Tag Archives: Foxtrot

What are your favorite Prince songs for partner dancing?

I, like many, am mourning and listening to Prince‘s music. Over and over again.

Since I’ve been thinking a lot about music and partner dancing recently, this lead me to think about what I would dance to each song.  Especially when Leader of the Band popped up in my playlist and screamed Cha-Cha at me.  Of course a lot of his seminal work has more of a blues feel that I would associate with West Coast Swing (or possibly even more directly blues dancing).  But there are certainly some things in his catalog that one might Quickstep to (Let’s Go Crazy) or dance a Slow Foxtrot (Strollin‘) to.

Here’s a link to the list of Price songs currently in the music4dance catalog.  If you’ve got other favorites (along with what you would dance to them) let me know by responding to this post or sending feedback and I’d be happy to add them.  Or sign in and vote on what style you would dance to the songs already in the catalog.

The Prince Feature

One of the things that I noticed as I was looking for Prince music in the music4dance catalog was that I hadn’t implemented an artist page of any kind.  You could search for Prince but you would both get everything I had catalog by Prince and everything by Prince Royce songs with Prince in the title.  So I did a quick fix – if you click an artist’s name you’ll be taken to a page with a list of the first 100 songs I’ve catalog by that artist.  Since I’m only tracking artist by the full name this has a couple of implications, one of which is that Leader of the Band won’t show up under Prince since the artist is actually “Sheila E. featuring Prince and The E Family.”

You can, of course, still search for Prince and manually go through the songs to find the ones that actually involve Prince, but that’s obviously not the perfect solution.  How much does this matter to you?  Is it important to have a more specific idea of artist when you’re sorting through songs to dance to?

As always, please send me feedback or just respond to this post with any issues or ideas.

What if I just want to search for songs on music4dance like I do on Google?

One of the things that I’ve had a lot of fun with is building a sophisticated search engine where I (and you) can do things like find songs that someone has tagged as Waltz and someone else has tagged as Foxtrot.  Or find all swing songs that are in a particular tempo range.  There are lots of neat things that you can do with the Advanced Search system if you’ve got some knowledge of dance and music and want to dig deep into these corners of the music4dance catalog.

But what if you just want to search through the catalog the same way you would on Google or Bing?   For instance, what if you’re looking for a song that has been tagged as Wedding and has the words “Love” and “Time” in it?  With simple search you can just type Wedding Love Time into the search box and you’ll get some useful results.  You can further refine the search by using some of the standard search modifiers like + and – and putting quotes (“) around phrases to be more precise about your searches (for instance try “First Dance” +Foxtrot +Rock).  But if you’re the type that doesn’t bother with that on Google you should be fine not worrying about it here as well.

More information is available on the help page but you should be able to go to Simple Search from the “Music” menu on the music4dance home page and dive right in.

This is a BETA feature because I haven’t fully integrated this search with the basic and advanced search features, so let me know what you’re missing the most in this simple search method and I’ll get those pulled back in first.  As always, please send me feedback or just respond to this post with any issues or ideas.

EchoNest Integration – Loads of new tempo, meter and other information to help you find music to dance to

I’ve cross indexed the music4dance catalog  with the EchoNest database and exposed some new features.

The most fundamental improvement is that EchoNest provides tempo and simple meter information.  So I’ve been able to add tempo information to a number of songs that I didn’t have cataloged that way before.  And I’ve also added the time signature tags to these songs.

But more importantly, EchoNest does some interesting analysis of the music to come up with some acoustic attributes to describe a song musically.  They are:

  • beat-10 Beat: An attempt to characterize the strength and consistency of the beat.
  • energyt-10 Energy: The intensity and power of the music – this is probably the most intuitive of the attributes.
  • mood-10 Mood: A measure of the mood from positive or happy down to sad or angry.

I am representing each of these attributes as a graphical column headed with an appropriate icon (drum for beat, flame for energy and smile for mood).  Each column is sortable both from high to low and low to high and when I have data for a song, the icon in that song’s row is ‘filled’ to a proportional amount.  EchoNest provides a number from 0 .0 to 1 .0 and I translate that into icons that are 0 to 100% filled (in 10 bands).

More information on this integration can be found on the help page.  Or just head over to the music library and start experimenting.

For instance, here is a snapshot of a list of songs that are tagged as “First Dance,” can be danced to some form of Foxtrot and contain the word “Love“.  They are sorted by “Beat” from strongest to weakest.  If you’re looking for a song to dance your first dance to and aren’t an experienced dancer, you probably want a strong beat.

EchoNest

What do you think?  Are there other acoustic attributes that I should include?  Would you like to be able to sort on multiple attributes on the same time or filter on one attribute and sort on another?  These are all entirely possibly, but I need your help to prioritize these features.  Please feel free to reply to this post or leave feedback with any thoughts you have on this set of features.

Are there songs that you never want to dance to again?

I know for me there are a few songs that I spent way too much time listening to while learning choreography or cutting medleys.  I never want to hear them again, much less dance to them. And as much as I love music, there are some songs that I just don’t like right off the bat.  So I don’t want either of these showing up time after time because other people find them to be particularly good Rumba or Foxtrot music.

Up to now that’s been a bit of a problem with the music4dance site since there wasn’t a way to explicitly like or not like a song, Everything was based on collective voting to match a song with a dance.  But today I’ve added a feature where you can like and dislike a song.  Then by default when you’re signed into the site, you won’t see those songs in your searches.

While I was at it, I added a few additional ways to filter searches based on how you’ve tagged and liked songs.  Check them out on the Advanced Search page (remember you have to be signed into your account and have tagged or liked some songs for this to be useful).

And while you’re thinking about this, I have a question.  What is a reasonable opposite of ‘like’ in this case?  I’ve been using ‘not like’, but hate seems like it might be more accurate.  Unlike and dislike were other options.  But none of these seem quite right.  If you’ve got any ideas, please comment on this post and let me know.

I am learning the Foxtrot, where can I find some music?

The quick answer is to just click this link where you will find a list of over a thousand songs that have been labeled as Foxtrot.

But that’s definitely not the full answer.  In that list you will find songs that are too fast or too slow for you to dance to because the Foxtrot is not just one dance style but a family of dances each of which can be danced to a different range of tempos.

When I first started dancing  my teachers were from a background that was influenced by American Smooth style of Ballroom dance.  So there was a very specific dance that I first learned as “The Foxtrot”.   This is what is more precisely known as American Style Foxtrot and the was danced in the range of 30 measures per minute plus or minus a bit depending on competition rules.

In order to answer the more precise question of what kind of music will work for the dance that you are learning, it helps to get a bit of a historical perspective.  The Foxtrot follows a pretty common pattern in how partner dances evolve.  A style is first danced socially and pulls in moves from multiple traditions.  Often something resembling the social dance is performed on stage by exhibition dancers as well.  As the style becomes established, teachers take it and formalize it and possibly simplify it for their students. Then social dancers start pulling in things from different traditions and the dance evolves.  Sometimes it gets renamed, and sometimes the dance with the same name is just danced differently depending on where and when a dancer learned the style.   And never forget the influence of the music that is evolving alongside the dances, perhaps speeding up or slowing down or changing in character in a way that influences how dancers dance to it.

In the case of the Foxtrot, two of the early influences were Peabody and the Tango.  The Peabody was a very fast “one step” dance, and the Tango was imported from Argentina via Paris.  Harry Fox is the exhibition dancer who lent the Foxtrot his name.  Vernon and Irene Castle are the teachers who first formalized the Foxtrot as well as using it in their performances.

Arthur Murray standardized the particular version of the Foxtrot that I learned.  He also revived the Peabody as a competition dance to occupy the fast end of the Foxtrot style dances, as he felt that it was more reasonable for students to learn than the slightly slower but more complicated Quickstep.

At some point Charleston influences crept in as a style dance-able to faster music developed, called appropriately, the Quickstep.

To round out this family of dance styles I’ve adopted the name Castle Foxtrot to represent the slowest variations.   Much of the music that I’ve cataloged as Castle Foxtrot has been labeled by others as Slow Dance, especially when it relates to Wedding Dances.  Many of the moves that are used in Foxtrot can be slowed down and made to stay in place  (or on spot) to create something that is much more elegant than the side to side swaying that I first “learned” as a slow dance.

Here is a snapshot of the Foxtrot filter of the music4dance Tempi Tool, as a jumping off point to help you find music in an appropriate tempo for your style of Foxtrot.  Just click on any of the tempo ranges to get Foxtrot music in that range.

Name Meter MPM BPM Type Style(s)
Castle Foxtrot 4/4 15-25 60-100 Foxtrot Social
Slow Foxtrot 4/4 28-34 112-136 Foxtrot American Smooth, International Standard
QuickStep 4/4 48-52 192-208 Foxtrot International Standard
Peabody 4/4 60-62 240-248 Foxtrot American Smooth

With the full tool on the music4dance site you can dig further into the relationship between dances and tempos.

Foxtrot was further complicated by the fact that it co-evolved very closely with swing and was often danced to the same music, or at least music played by the same bands.   I’ll take at look at what I’ve been categorizing as the Swing family of dances next.

Does this categorization help you at all in how you think about dancing and how it relates to music.  Is there a different way that you would slice and dice these dances?

One thing that I completely over-simplified in my description was the influence of regional traditions.  Would anyone from around the world care to shed some light on your regional influences to the Foxtrot?

Useful Links:

What if I want to build a list of songs that are tagged as either Bolero or Rumba?

There are a bunch of different reasons that you might want to build lists of songs that are more sophisticated than just the songs that can be danced to a specific style.  For instance you may be choreographing a piece that you want to switch between Cha Cha and East Coast Swing.  Or you might want to get a more comprehensive list of songs that are in the Bolero/Rumba range so you want everything that’s tagged with either of those dance styles.  Or, you’re like me and just want to see what dances people have tagged as both Waltz and Foxtrot (two apparently contradictory labels – more on that in a future post).

I’ve just added a feature that enables all of those scenarios.  The documentation is here, but let me break a couple of the scenarios down into specifics.

First, let’s say you’re looking for a song to choreograph a mixed East Coast Swing/Cha Cha routine to. Here’s what you do:

  1. Go to the song list page by clicking on Music -> Songs in the menu at the top of the music4dance.net website.
  2. Click on the “more” button near the top of the page
  3. Click on the “any” button that appears and choose “all”
  4. Click in the text box that says “Choose some dance styles…” and start typing “East Coast Swing”, after the first letter or two you should be able to choose from a list.  Do the same with Cha Cha
  5. Click on the search (magnifier) button and you should see a list of songs all of which are tagged with both East Coast Swing and Cha Cha

Next, let’s take a look at finding a mixed list of songs.  For example, if we want to find all songs that are labeled as either Rumba or Bolero, here’s what you do:

  1. Go to the song list page by clicking on Music -> Songs in the menu at the top of the music4dance.net website.
  2. Click on the “more” button near the top of the page
  3. Make sure that the “any” button that next to the “Dance to” label reads “any.”  If it reads “all” then click to choose “any.”
  4. Click in the text box that says “Choose some dance styles…” and start typing “Bolero”, after the first letter or two you should be able to choose from a list.  Do the same with Rumba
  5. Click on the search (magnifier) button and you should see a list of songs all of which are tagged with both East Coast Swing and Cha Cha

I hope this is useful to you.  If there are combinations of dances that you find particularly useful, please let me know by commenting.  Similarly, if there are combinations that you can’t manage with the current implementation please comment and I’ll look at extending this capability even more.

Wedding Music Part I: Can we dance the Foxtrot to our song?

When did you first learn to dance?

For many people it was so that they could dance at their wedding.  Most especially so that they could enjoy the first dance but also perhaps for the Father/Daughter or Mother/Son dance.  If you’re just starting to learn to partner dance it can be pretty intimidating to both learn to dance and try to figure out what the possible dances are for your favorite song(s) and to dig through lists of suggested wedding songs to find the ‘right’ one for the dance style that you’re learning.

How can music4dance.net help?

Let’s assume for a moment that your special song is “Fever” by Ray Charles.  Here’s what you do:
song-menu-annotated

  1. Go to the music4dance web site (https://www.music4dance.net).
  2. Choose Music->Songs from the menu at the top of the site by first clicking on Music (A) then on Songs (B).
  3. Type “Fever” (without the quotes) into the search box (C).
  4. Click on the search button (D).
  5. The Ray Charles and Natalie Cole version of “Fever” should show up near the top of the list (E), if not try sorting by Artist by clicking on the Artist column header (F).
  6. The row already shows you some suggested dance styles in the dance column (G) including Foxtrot and Swing.  And you can see that others have tagged (H) this as a good Wedding and First Dance song.
  7. The play button (I)  will give you a list of music streaming and purchase options, which at minimum will let you listen to 30 seconds for free to make sure this is the song you were thinking of at if you’re subscribed to one of the services like Spotify or Groove, you can listen to the entire song.
  8. You can click on the title link (J) to get even more details including albums that contain this song.

fever-annotated
Hope that helps.  If you can’t find your song in our catalog, let me know what it is by commenting on this thread and I’ll see if I can add it.

Next time I’ll walk you through the other direction – starting with a dance that you know and finding music that others have identified as good First Dance songs for that style of dance.