Dancemax Letter #11 Thursday, August 10, 2000
Music for Dancing
We defined Tempo and different Time Signatures in the letter #9 and #10. 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. Let us pick the Ballroom category today.
FOXTROT: Well! there is a Foxtrot and then, there is a Slow Foxtrot. The SSQQ or SQQ rhythm of American Style Foxtrot is a perfect way to dance merrily around the floor. Fine, that's a perfect way to enjoy, but some would say, the ecstasy of foxtrot lies is in the English style or you might call it the International Foxtrot.
The American Style foxtrot is faster, say 32 bars (mpm) or even more. On the other hand English (or International) version needs to be played slower. Why? Because this style demands Swing and emphasizes the Rise and Fall with long gliding steps This requires slower music. The Champions will practice at 28 bars or slower. Let's compromise and play this dance at 29 to 30 bars per minute. Everybody will be happy irrespective what style they dance, Guaranteed.
Accents: The foxtrot music is 4/4 time with accent on 1 and 3, (more on 1), Yes I know, everybody knows that. My question is that can you tell 1 from 5 and 3 from 7 in a phrase of 1 to 8. When I listen to it with my teacher, she can convince me that you can tell which is 1 and which is 5, but when I get home and play the music again it seems like that it doesn't matter whether you count 1234 or 1 to 8 or 5678 before you start the dance. Does it make any difference? Well it might, if it is Jonathan Wilkins or John Wood. They have a much higher level of musical interpretation to express their dancing. I will just be happy to do some basic but with the right tempo.
WALTZ: American version is a little faster, English slower. Let's compromise and play Waltz at 29 to 30 bars. Everybody will be happy. Guaranteed.
Accents: 3/4 Time. The musical accent is on 1 (I think), but dance should emphasize the 2. Count waltz as 1 Twooo 3, create some rise and fall, swing and sway a little and there you have it.
TANGO: 2/4 Time, counted as 1&, 2& etc. American Style slower but English Tango definitely has to be a little faster with more "punch". Let's play Tango at 31 to 33 bars. I guarantee everybody will be happy. From my previous letter, nobody told me the timing of Tango 2/4 or 4/4? They say it is 2/4 but it feels 4/4 to me. I think there is accent on 1; I will try to listen to music again.
QUICKSTEP: No problem. Play any CD with quickstep label and it should turn out to be a decent tempo around 50 bars.
Accents: 4/4 Time with accent on 1 (more) and 3 (less) as in Fox. You have to swing, go up and down at the right time. This applies to all other swing dances too.
VIENNESE WALTZ: American style may be a little slower at 56, International a little faster at 60. Play anything in between, should be OK.
Accents as in Waltz.
How do we get such Tempo Music? The Ballroom and Latin Music is a specialty of its own. You don't get it from you local music store. There are many vendors all over the country and there is immense variety of dance music available today at a very decent price. In Michigan, talk to Rick and Vicki Popp. They sell all kinds of Dance Music. I am a member of their CD of the Month Club and I have collected tons of Tempo Music. Tel: 800 513 2623
TRIVIA QUESTION: Who is JONATHAN WILKINS? First of all the name reminds me of Jonathan Winters, but we are talking about Jonathan Wilkins the Champion Ballroom Dancer from New York. I remember hearing his name at Ohio Star Ball year after year with Wendi Davies, but now we are talking about Jonathan Wilkins and Katusha Demidova. This couple is doing wonders and if you keep track of Blackpool, they were the semifinalist in Ballroom, Open British Championships which is the most competititive and highly recognized event in the World. Their achievements are too numerous to mention besides of course they are the US Standard Champions etc. I have their Resume. We would be fortunate if they could ever come to our area for Coaching and Demonstration. Anyone interested in looking at their resume can request it from me or Jonathan himself at, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bye Bye, Sincerely, Max
Questions and comments to Dancemax@aol.com, thank you.