December Artists of the Week
As part of our Island of Dance we feature a musical artist for each week of the year. Our four artists of the week for December are Willie Nelson, Ken Burns, Arthur Murray, Stevie Wonder, with a bonus theme celebrating Christmahanukwanzakah. So, lets dive in!
For our first December Artist of the Week, we feature Willie Nelson. Willie is an American guitarist, born in Abbot, TX, in 1937. You can hear his work often on Willie’s Roadhouse channel 59 if you are a listener of Sirius Radio. Some of the songs from Willie that we love to dance to are:
- “Waltz Across Texas” (99 BPM Slow Waltz)
- “On the Road Again” (112 BPM Polka)
- “Yesterday’s Wine” (167 BPM Country Waltz)
- “You Are My Sunshine” (180 BPM Two Step) — the perpetual classic!
Willie is considered one of the first outlaws of country music and got his professional start in music playing with a polka band.
Ken Burns “Jazz”
Our second Artist of the Week could definitely be called America’s documentarian. Ken Burns’ 2001 work entitled “Jazz” is one of our favorite musical forays. In this 10-episode miniseries tracks the history of “America’s greatest art,” was directed and produced by Burns through PBS and covers the historical arc of Jazz from 1917-2001.
“Jazz” was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series (Informational) and contains a wealth of music for social dancers. Some of our favorite dance songs from the film are:
- “Take the A Train” (170 BPM Jitterbug) by Duke Ellington
- “In The Mood” (164 BPM Lindy Hop) by Glenn Miller
- “Smooth Sailing” (118 BPM West Coast Swing) by Ella Fitzgerald
Ken Burns also produced a companion documentary featuring Country Music in, and, in our opinion, viewed together are nearly perfect bookends of the American music experience.
Our next artis is not a musician but has an essential role is social dancing. Arthur Murray was born in 1895 as Moses Teichman in Podhace, Poland, at the Ukrainian border; which was then part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. After emigrating he became famous as an American dance instructor by mailing footprint diagrams to people who wanted to learn dancing. He opened up a chain of studios that bear his name to this day; the first of which was in Minneapolis, MN. The Arthur Murray studio is the 2nd oldest franchise in America, just behind A&W.
For years Mr. Murray and his wife Kathryn Kohnfelder broadcast a TV dance show which included the Arthur Murray Orchestra. They recorded many dance hits such as:
- “Rumba Fantasy” (Rumba 124 BPM)
- “It’s A Big Wide Wonderful World” (Viennese Waltz 140 BPM)
- “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White” (Cha Cha Cha 118 BPM)
- “Deep Purple” (Fox Trot 124 BPM)
Stevie Wonder, our fourth Artist of the Week for December, was born Stevland Hardaway Judkins in Saginaw Michigan in 1950; he lost his site due to complications from a premature birth. Stevie showed musical prowess early on where he played a range of musical instruments as part of the church choir in Detroit and has become and American musical treasure.
Stevie has a large and diverse musical legacy and some of our favorite dance tunes include:
- “Superstition” (102 BPM West Coast Swing)
- “Sir Duke” (108 BPM Cha Cha Cha)
- “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” (128 BPM Fox Trot)
- “Higher Ground” (125 BPM East Coast Swing)
Chrismahanukwanzakah is our bonus “Artist of the Week,” and it is more of a theme than an actual artist. This is one of our four holiday theme weeks (also included are Halloween, Valentines and Americana). The Chrismahanukwanzakah idea was popularized in 2004 as part of a Virgin Mobile advertising campaign, and a specific date of December 13th was assigned. The overall idea of the campaign is to share traditions with one another and is centered around the idea of inclusion.
We build our December theme with a collection of songs that celebrate Christmas, Hanukah and Kwanzaa, including these danceable tunes:
- “Kwanza Time” by John Henry (174 BPM Jitterbug)
- “Rockin Around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee (142 BPM Lindy Hop)
- “The Dreydl Song” by Jay Levy (121 BPM Polka)
December Artists of the Week: Now What?
These are great and all, but what do we do with them? Great question! There are a few things we recommend. Check out our Island of Dance to get even more information on ALL of our Artists of the Week when you sign up for 90 Days to Dance. Otherwise, you can come on out to one of our Monthly ClubHONDO! dance parties to practice what you’ve been learning on the dance floor!
We hope you’ve found this enlightening! We can’t wait to share even more dance information with you. Stay tuned!