Dancemax Letter #10, Thursday, August 3, 2000
Music for Dancing
We defined Tempo and different Time Signatures in letter #9. Our goal is to satisfy the majority of dancers coming to the party. Besides good acoustics, clarity, composition etc. it is the TEMPO that decides the goodness or badness of music for dancing. In America, we have many different Styles and endless variety of dances. However remember, we are going to a Ballroom event, where we expect to dance to Ballroom and Latin Music with some popular dances added such as Hustle, West Coast, Mambo/Salsa etc but mainly we have to concentrate on Ballroom and Latin. Let us pick the Latin category first.
RUMBA: 4/4 time. The American Rumba Music tends to be fast. A tempo of 29 to 31 bars per minute (mpm) is not uncommon. The Cuban or the International variety is getting slower. It used to be 27 bars but now 25 or even slower is very common. Leaving aside all idiosyncrasies why don't we compromise and play a good rumba at 27. Everybody will be happy, Guaranteed.
One thing good about a slow or slower rumba is that American style dancers can do Bolero, which is just as enjoyable and beautiful.
Accents: The musical accent tends to be on 4th beat but the Hip motion is most pronounced on 1. International dancers break on 2 and dance 2 3 41 as Basic. (Slow step in international is 41). American timing SQQ or QQS, (slow being 1 2) and so on. One teacher told me that Arthur Murray and Freddie Astaire timings are different but I couldn't understand what that meant.
CHA CHA CHA: 4/4 Time. American Style slower, International Faster? Not really, I think Any Cha Cha at 32 mpm is great, give or take one measure. But please don't play it slow at 27 or fast at 35. Don't be kidding I have experienced it both ways and it doesn't feel good.
Accents: Good News! The American and International variety are the same (thanks God) and no matter what, a Cha Cha is a Cha Cha, with accent on 1.
SAMBA: 2/4 Time. If there is one dance that has undergone drastic change in Tempo, it is the Samba. It used to be played quite fast. As Walter Laird explained the correct Bounce Action, the music slowed down so that good technique could be shown. The American Samba is still quite fast around 54 bars but the International Style is more suited for slower tempo. Let's compromise and call it 50 bars. You play Samba at that tempo, plus minus one, everybody will be happy, Guaranteed.
Accents: The music is "syncopal" with accent on 2
JIVE: 4/4 Time. Let's all be flexible here. We can slow down the Jive to 40 bars and speed up the swing to the same level. I think, most people can be happy with that, but then we can play some real Jive music at 42-44 bars and some Swings at 32 to 36. I heard Hazel Fletcher say "Let's not mess with Jive, Let's keep Jive as Jive and Swing as Swing, they are both great dances but different in their own perspective." How about West Coast at 28? Why not? Everybody will be happy. Guaranteed.
Accents: Jive and Swing music accent is on 2 and 4, but remember that 1 a 2 thing in Jive and 1 & 2 in Swing.
PASO DOBLE: 2/4 Time. Anybody for this dance? Let's play at least 1 Paso. Any CD with a Paso label on it should be OK at 60 bars. No guarantees.
Accents: 1st beat is accented. .
When I say Guaranteed, I mean it. This data has been checked for safety and performance at the proving grounds and has been found to be 99% correct.
TRIVIA QUESTION: Who is RUUD VERMEY? Several years ago, I was watching a Blackpool tape. Sammy Stopford and Barbara McColl were giving the lecture. Sammy introduced Ruud Vermey as a very knowledgeable and influential man. He came to the floor and joined in but I could never tell where he was in the crowd. Then, one evening in Windsor, Canada, I saw a book on one of the stalls, titled "Latin". I was excited to see that the author was RUUD VERMEY. I scanned the pages and did not see any words like Fan, Hockeystick, Whisk, New York or Change of Places etc. I was a little puzzled. I expected to learn some new patterns. I bought the book anyway. It was only after a few weeks that the magic of the book took over me. Then I saw the real title on hard cover and it said: LATIN, "Thinking, Sensing and Doing in Latin American Dancing" and that is what this book is all about. Mr. Vermey somehow gets inside your body and opens a whole new world and you begin to sense the Latin. I can read it again and again and I feel that I have enriched my senses and my movements become more enjoyable. It is like reading a holy book, it doesn't really tell you exactly what to do but it makes you a holistic person and awakens the goodness in you (if you are receptive). I strongly recommend that anyone who really wants to develop the "sense" of Latin must have this book for repeated reading at every stage of their dancing . Yon can e-mail him and order the book at Ruud.Vermeij@chello.nl He is from Holland, the real Holland not Holland, Michigan.
Next trivia, who is Jonathan Wilkins. So much for now, see you later alligator, Max
Questions and comments to Dancemax@aol.com, thank you.