Westska - Western Ska Online





Show Reviews

Record Reviews



Ska Articles

Ska on Air



Skanking 101
by Bob Timm
From your Ska/Reggae Guide

Just recently, a prime time network cartoon featured a couple teens tossing a Toasters record on the stereo, with one friend proclaiming, "C'mon, let's do the ska!"

If you're a big fan, that probably sounds like a great invitation, but it may also strike fear into the hearts of young new fans. In fact, there are many ska fans out there who might (or should) confess to not knowing much about how to dance to this great music. What exactly is the ska? the skank? the rocksteady? the monkey?

Before you go crazy with steps and instructions, we must realize that there are some strange permutations of history that have warped the history of the skank. In the dancehalls of Kingston, Jamaica, in the early 1960s, dancers developed a natural style of bouncing and swaying to the hot new beat. When the dance and music were introduced to the world at the 1964 World's Fair in New York, however, neither the music, the dancers, nor the dance were completely authentic. Rather than transport genuine West Kingston rudies to Flushing, New York, the Jamaican government chose to present a cleaner, more stylized version to America. Decidely non-Jamaican dancers Ronnie Nasralla and Jannette Phillips led crowds through dances like "the ska," "the ska row," and "the ska ride," all of which were much more regulated than anything done in Kingston. In fact, the classic Jamaican skank is really very simple, but moving when you see old black and white footage of well-dressed Jamaicans bouncing in unison.

To do the classic, authentic skank, follow these simple steps:

Soundtrack for your Skank: Listen along to the traditonal sound of ska, as performed by The Skatalites, courtesy of Soundcheck.

And you might want to stare at these guys for inspiration:

Reload this page if these guys stop dancing when you play the ska soundtrack file above.

Step One: Bend Forward
Get that stiffness out of your spine, hang forward, but not too far, and get those arms and knees loose.

Step Two: Bend Knees and Elbows
Bend your elbows and clench your fists if you want to get that real rude attitude. Try to look more like you're getting ready to go sprinting rather than skiing.

Step Three: Claim Your Space
Get those feet shoulder-length apart, move one foot slightly forward, and take up as much of the dance floor as you can while you start your arms cranking back and forth. It might help if you pretend your shaking some maracas.

Step Four: Start Moving
Feel the beat. Get those arms swinging slightly and feel the bounce as you swing your hips. Move your weight from one foot to the other with each skank. Make sure you coordinate your arms and legs. If your right fist is moving forward, you should also be moving your right knee forward as you shift your weight. Then shift to the left.

Step Five: Skank to the Beat
Now start to vibe with some classic ska sounds. If you're doing a classic skank, your feet should not be moving too much. Rather, you should be bouncing with the upbeats and cranking those elbows. For added style, get a real cool expression and stare somewhere off in the upper corner of the room. Preferably with shades.

Now you've got the basic skank, the move that just came naturally to young Jamaicans. Of course, the form is completely open to personal styles and variations. Here's an ever-so-quick review of some of the added variations in ska's brief but great history:

Rocksteady: Steady Rock Easy
For the more mellow rocksteady era, you'll want more of a pose, less movement in the arms and legs ('cause it too HOT!) and most of your expression coming from your hips.

Skinhead Stomp
When you're ready to strap on your braces and Doc Martens, you can add more of a snarl and a bit more machoism and testosterone (yes, even you skinhead gals) to the classic skank. The stomp comes in when you really lift those boots off the ground and start thomping with the more uptempo rhythms of early reggae.

Two Tone: Kick-starting the 80s Skank
Here's the classic "rudeboy" skank that most young ska fans today know. As ska mixes with the tempo of punk, you'll be adding a kick forward with every beat. You'll have more of a skip and a hop in there as you emulate your favorite British ska idols.

Ska-core: Slam and Mosh
When the skank hits the States, the more hardcore fans take more from the punk/metal moshpit then they do from Kingston style. This is where you really start to see some dance culture clashes on the club floors.

Third Wave: That "Running in Place" Thing
Ah, the great mystery of the 90s. Little skasters jogging in place as fast as they can. Somewhere in there, there is still some slight evidence of the skank, and therefore, some hope.

Of course, I'm not the only one out there on the Net with something to say about the skank. Check out our Skanking 101 Net Links for more visuals, dance steps, and even some animated dancers, from ska sites from one hemisphere to the other.

In addition, lots of members of the About.com Ska and Reggae community have been having their say in our Ska/Reggae Forum. We've got a good variety of opinions on The State of The Skank, so get your voice in there!

Remember, though, that it's all about enjoying the music. One forum post, by our devoted ska fan, Skammando, sums it up best for us:
"Skank, pogo, do the reggae, twist, shimmy, shake your ass in circles!"

This Article was lifted from the folowing website

Ben Dog Productions © 2001