Tag Archives: Partner Dance

Feel the Beat

If you want to be able to enjoy partner dancing and look good while doing it, you have to be able to dance to the music.  A lot of what I’ve been working on with the music4dance project is solving the problem of finding music that works for particular styles of dance.  But for many beginning dancers, the first questions is more fundamental – you need to be able to hear the rhythm in the music so that you can match your dance steps to it.

There are probably as many ways to do that as there are dancers.  But as far as I can tell there are two major schools.  Those dancers that have a musical background and those that don’t.  I’m definitely in the second category, but the first category is critical.  You don’t have to know how to play music or have in-depth knowledge of music theory to be able to dance.

So for those of you who don’t have a musical background and are working on dancing to the music, I would highly recommend James Joseph’s Every Man’s Survival Guide to Ballroom Dancing: Ace Your Wedding Dance and Keep Cool on a Cruise, at a Formal, and in Dance Classes.  The entire first section is devoted to “feeling the beat.” He does a great job of building up a system for learning how to find the beat and phrase.  He also spends some time on talking about the breadth of systems that dance teachers use to do a verbal count which is really useful because this can confuse the heck out of a new learner whether they have a musical background or not.  Joseph also talks a lot about hearing the eights – which I found apropos of one of my recent posts.

The biggest downside to the system that he’s teaching is that it really glosses over the idea of swing rhythm, which is particularly ironic since it’s based on Skippy Blair’s system and has its roots in the swing dance world.  To be fair, though, I suspect this gets down to the idea of feeling the music vs. being able to put it down in musical notation – the early swing musicians just started adding a swing accent to their music, they didn’t figure out how it fit into a classical notation system until later.

I’m continuing to search for either a website or a book that does a good job of showing the musical notation and instrumentation for a wide variety various kinds of partner dances.  I’ve found a few sites  that will go into a single dance and a pretty stale site with many broken links that does a better overview.  But nothing comprehensive in sight yet.  Please share if you have good resources on this subject, I’d love to get a good reference section going here.

Top Songs of 2015 — And what to dance to them.

What better than a top 100 list to end the year?  Since music4dance is about the intersection of music and dance, I’ve taken the Spotify top 100 songs of 2015 (for the USA) and cross referenced it with the music4dance catalog.

About of a third of the songs were already in the music4dance catalog and had been matched to dance styles.  Most of the others were songs that I could imagine partner dancing to, although some were a stretch.   I made a lot of use of the “Unconventional” tag to try to show that many of these songs don’t exhibit all of the traditional attributes of the music that these dances grew up with.  But that’s part of the fun of this project, and dancing in general – testing the limits of how music and dance fit together.

And of course, not all music is particularly suited to dancing of any kind.  So my version of Spotify’s top 100 list ended up being only 87 songs because those were the songs that I could match any kind of partner dance, even stretching the traditional definitions.

Here’s a link to that list.  You can build this link yourself (and try some variations) by going to the Advanced Search Form, clicking on the brown pencil (other) tag button in the “include tags” row of the form.  Then choose tags to include – in this case I chose “2015” and “Top 100“.  Clicking the search button will show the first page of the top 100 (errrr 87) songs and what dances I and others have matched with those songs.  Check out the documentation for more details.

One fun variation on this search is to add the tag DWTS (for Dancing With The Stars) to this search.  You end up with 21 songs that were both used in the last couple of seasons of DWTS and are on the Spotify Top 100 list for 2015.  Another fun thing to do is to add your favorite style of dance to the search,  if I added West Coast Swing to the Top 100 list, I’d end up with these 25 songs. (at least today – if other’s vote up songs as West Coast Swing, that number may change),

Do you disagree with my choice of dances for any of these songs?  I would love to see what you have to say.  Please feel free to comment on this post, or sign up or sign in to start tagging and voting on songs yourself.

Next year I expect that we’ll have enough activity to generate a top 100 list directly from the songs that you’ve chosen.