Zydeco is an authentic American music and dance form. It originates from the French-speaking Creole people of southcentral and southwest Louisiana and Eastern Texas. Opelousas, LA is the recognized capitol of zydeco music and the small towns around St Landry and Lafayette parishes are rich with the history of zydeco. Zydeco began as what the Creole people refer to as " La La" music and was often played in homes or church halls to relax from the rigors of daily life. Over time, it has evolved to its modern form with infusions of rock-and-roll, R&B, country and western, caribbean, and most recently rap and hip-hop music.
Even though zydeco and the more commonly known Cajun music come from the same area, they are distinct music forms and come from distinct cultures. Cajun comes from the white Acadiens who settled in Louisiana in the 1700's from Nova Scotia. Zydeco comes from the Creole and African American culture in the same part of Louisiana. Both musical forms feature the accordion. Cajun music also has a fiddle and often uses the triangle as the rhythm instrument.
The instruments in zydeco are the accordion, the frottoir (rubboard), bass quitar, rhythm guitar and drums. Zydeco has an infectious, driving beat that is heavy on the bass and drums. It commands listeners to move their feet. In zydeco, the music and dancing go hand in hand, each feeding off the other.
The dance is called the zydeco two-step and is a couples dances with a quick-quick-slow pattern. Waltz is also done since zydeco bands typically play several traditional waltzes during a dance. Just as the music is always evolving, so is the dance. The traditional Creole style of two-step includes a lot of fancy footwork and styling. Dancers across the country add moves from swing, ballroom, latin and country western. Now, young dancers in Louisiana and Texas are adding hip-hop moves to make it relevant to their generation.
The great thing about zydeco dancing is that it's easy to learn enough in a short period of time to have fun. There are no complicated routines to learn - it's all about the rythym. Of course, once you get the basics down, then you can build and develop your own individual style.
If you want to know more about the history of zydeco, an excellent book is "The Kingdom of Zydeco" by Michael Tesserant. It is currently out of print but used copies can be found on Amazon.