You put your right foot out, you put your left foot back, you put your right foot out and you wiggle your hips about. No, it's not the hokey-pokey -- it's the "Achy Breaky."
Spun off from this summer's hottest country music hit by Billy Ray Cyrus, the "Achy Breaky Heart" dance has people in bars nationwide stomping and wiggling. The song (by the same title) is about a man who begs his true love not to let his "achy-breaky" heart know that it's all over.
"When the first note of the song off the CD hits the speakers, it sends a jolt of electricity to everyone in the room to stop what they're doing and get out there and take part in this dance," said Ray White, general manager of the Holiday Inn Timonium Plaza, home of the country/western club Nashville's. "It's a phenomenon."
Choreographed by Melanie Greenwood of Nashville, Tenn., former wife of country singer Lee Greenwood, the dance is a tough combination of 29 steps with names such as grapevine sequences, hip wiggles and pivots, but its complexity hasn't stopped crowds from lining up to learn it at clubs such as
Nashville's Latela's Corral in Jessup or the Gold Nugget on Pulaski Highway.
And we're not just talking cowboy wannabees, either. People of all ages and professions from teachers to doctors are among those who have jumped on the achy-breaky bandwagon.
"The song has attracted a full range of individual tastes throughout the country music listening audience. Also, there's some attraction from the pop audience," said Jim Ratliff, who, with his wife Mindy, make up Nashville's husband-and-wife dancing DJ team.
Part of the song's appeal is its performer, Billy Ray Cyrus, who, as one of the few country music singers to sport high-top tennis shoes, can also boast being far from mainstream country music. In videos aired on MTV, Mr. Cyrus has a style that has been compared with Elvis Presley and pop singer George Michael.
"He has sort of that 'male hunk' image," said Greg Cole, music director and on-air personality at WPOC-FM (93.1). With his muscle shirts and ponytail, "he definitely has female appeal," Mr. Cole said.
The combination, then, of the hit song and the song's performer have created quite a following. "I love that song and Billy Ray Cyrus is hot," said Lisa Doering of Abingdon.
"The music track to the song itself has a . . . great natural groove and rhythm to it," said Mr. Cole.
Others have found different reasons for joining the "Achy Breaky" craze.
"It's a lot of fun, the country/western dancing is very social and you get exercise from it," said Marc Hoffman, an attorney in private practice in Baltimore, who admits he practices the Achy Breaky dance at home to perfect his steps.
At Nashville's, in an atmosphere that resembles a family reunion more than a night club, dance teachers Mr. Ratliff, the manager of software development for the House of Representatives, and Ms. Ratliff, a paralegal, have been flooded with requests from those who want to do the "Achy Breaky."
"I caught [the dance] on television before anybody had really heard about it, and I watched it and tried to play with it a little bit. There were a couple parts that I couldn't get that Jim and Mindy knew, so I came here [to Nashville's] and picked them up," said Garth Childs, 21, of Harford County.
In Nashville's dance classes cowboy boots stomp next to patent leather pumps and mothers stepping out with their daughters, belying any stereotypes held about what makes a country music lover.
"It's not cheap to be a cowboy," said Mr. White, citing $100 cowboy hats and $500 or $600 boots as some of the larger expenses of dressing the part.
Whatever they were wearing, when the music started, nearly everyone left their seats, and with looks of concentration and enjoyment began doing the Achy Breaky.
"It's real hard to learn, but once you learn it, it's easy -- it just keeps flowing and flowing," Mr. Childs said as he headed to the dance floor.
Where to 'Achy'
For those aching to learn the "Achy Breaky" here are a few area spots where lessons are provided:
Nashville's in the Holiday Inn, Timonium Plaza, (410) 252-7373
The Gold Nugget, Pulaski Highway, (410) 483-3356.
Latela's Corral, Jessup, (410) 799-7110.