Southern comfort: Fiddlers and box squeezers are heading for Gloucester's Cajun and Zydeco Festival. Roberta Mock does the Jitterbug

I first heard Zydeco performed by some Muppets on Sesame Street. Zydeco is a Z-word, and therefore at a premium for educationalists. From its home in the American swamps, this steamy good-time music with its 'tush-push' dance steps penetrated children's television. It was only a matter of time before it conquered Britain.

Zydeco is a modern derivative of traditional Cajun music, which originated with French settlers in an area of Canada once known as Acadia. Persecuted by British colonialists, most Acadians had migrated to Louisiana by 1765. In the murky bayous they mingled with equally put-upon Scottish and Portuguese settlers, as well as indigenous Americans and African slaves. For nearly 200 years, the Cajun people remained isolated from mainstream America, brewing up a heady culture from eclectic influences.

After a hard week taming the swamps, the Cajuns escaped poverty on a boisterous dance floor. At first they partied to the sound of two or three fiddles, one providing an infectious rhythm, the others playing off each other competitively. Eventually, washboards joined the line-up and later the accordion took over from the backbeat fiddle. Zydeco, a fusion of Cajun and delta blues, added guitars and drums in the 1940s, although it remains accordion-led.

There are four different types of Cajun dance: the western-orientated Jitterbug, the Two-Step to a four-beat waltz, the Three-Step waltz, and Zydeco with its more erotic African influence. I set out to learn the Jitterbug from dance instructors Mary Elms and Amrik Singh.

The Jitterbug resembles the pre-Twist 1950s rock 'n' roll partner dance of the same name. This is not surprising given both are danced to a 12-bar blues beat. 'The emphasis is on eye contact and sticking your bottom out,' Mary tells us. 'Nothing is ever wrong in Cajun dance,' Amrik adds helpfully, 'unless it is painful.'

Amrik, who gives up smoking five hours before dancing, smirks knowingly at our last-gasp cigarette, and warns us that we are going to sweat a lot. He and Mary lead us through gentle warm-up exercises, explaining that 'some people have hurt themselves'. We soon find out how. The basic step, shuffling arouud like a limp chicken, involves the constant stretching of under-developed calf muscles.

Having unconvincingly mastered the 'thinking mode' step, from which all 40 of Jitterbug's increasingly complicated arm movements emanate, it is time to find a partner. I choose Big Dave. We face each other, hold hands, and attempt to bounce up and down at the same time. It takes us a while to establish a rhythm and move forward in unison without my forehead crashing into his chin.

From an inauspicious start we progress rapidly. 'Let's go for a spin,' Amrik calls. Dave and I place hand to hip and just about manage it. 'That's not bad,' says Amrik, 'but the next move involves co-ordination.' The next move is the 'Boston Strangler', or 'Sweaty Armpits', as Mary dubs it.

Dave and I are bursting with confidence, despite the fact that my hair has become tangled up with his watch. We attempt the 'Windmill with Parade' and emerge nauseatingly dizzy. The effect is similar to one experienced after drinking a bottle of Thunderbird. 'You have to maintain eye-contact to establish a steady horizon,' explains Mary. By the end of the session, Dave and I have bonded.

Amrik and Mary were originally taught Cajun dance by Barbara Coppock and Phil Hodgson, who are leading workshops today and tomorrow at the Gloucester Cajun & Zydeco Festival. In addition to workshops in Cajun dance, accordion, fiddle and percussion, the Festival features some of the best Cajun bands in Britain, including The Bearcat Cajun Playboys and R Cajun & The Zydeco Brothers.

'We're living in a globally gloomy time,' says organiser Louis Hawkins. 'This is a chance to stick a few pints down your neck and go wild.' As the Cajuns say: 'Laissez les bon temps rouler.'

Gloucester Cajun & Zydeco Festival, Guildhall Arts Centre, to 16 Jan (0452 505086)

Sat: 12.45pm Bourbon Boys, Baton Rouge pounds 3/pounds 2.50; 8pm R Cajun & the Zydeco Brothers pounds 6/ pounds 5.50

Sun: 12.45pm Eunice and the Red Hot Bayou Band, Joli Blon pounds 3/pounds 2.50; 8pm Bearcat Cajun Playboys pounds 5.50/ pounds 5

Workshops: 3pm Sat Cajun Jitterbug; 3pm Sun Accordion, Fiddle, Guitar, Percussion; 3pm Sun, Two Step, Waltzes

Amrik Singh and Mary Elms run workshops in the south west (0297 625061)

(Photograph omitted)

Arts & Entertainment
TV

Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
music

Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
ComedyCollier was once told there were "too many women" on bill
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
music

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit