By Ellen Hill
Step back in 4/4 time to the 1920s and help create history yourself by joining more than 250 others for the Blue Mountains Charleston Challenge in Leura Mall on Saturday, February 2.
The event, which will officially kick off Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism’s Roaring 20s Festival and all that Jazz, will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the greatest number of costumed people dancing the Charleston.
Festival director Sandy Luxford said: “Last year’s attempt was a brilliant effort and we were thrilled that so many people embraced the idea but it wasn’t quite enough to break the record.
“We need at least 251 people dancing for five minutes in costume this year. I’m sure we will do it as those who danced last year return more determined than ever joined by people unable to join in last year or those hearing about it for the first time.’’
Challenge co-ordinator Amanda Pavlovic of Let’s Moove n Groove Dance & DJ said while 1920s costumes could be found in specialist costume hire and party shops, dancers did not need to go to extremes.
“Simply wear a plain dress/suit and accessorise with a feather boa or flapper headpiece for the ladies or a top hat or homburg and suspenders/braces for the men. It isn’t about perfection – just movement, fun and giving it a go.’’
The Charleston dance routine can be viewed at http://www.roaring20s.com.au/events/2-uncategorised/40-charleston-challenge-video, there will be a practice session on the day and dance leaders stationed along Leura Mall.
Dancers must register online or on the day to be counted and for the World Record attempt to be valid.
The Charleston became popular in the 1920s during the era of jazz music, speakeasies and flappers.
Danced to ragtime jazz music in a quick-paced 4/4 time rhythm, the dance quickly became a craze around the world.
“It was a physical representation of the uninhibited enthusiasm many of the young people of that generation wanted to express,’’ Ms Luxford said.
It is believed the Charleston originated from earlier styles of dance like the black bottom. Even though the Charleston is believed to have existed before the 1920s it wasn’t until the dance appeared in the Broadway show Running Wild in 1923 that it became popular. The dance was featured to the song The Charleston by composer James P Johnson, and soon the musical and dance become a big hit.
The Charleston dance was particularly popular with the flappers, rebellious young women of the 1920s known for wearing short dresses, bobbed hair styles and listening to Jazz music – all of which was considered scandalous.
The Charleston was also a precursor to the 1930s dance, the Lindy Hop, and variations of both are still popular today.
It can be danced solo, with a partner or in a group. While there are many variations, the basic steps involve kicking the legs and swinging the arms with large, loose motions in four basic steps, much like walking.
Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism chairman Randall Walker said: “It is almost unbelievable to us today that the Charleston dance was considered outrageous by some in the 1920s and was actually banned from many dance halls because it was deemed too scandalous and exuberant.
“However, we are proud that it was a shameless pastime throughout Australia’s first tourist destination, the Blue Mountains. Therefore, it is fitting that this world record is set here.’’
The Blue Mountains Charleston Challenge would be a fantastic opportunity for dance studio students, school groups, families or anyone else who would like to be part of history in the making, Mr Walker said.
“It’s not often you get the chance to set a new world record and this one will be easy and great fun.’’
Would-be record breaking “flappers’’ and “gangsters’’ can even arrive in true 1920s style on The Blue Mountains Flyer diesel train in time for the challenge. Departing Central station and stopping at Strathfield, Westmead and Penrith, the train will arrive at Leura at 11am then proceed to Katoomba. It will depart Katoomba at 3pm and Leura at 3.15pm and return to Central.
The music will continue after the Challenge and participants will be encouraged to continue dancing in the street or rest their feet under the trees in Leura Mall and enjoy the ever-popular Automobile Picnic in Leura Mall.
The event, staged by Leura Village Association in conjunction with Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism, will transform the picturesque village back to the 1920s with live entertainment, costumed characters and a convoy of vintage cars, motor bikes and historical vehicles (many of which featured in the Underbelly Razor TV series and Betty Boop, a star of the new Great Gatsby movie).
To be held at venues throughout the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon region, the Roaring 20s Festival will pay homage to the decade when the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon region cut loose in an endless round of hedonism – sumptuous architecture, costume balls and high teas, saucy clothing, outrageous (for the time) dancing and jazz music.
Among the highlights will be the Grand Art Deco Ball at The Carrington Hotel, the Highlands Steam & Vintage Fair at Oberon, Cinema Under the Stars at Waldorf Leura Gardens Resort featuring 1920s classic movies; a `20s Afternoon with Phryne Fisher highlighting `20s fashion with Festival Ambassador and owner of the exquisite Darnell Collection of International Vintage Couture Charlotte Smith, and `20s Tango at the Paragon.
Go to www.roaring20s.com.au for a full program of Roaring 20’s Festival and all that Jazz! events, to book a seat on the Blue Mountains Flyer train and register for the Blue Mountains Charleston Challenge.