Just a Northern Soul

Northern Soul dance steps. This page contains links to step-by-step dance moves for Northern Soul dancing on video – notably demonstrated by a cool young Japanese cult in Tokyo! If that’s what you want – scroll down the page.

Originally, this post was about a Northern Soul video I was shooting. Legendary Scottish pop combo, Pat and Greg Kane aka Hue & Cry released a new album in August. We were going to make a pop promo for the track The Last Stop – a catchy confection of light Philly grooves, Muscle Shoal horns and Pat’s unmistakable vocal stylings. The treatment was going to be ‘trains and northern soul’.

Then the guys changed their mind and we did Headin’ for a Fall instead. But I’d done the research on Northern Soul – so here are references for Northern Soul steps.

The idea was to combine a Love Train/Soul Train/Wigan Casino sort of thang with, um, train stations… While ‘The Last Stop’ isn’t exactly a Wigan Casino stomper – we planned a sort of homage to Northern Soul. For the youngsters among us, it was a strange dance (and record collecting) cult that sprang up in the UK in the 70s. The dancing echoed energetic James-Brown-style steps with spins and backdrops, married to often obscure sub-Motown tunes with straight down the line thumping beats. Adherents wore ‘baggies’ (Oxford bag trousers – like big flares only parallel, if you know what I mean. And leather-soled shoes to help them glide on the dance floor) The scene was most famously linked to ‘all-nighters’ at Wigan Casino.

While Northern Soul moves from the clubs in the 70s were a bit more individual, I guess the ‘movement’ has ossified into a style that is a bit of a pastiche of itself – though charming for all that, as you can see from these Japanese kids who are ‘keeping the faith’ and teaching each other the steps in a Tokyo park. Whoodathunkit?

So, here’s the Japanese breaking it down 🙂

Basic dance steps: The first clip gives a lesson in the most basic steps – tho it seems to me that the girl’s feet/ankle movements are better than the teacher’s…

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And how to spin more:

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Anyhow, their picnics look cool.

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Though this looks more authentic Northern Soul to me – from, I guess, around 1975/76: the guy’s t-shirt says P-FUNK, a reference to George Clinton’s Parliament.

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Here’s how it’s become more ‘formalised’ in this competition in Alfreton in 1999. Surely, part of the problem is that it just doesn’t look right in skinny trousers?

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And then there’s comedy Northern Soul. It’s an idea / dance style that’s plainly held in great affection by many people, perhaps because it’s recognisable and doable, even if you appear to be very one-footed and end up going round in circles. I’m not sure why guys in high-vis jackets enjoy Northern Soul dancing, but there you are – there’s a few workplace clips on youtube like this.

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Keep the faith, y’all