As springtime approaches, the wedding invitations and save-the-date notices are starting to trickle into my in-box.
Wedding receptions offer a host of unpleasant aspects for an introverted 41-year-old bachelor, but for me one of the most dreaded is the Electric Slide.
The Electric Slide—originally choreographed by Ric Silver in the 1970s—is the venerable juggernaut of matrimo-celebratory line dances. There is, admittedly, something joyous about being in a matrix of people all doing the same repetitive dance at the same time. There is something terrific about the fact that at a wedding reception, the rich and the poor, the young and the old, the Indians and the Americans and any other races, all know this same dance and can do it as an ensemble.
But when doing the Electric Slide, I am painfully cognizant of the fact that in my mind, the counts in the dance do not match the counts in the song. The song, “Electric Boogie” as performed by Marcia Griffiths, is divided neatly into cycles of 32 beats. But the dance consists of cycles of 22 beats.
Even the numerous alternative versions of the dance that have sprung up do not solve the problem, as they typically consist of cycles of 18 beats. For purposes of analysis here I will focus on Silver’s original 22-beat choreography.
I learnt from Silver that the dance was designed with 22 beats because his birthday falls on January 22nd. (Silver was also kind and good-humored enough to help me get the technical aspects of the dance correct for this essay.)
This 32-beat versus 22-beat inconsistency means that, after the dance starts, the start of a cycle in the dance doesn’t seem to correspond with the start of a cycle in the song for a great number of beats. To determine that number of beats, you (or, since you probably have more fun things to do, I) simply find the least common multiple of 32 and 22, which turns out to be 352. This means that beat #353 is where the music and the dance finally join again. Beat #353 occurs at approximately 3:26 in the original version of the song, which has a total playing time of 4:19.
So, the song and the dance, which by all logic should be synchronized throughout, are in fact synchronized only at two points: Once at the beginning and once at 3:26. To me this is a travesty—especially considering that this dance was designed specifically for this song.
And this perceived incongruence between song and dance is the reason I stink at this dance. (Those who have seen me dance at all might say that I just stink at dancing, period.)
In this paper, I offer a simple and effective solution to this problem.
First, let’s break down the Electric Slide dance into its 22 component beats:
1. Step right with right foot.
2. Grapevine right with left foot (left foot grapevines behind and past right foot).
3. Step right with right foot.
4. Tap right with left foot (just to left of right foot) and clap hands.
5. Step left with left foot.
6. Grapevine left with right foot (right foot grapevines behind and past left foot).
7. Step left with left foot.
8. Tap left with right foot (right foot taps just to right of left foot) and clap hands.
9. Step back with right foot.
10. Step back with left foot (left foot goes all the way behind right foot).
11. Step back with right foot.
12. Tap back with left foot (left foot taps next to right foot) and clap hands.
13. Step forward with left foot.
14. Tap right toe to left heel and snap fingers on both hands downward and forward.
15. Step back with right foot.
16. Tap left foot next to right foot and clap hands.
17. Step forward with left foot.
18. Tap right toe to left heel and snap fingers on both hands downward and forward.
19. Step back with right foot.
20. Tap left foot next to right foot and clap hands.
21. Step forward with left foot.
22. Hitch right knee up while rotating body 90 degrees counter-clockwise to set for Step #1 of next cycle.
Beats 1 through 14 are completely synchronized with the music. The problem occurs in beats 15 through 22. The goal is to eliminate six beats, thus resulting in a 16-beat cycle. Then, two 16-beat cycles of the dance would correspond exactly to one 32-beat cycle of the song.
The activities in beats 21 and 22 are necessary to make the transition into the next cycle of the dance.
Therefore, those activities must stay, and must become beats 15 and 16, with beat 16 being the final beat of the cycle. Since the old beat 14 does not lead properly into the new beat 15, we must make a slight adjustment as follows:
13. Step forward with left foot while leaning forward into left foot.
14. Step back with right foot while leaning back into right foot.
15. Step forward with left foot.
16. Brush floor forward with right foot, rotate body 90 degrees counter-clockwise to get ready for the next cycle.
Repeat from 1.
I’ve tried this modification, alone in my apartment. At first it seems a bit awkward, but this is probably due to the fact that the 22- and 18-beat cycles are branded into my muscle memory (and due to the fact that I am doing a line-dance, with no music, alone in my apartment). I am confident that with repetition, this new 16-beats-per-cycle version of the dance would become natural and—dare I say it—maybe even enjoyable.
With this simple modification, I can enjoy an Electric Slide that is mathematically and rhythmically sound; one that exploits the fact that 32 is divisible by 16; one in which the dance and the song are in perfect synchronization throughout. Though, admittedly, one that nobody else on the dance-floor is doing.
So please, keep those wedding invitations coming. I’ll be at home, practicing. I know how to have a good time.
To learn more about the Electric Slide, visit Silver’s official “Electric Slide” website at http://the-electricslidedance.com
Ranjit Souri lives in Chicago.