science - as a graduate student, pre-defender of the Chemistry Department of Moscow State University. And I painted fireflies, I liked working with a microscope, looking at the smallest details, from which I would then make big pictures. I knew enough about butterflies and bugs, but I was completely shocked by how much Seryozha knew and understood about them.

Serezha and I have children. I continued to fly - to the Arctic, but now, thanks to the restructuring, more often to Alaska and Nunavut. Once, when I was expecting my second child, I had to stay in a small village in Nunavut for a long time. And so, I became very ill, and there was no doctor in the village. And I was treated by a local shaman - he put me on a diet of moss and deer blood. Blood had to be drunk on an empty stomach. I recovered after a week.

Then, at the height of perestroika, Serezha was invited to work in France. And I, on reflection, did not dare to go with him ... I was afraid that I would never see the North Pole again, and the South too.

We lived through the hungry months of the end of 1991, and at the beginning of 1992 my best friend, the famous traveler Dmitry Shparo, asked me to fly to Sredny Island in the Severnaya Zemlya archipelago and help the Norwegian expedition prepare for the trip to the North Pole. From there, I flew almost directly to Vladivostok, where Dmitry began a multi-kilometer expedition for three guys in wheelchairs.

Everyone thought it was crazy. Nobody wanted to help, except for a couple of people. And that's when I met Steve Morrell in the cockpit of an Air Force long-range aircraft. He was a former fighter pilot and at the time a major American businessman. At first we just became friends, and a few months later Steve confessed his love to me.

But he was married and had four children. And I was still married. Another jump from the train was coming.

But in the end I don't know how we ended up with a fantastic family. My first husband has forever remained my best friend - Seryozha and I communicate at least twice a week, our sons talk to him on the phone every day. But at the same time they really appreciate and love Steve. Steve's children also lived with us in New York - and consider each other brothers and sisters.

I had a happy life in New York as long as all the children went to school and grew up with me. But we didn’t see much of Steve himself - he worked very hard, moved around the world: his company had offices in the USA, Great Britain, Norway, Japan, Canada, Chile.

Children became independent early: it would be physically difficult for me to take six of them to schools. In the summer we continued to go on expeditions. For example, under the leadership of Dmitry Shparo, for the first time in history, Elbrus was cleared of debris - they collected about seven tons and carried it on their shoulders to the valley.

Today I am often asked how I raised my children. There were different situations. At some point, I was offered a project in India, and I took the younger boys with me. On the first day, I realized that it would be difficult for them on the trip. And I, on the advice of a friend, gave them to an orphanage, which he created in the jungle for the children of murderers. We arrived. And the first thing we saw in the yard was a huge cobra — it was basking in the sun. The boys were horrified: “Mom, we won’t stay here!” But then the orphans came up to them and said: “Come on, we will introduce you to her. Do not be afraid, she has been living here for a hundred years and has not yet touched anyone. Don't be afraid of her, don't hate her. She feels everything." “I have always considered my main goal of upbringing to be teaching children to look at the world without fear.

Galina says that she knows that these were difficult conditions, but she is sure that this was one of the main and necessary periods of personal development in the life of her children. And she did so consciously so that her children could discover new horizons for themselves. And the children are grateful to her for that. The boys still call life in that orphanage their best university.

"Today my boys, Serge and Kevin, are adults, successful people, both work on Wall Street, financiers. And at the same time, Serge writes music for films and plays. Kevin, as a professional actor and clown, puts on plays in Greenland for Gali's youngest son Kevin, an actor and clown, together they created the first ever "Circus on the Drifting Ice of North Greenland".0003

It was thanks to Kevin that I jumped off the train again in 2006.

He was fifteen, he seriously studied ballet. And Dmitry Shparo once said: this is very good, but it would be nice for the boy to try something more courageous. At that time, the famous polar explorer Ole Jorgen Hammeken needed a Russian-speaking assistant on a trip to the Russian Arctic. Kevin became that person — he translated, went shopping, helped with documents and negotiations.

And after the trip, Kevin brought Ole to our dacha in Kratovo, where I lived then. And we got to know each other. Ole later said that he fell in love at first sight. But we were both not free, we lived in different parts of the world. So we just tried to be friends.

Ole was educated as a lawyer in Denmark, but, exactly according to Gaidar's formula, he jumped off the train of success and began working in Greenland with difficult children, who were even refused to be taken to shelters. He developed his own pedagogical methodology: he went with them to the ice, taught them to hunt and survive. The results were fantastic, the children changed radically for the better. And so Ole offered me a joint project: once I came up with a children's theater on ice in the Canadian Arctic, and he wanted me to repeat this with his wards.

We developed a project for difficult children with suicidal tendencies - it was a real epidemic in the Eskimo settlements. Children's orchestra, theater and circus on ice on the island of Uummannak.

And then Ole offered me a new idea - a trip to the distant settlements of the Eskimos, who preserved the traditional way of life. First there was a series of dog sledding expeditions.

Ole shocked me with his knowledge and skills — he felt dangerous underwater ice, guessed when it would start to snow, saw in the dark, knew how to fast for a long time and walk on thin ice.

And then the three-month, 4,000-kilometer expedition Avannaa (translated as "north") began in a small open boat. These settlements, completely cut off from the modern world, can only be reached by small boat and only at certain times of the year.

We traveled to the most remote settlements where disappearing peoples live, talked to people, recorded their memories, folklore - we did everything so that this culture would not disappear. On that journey, we were covered with snow, we spent the night during storms on a sled.

We didn’t have the opportunity to wash ourselves, we ate fish and seal meat, and during the trip we became so salty and saturated with the smell of the ocean that the animals no longer distinguished us from their own - once we were next to a whole colony of seals and they, extremely cautious, let us in without any fear us to ourselves.

“In this journey, I found an amazing harmony, for the sake of which, probably, I made all these changes in my life - the Harmony of life and death.”

Galina Morrell

We were caught in severe storms, several times found ourselves without food and drink, away from human settlements. When death is so close, at some point you stop being afraid of it. Life and death become like a single space. Having survived this campaign, Olya and I decided that now we will be together.

I was fifty. I had everything, but ... The children grew up and lived independently, my husband was almost never at home, shuttling between the branches of the company, I, in fact, was left completely alone.

My decision to be with Ole was a blow to Steve, but he showed amazing wisdom, not only let me go, but also offered all kinds of help. And, like my first husband, to this day remains my best friend.

In the North, I learned to laugh out loud. When I arrived there for the first time, I noticed one feature. Here, let's say, some kind of trouble happened to you: you broke something, fell through the ice, missed the mark on the hunt, the dogs fled. And the people around are laughing. But they are not laughing at you. They laugh to cheer you up. This is a good laugh. People in the North laugh a lot more than in New York. And this is really an amazing medicine that can replace any antidepressants.

“I enter each new stage of life without tragedy and try to live it as well as I can. I don't know what will happen to me tomorrow. I never plan because we have a better glider (looks up) than ourselves. I just try to do my job honestly, well, and give my all.”

“You must love! Himself, people, the world around. After 50, if you do not love, you will become old very soon. And in no case should you be offended by life and complain.

Changing from train to train, I came to what I had been dreaming about since the days of Madrid: people's diplomacy. Today, people are uniting within the framework of our projects — Arctic Without Borders, Expedition Avannaa, Arctic Arts…

Who knows which train I will take next? I am often asked if it was not scary to change your life so many times? There is always fear. But it's like climbers. You can be afraid by playing in the imagination in advance the likely dangerous situations. But the moment you go to the top, the fear has to go. If it persists, you can not go, this is the path to a quick death. Stop if you're afraid, if you're not ready. You can be scared later, in hindsight, looking around. But not in the process, not during your journey.

I'll be sixty in a couple of years. And I notice that there is less fear than when I was twenty or thirty. You already know what can happen, you are ready for failure and you know that patience is needed.

You also know that the train you missed will still arrive, just an hour later. You just need to relax, take a deep breath thirty times and not slip on the platform at the moment when the next train comes. And he will come, there is no doubt about it.

Is it possible to stay and not jump anywhere? Of course! But life just ossifies. Arthrosis, arthritis and depression will begin. If you start all over again at sixty, you will be a child again.

And there is one more secret that helps me to move forward. Once, a very old Yakut woman, at that time she was ninety-five years old, and now she is no longer alive, told me one phrase: “Be higher than your fate.”

She explained it this way: we are all destined for some kind of life line, different things happen, both difficult and tragic. How to survive this? The woman explained, “You can fall and not get up. You fall into the mud, into our melting permafrost, and you will never get up again. Whatever happens, feed the Light and don't feed the Dark."

“I love people very much and always try to see the most beautiful in them. Many write to me: you embellish people, they are not so beautiful in life, this is not true; but it's actually true, they're the most beautiful, it's just that sometimes they don't see themselves right."

The North is intolerant of superfluous and alluvial, it cleanses from fears, prejudices and falsehood, frees from far-fetched needs, leaving a person face to face with the simple and cold truth of life, which rises above him, like the bulk of an iceberg above dark waters.

“I photographed icebergs like people and made portraits of them. I have watched the iceberg from the moment it was born: when it is young, adult, old, decrepit… I viewed their life as a human life. And the more I looked at them, the more I saw the similarity between our human life and the life of an iceberg. Everything is the same, we are influenced by all the same elements: elements, hardships… We are born, and then we become part of the oceans. But for people, death is something terrible, the end of everything, but for an iceberg, death is just a transition into another substance: molecules, atoms have changed, and it just took on a different form. I think it's the same with humans, but we just don't know it and that's why we're so afraid. And when you travel among icebergs, especially in a small open boat, and death is nearby, you can touch it, you are not afraid of it, because you understand that life and death are one and the same substance.

Galina Morrell


An ancient legend came to life: the ballet “Lazgi – Dance of Soul and Love” was shown in Tashkent (video) the premiere of the ballet "Lazgi - Dance of Soul and Love" took place.

An international team worked on the project, the main choreographer was a graduate of the ballet school of the Berlin National Opera Raoul Raimondo Rebeck.

"It was enchanting and fantastic. Of all the variants of the famous Khorezm dance, the most ancient one was presented on the stage today - about the Soul, which is cramped in the human body. The ancient legend came to life, told by movements and emotions. Many could not hold back their tears," - said Saida Mirziyoyeva on her Telegram channel.

The ballet will be included in the permanent repertoire of the Bolshoi Theatre.


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