Basic Interactive 101 By: Sean McCabe

April 8, 2008 by Mobile Beat Staff Writer

This month’s article will not cover fresh and new ideas that experienced interactive DJ’s are looking for to get away from the “normal”, tried and true activities. Rather, it will be aimed at the beginner DJ who needs some direction on where to start with interactive skills, or the intermediate to advanced DJ who wants to brush up on the old standards. It will in fact in include many of the standard interactive items including The Electric Slide, Macarena, Snowball or Multiplication dances, Chicken Dance, Hokey Pokey, Conga Lines, YMCA, Limbo, Dance Contests for Teen Events, Music Trivia Contests, Getting Corporate Clients to Provide Door Prizes and The Basic Advantages of Having Two People for the Interactive Approach. For those of you beginner DJ’s looking for ways to “jump-start” your show, this article is for you!
THE ELECTRIC SLIDEThe Electric Slide has remained popular through the years due to its simplicity and mass appeal to all audiences. The basic dance is performed as follows:

Right foot step right
Left foot step behind right leg to the right
Right foot step right
Left toe touch to close to right foot and clap
Left foot step left
Right foot step behind left leg to the left
Left foot step left
Right toe touch to close to the left foot and clap
Right foot step backward
Left foot step backward
Right foot step backward
Left toe touch to close to right foot and clap
Left foot step forward
Right toe touch to close to the left foot
Right foot step backward
Left toe touch to close to the right foot
Left foot step forward 1/4 turn to the left
Right toe touch to close to the left foot
Repeat Counts 1-18 until the end of song

Variations:

When I instruct the Electric Slide, I will perform counts 1-18 once or twice through the “normal” way, and then give dancers the option to try some fun “twists” if they desire. I stress that they can continue the “normal” dance without the twists, and still stay in perfect time. The twists are for accomplished “Electric Sliders” that want to add some fun steps to the basic Electric Slide.

In top-40 tradition, I offer the “right hand touch the floor” on count 14 (and even the “left hand touch the floor” on count 16). Note: Country dancers usually prefer a scuff/low kick forward on counts 4, 8, and 18.
I tell them “This is why they call it The Electric Slide”, and instruct actual foot slides on counts 1-4 and 5-8. On count 1, you simply take a wide step to the right and slide your left toe across the floor to meet your right foot and clap. Perform the exact opposite starting with count 5.
The “double-time” step is always a crowd-pleaser. On counts 1-4 and 5-8, instruct the dance floor to “double-step” to the right and left. I emphasize the quick steps by saying “ta-ta-ta-ta-ta–clap!, ta-ta-ta-ta-ta–clap!”, in time with the quick steps and the music.
On counts 1-4 and 5-8, instruct simple 360 degree turns to the right and left. Emphasize the turns by saying “tuuurrrn–clap!, tuuurrrn–clap!”, in time with the turns and the music.
Finally, get ready for some dance floor crashes as you instruct the “double-time turn” on counts 1-4 and 5-8. Instruct the dance floor to “double-step” and turn 360 degrees at the same time.
These fun “twists” will add some excitement to the otherwise simple and monotonous, yet always enjoyable Electric Slide!

THE MACARENA

The history of the Macarena dates back to 1993. The Spanish duo Los Del Rio composed the song, which started off as a flamenco. It quickly spread across Spain, and ultimately took the world by storm as one of the most requested participation dance songs of all time. The basic dance is performed as follows:

Extend right arm straight out in front of you with your palm down
Extend left arm straight out in front of you with your palm
Turn right arm 180 degrees to right – palm up
Turn left arm 180 degrees to left – palm up
With right hand, grasp left bicep at elbow
With left hand, grasp top of right elbow
Right hand to right back of neck
Left hand to left back of neck
Right hand to left front pocket
Left hand to right front pocket
Right hand to right back pocket
Left hand to left back pocket
Move backside to the left
Move backside to the right
Move backside to the left
CLAP and turn 90 degrees to the RIGHT
Repeat Counts 1-16 until the end of song

Variations:

When I instruct The Macarena, I will perform counts 1-16 once or twice through the “normal” way, and then give my dance floor the option to try some fun “twists” if they desire. I stress that they can continue the “normal” dance without the twists, and still stay in perfect time. The twists are for accomplished Macarena dancers that want to add some fun to the basic Macarena.

I start off asking for a simple clap on-time at count 16.
Next, I add a “hop-clap” at count 16.
For the remainder of the dance, I offer alternative moves on counts 13-16. The first I call “The Cabbage Patch”. You simply instruct your dance floor to put their fists together, out in front of them, and roll to the beat, head and shoulders one way, fists the other way.
Next, I offer “The Butterfly”. Here, you roll both knees inwards and around at the same time, left knee counter-clockwise, right knee clockwise, two times.
Next, you combine counts 3 and 4 into one motion (“One Cabbage Patch, One Butterfly”), and repeat again opposite (“One Butterfly, One Cabbage Patch”).
Follow this with a Meringue–one hand below chest, one hand in the air, turn around, and repeat again with opposite hand below chest and in the air, turning in opposite direction.
Next, tell everyone to “Meringue around” with both arms up in the air. Tell them you are looking for some “hip action”!
Finally, tell your guests to pretend they are a big piece of toast in a giant toaster. On the count of three, they will “pop” into the air… “1, 2, 3, Jump!”.
These fun “twists” will add some excitement to the otherwise simple and monotonous, yet always enjoyable Macarena!

SNOWBALL OR MULTIPLICATION DANCES

The Snowball or Multiplication Dance works best at teen events to get dance floor going, but it can be used for all ages. Ask everyone at your event to gather around the outside of the dance floor. Start the dance with a designated couple slow dancing in the center of the dance floor. Make sure the song you use is an easily recognizable, popular selection that everyone will recognize. Let the couple dance for about thirty seconds (slightly less with large groups), then say “Snowball”, “Multiply”, or “Switch”. The couple dancing must now find new partners and bring them into the center of the dance floor. Continue this dance until you have involved as many guests as possible.

THE CHICKEN DANCE

The Chicken Dance is a popular dance among all age groups. It is performed at a variety of events, from weddings to corporate events. You start off by getting all of your guests in a circle facing one another. The basic dance is performed as follows:

When the music starts, shape your hands like the beak of a chicken and move them open and close for four counts.
You then make your arms like the wings of a chicken and act like your trying to fly for four counts.
Then you place your arms and hands like the tail feathers of a chicken and wiggle down for four counts.
Clap four times.
You repeat this process four times.
After the fourth time, instruct everyone to hold hands and move in a circle.
After a little while switch directions.
Then the whole process starts all over.
Variations:

When I instruct The Chicken Dance, I sing along in time with the music, “I don’t wanna be a chicken, I don’t wanna be a chicken, I just wanna be a duck, “Quack, quack, quack, quack…”. I substitute the names of different animals, and request that the guests make the sounds of those animals (dog–woof, woof, woof, woof/cat–meow, meow, meow, meow, etc.). I ask them to skip when they are circling clockwise and counter clockwise, and I alternate this circling with a dosey-do (swing your partner round and round…). Finally, as the dance leader, be sure to wear a chicken hat or beak!

THE HOKEY POKEY

Nearly everyone knows the lyrics to the song “Hokey Pokey”… “You put your right foot in, you put your right foot out…” Not everyone knows the origin of the Hokey Pokey. It was written by Larry LaPrise, a native of Detroit, Michigan, who passed away in 1996 at the age of 83. LaPrise concocted the song in the late 1940’s for the apres ski crowd at a nightclub in Sun Valley, Idaho. The version we all know and love was recorded in 1953 by bandleader Ray Anthony, who bought the rights and made the song famous as a B-side of another novelty record, “The Bunny Hop”. The dance is easy enough for everyone, including young children. In the USA the word “hokey” can mean stupidly simple!

CONGA LINES

Conga Lines

THE YMCA

Many beginner DJ’s underestimate the importance of, and often do not use party props when performing YMCA. It is just as bad to have the hats, but not know how to implement them. It is always best to pre-select your “Village People” band before starting the skit. This saves time, and possible delay when starting the dance. However, this is not always possible. Request volunteers from the audience. Ask them, “Do we have anyone that is or has been involved with law enforcement in the audience?” You now have your policeman. Ask all the ladies if they know any “rugged” men. They will volunteer your cowboy. Your selection process can actually be just as entertaining as the dance itself. I have even pulled all women from the crowd. Be creative! Also, don’t limit yourself to using just a policeman, cowboy, Indian, construction worker, etc. Use your sombreros, sailors hats, swing hats, whatever! (Remember, I love hats!). Once you start the dance, pretty much anything goes for the verses. I use alternating fists, pointing, John Travolta index finger up and down, clasped hands rolling, etc. Just make it simple, and easy to follow. The chorus needs no explanation. Spell out YMCA with your arms. Try some fist rolls, bending up and down to the beat of the music in-between chorus segments. One last hint… right after you finish spelling YMCA, try the Macarena. It fits perfectly, and will lead you right into the next verse. At the end, have the ladies and the guys battle it out, and see who can yell YMCA the loudest. Ask just the people sitting down at the tables to yell it, then just the ladies, then just the guys, then everybody together! I like to “mess” with the guys. Right after the ladies yell YMCA, I ask the guys to do the same, but right before they do, I say “Just the UGLY guys!” They do not have time to react, and this always gets a big laugh from everyone!

LIMBO CONTEST

Limbo Contests

DANCE CONTESTS FOR TEEN EVENTS

There are so many different Dance Contests for Teen Events, I could not possibly list them all in one article, let alone one paragraph. There are also many new dances constantly emerging. I will give two suggestions in this month’s column.

The first is your basic Dance Contest. Start off by playing a very popular, well-received song for the teens, and let them dance freely for about five minutes. Let them know that you are watching them, and you will soon be picking the five best dancing couples/groups. While they are all still dancing, give your five best couples/groups a number, 1-5, and tell them to remember their number. Stop the music, and instruct everyone to gather around the outside of the dance floor. Call your pre-selected finalists out to the center of the dance floor one-at-at-time by their respective numbers. Inform the audience that the winner(s) will be picked by applause. After all the finalists have danced, bring them out one more time for applause without music. The couple/group with the loudest applause wins.

Variations:

The term Dance Contest is a very general term. You can hold any kind of dance contest–the only limit is your music library and your imagination. Follow current music trends for teens. I have had great success with Spice Girl Wannabe contests for girls and Backstreet Boys contests (they are from right here in Orlando) for guys. Just hand out some inflatable microphones, and tell them to lip sync. You can speed up and slow down the music for laughs. Just tell your contestants to lip sync and dance. You can even let them pick their own songs. This will help facilitate contest entries (teens are very particular, and feel comfortable with the music they are most familiar with).

The second is Group Hug. Bring a large group of boys and girls out on the dance floor. Instruct them that you will start a song, and that everyone must start dancing. While they are dancing, you will be calling out numbers. The kids must hug each other in groups of the number that you call out. Anyone who remains and is not engaged in a “Group Hug” is eliminated. You can speed this contest up by being gender-specific (call out “Two girls, one boy”).

This section could go on and on, so I will end it quickly with a closing note. Prizes are very important. When people win a contest, they expect some kind of prize. It does not need to be expensive. There are many different ways to obtain prizes. You can supply them and increase the price of your services accordingly, or you can ask your client to provide them, emphasizing how they add to the quality of your show.

MUSIC TRIVIA CONTESTS

Music Trivia Contests

Don’t limit yourself to just pop music trivia. Movie clips, sound effects, TV tunes, and sports trivia are just a few options. I like to hold trivia contests during cocktail hours, dinner (depending on function), and even in regular intervals throughout some shows. “Trivia is fun!”

GETTING CORPORATE CLIENTS TO PROVIDE DOOR PRIZES

Getting Corporate Clients to Provide Door Prizes

THE BASIC ADVANTAGES OF HAVING TWO PEOPLE FOR THE INTERACTIVE APPROACH

The Basic Advantages of Having Two People for the Interactive Approach

One person functions as DJ and handles the music programming. The other functions as MC and handles the announcements (or if both are capable, they can flip-flop responsibilities). This arrangement allows for:

Complete follow-through of interactive skits–In a one-person approach, 3/4 of the way through a song (or sooner), the DJ generally has to cut their routine short, and prepare for the next song (change clothes, props, cue up next song, etc.). In a two-person approach, the MC can entertain right through to the end of the skit, and not have to worry about the next song.

Assistance with props–While a song is playing, the DJ can ready props for the MC’s upcoming skits. In addition, if the MC needs props for guests, the DJ can run them out to the performance area, thereby not altering show flow.

Music/microphone start/stop/level control–Many times, especially during contests, songs must be started and stopped. Levels need to be adjusted. Having a DJ at the controls while the MC is free to interact with the guests eliminates this problem.

Overall increased energy–If the both the DJ and MC are capable on the microphone, they can exchange comments. This DJ/MC interaction carries over to the audience. The DJ, MC and guests literally “feed” off each other.

More on-stage action and allure–The old saying, “Two heads are better than one” is true in the interactive approach. The whole entertainment concept is conveyed through audio/visual cues. The more dynamic a show is, the better it is received. When there are two individuals on stage, both dressed in complimenting attire, interacting in a pleasing manner, the bottom line is that you have double the impact.

I often perform my interactive shows solo, due to contractual stipulations and client’s financial constraints. Although I have been DJ’ing for over 10 years, and music programming is practically instinctive at this point, I still prefer having two people for the interactive approach.

In this article, I have provided detailed descriptions of The Electric Slide, Macarena, Snowball or Multiplication dances, Chicken Dance, Hokey Pokey, Conga Lines, YMCA, Limbo, Dance Contests for Teen Events, Music Trivia Contests, Getting Corporate Clients to Provide Door Prizes and The Basic Advantages of Having Two People for the Interactive Approach. Even with years of performance behind me, and having many advanced interactive concepts at my disposal, I still find that many of the basic interactive activities covered in this article are cornerstone to the success of my own personal performances, along with my company.

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Mobile Beat Staff Writer (228 Posts)

This is the general editors account for Mobile Beat Magazine and Website. Who reads Mobile Beat online and in print and attends Mobile Beat events? DJs, VJs and KJs to start with, especially those who own and operate mobile entertainment services. They provide music, video, lighting and a myriad other entertainment choices for corporate events, wedding receptions, dances and innumerable other gatherings.


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