Sharing The Joy Of Dancing

MOVING TO THE MUSIC . . . IT'S CALLED "DANCING"


Webster's definition of dance is: "A series of rhythmic and patterned body movements usually performed to music".

Strangely enough, from my experience, it seems that male students (leaders) who are musicians, have the hardest time learning to move to the music. Most men turn off the music until they get the physical movement of the pattern into automatic muscle memory, then their minds are free to associate the movement to the music. I believe that musicians try to learn the physical pattern and apply the music at the same time which is a much more difficult task.

The body movement most used in Ballroom Dancing to synchronize the music is the "step". The "step" can be executed in many different ways. Ballroom defines a "step" as: "one change of weight". A "step" in Smooth or Standard dancing is not the same as a "step" in Rhythm or Latin dancing. I call Rhythm dancing Latin because most non-dancers and social dancers aren't familiar with the term Rhythm dancing.

When a left forward "step" is taken in Smooth dancing, the step is complete when the right foot closes to the left foot under the body. When a left forward "step" is taken in Latin dancing, the step is complete when the body weight has transferred to the left foot but the right foot is left behind the body.

A "step" is not as simple as it might seem. With a slow forward "step" in Foxtrot the body weight moves smoothly and evenly for the duration of 2 beats. This gives Foxtrot a very smooth continuous movement. With a slow forward step in Tango the body weight moves completely to the left foot during the 1st beat and the trailing right foot closes during the 2nd beat. This gives Tango the classic staccato movement (the dance of stops). This is just one example of how the character of different dances results in the "steps" being executed very differently.

Let's analyze a 3 "step" pattern in 4/4 time (Slow, Quick, Quick). For simplicity, the music is 30 MPM (measures per minute), 2 seconds per measure, 1/2 second per beat (Figure 1).

When the pattern is danced, the slow "step" starts at the beginning of the 1st beat and ends at the beginning of the 3rd beat while at the same time the 2nd "step" (1st Quick) starts. The 2nd "step" ends at the beginning of the 4th beat while at the same time the 3rd "step" (2nd Quick) starts. The 3rd "step" ends at he beginning of the next 1 beat (Figure 1).

The dancers "step" movements can be compared to a musician playing a trumpet. The Slow, Quick, Quick is the same as the trumpet players "DO", "RA","ME" (Figure 1). The trumpet player depresses a valve that starts the "DO" note. The air passing through the trumpet continues the "DO" note. The 1st valve is released as the 2nd valve is depressed. This action ends the "DO" note and starts the "RA" note. The air now passing through the trumpet in a different direction continues the "RA" note. The 2nd valve is released as the 3rd valve is depressed. This action ends the "RA" note and starts the "ME" note. The air now passing through the trumpet in yet a different direction continues the "ME" notes. The "ME" note ends as the 3rd valve is released and the next valve is depressed. Each different note (DO, RA, ME), represents a dance "step", Slow, Quick, Quick (Figure 1).

This is a very simplistic view of "steps" because there are a lot of other elements involved like rise/fall, sway, outside partner, CBM (contra body movement), Latin motion and many more. My hope is that this article will give you a little perspective regarding movement and music.

Figure 1

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