Tag Archives: Partner Dance

Dance as Language

I was delighted to find that the folks at the Rough Translation podcast produced an episode called May We Have This Dance?  For those who haven’t heard of it, Rough Translation describes itself as “a podcast about cultural mistranslation and what we can learn from them.”

In this episode, they explore the Lindy Hop and its odd evolution from a dance created by African Americans in 1920s Harlem to its revival when it was adopted by the Scandinavians (and others) in the 1990s.  Not being from either culture, I don’t feel equipped to talk about the core of the cultural issues addressed in the podcast and accompanying article.  But I would recommend both Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop and Stompin’ at the Savoy if the podcast piques your interest in the origins of the whole swing family of dances.  In addition, I haven’t read Swingin’ the Savoy yet but it is definitely going into my queue.

I will say that I particularly liked the discussion at about 30 minutes into the podcast about when LaTasha and Felix clicked as dance partners and dance became like a conversation.  I feel like the best of my social partner dancing has felt like speaking a language that’s more expressive than English.

Definitely check out the reference material they have at the end – if you haven’t seen the Lindy Hop sequence from Hellzapoppin, you’re in for a real treat and the clip of LaTasha and Felix was lots of fun as well.

Finally – they provided a list of LaTasha’s favorite music to dance to which I added to the music4dance catalog and then exported as a Spotify playlist.

As always, I’m happy for feedback and if you enjoy the site or the blog, please consider contributing in whatever way that makes sense for you.

Holiday Music for Partner Dancing 2021

It’s the time of year again to talk about Holiday Music.

This year, I haven’t done any new work on the Holiday Music page other than keeping it up to date with the rest of the site.  But I have continued to add songs.  As of this writing, there are 667 songs in the holiday catalog, up from 517 songs last year. And, yes, there were 666 songs before I started writing this post – it seemed inappropriate to have that number of the holiday catalog so I dug up one more song to get to 667.

Check out the current Holiday Music Catalog here.

If you are interested in helping build the catalog further, here are some things you could do:

  • Browse our music catalog and tag songs as Holiday when you find them.
  • If you have a list of holiday songs categorized by dance style that you are willing to share, please send me an email at info@music4dance.net or contact me through the feedback form.
  • In addition, general contributions will help the holiday music catalog and other efforts.

As always if you have comments or suggestions please feel free to reply to this post or contact me here. Please consider helping with the music4dance project either by helping with the Holiday Music catalog as mentioned above or any of the other ways listed on the “Contribute” page.

Dance in Science Fiction and Fantasy

The music4dance project is an expression of the overlap of three of my lifelong interests – music, partner dancing, and programming. Reading Science Fiction and Fantasy is another life-long pass time that precedes both my entry into computer science and my introduction to ballroom dance. So I thought I’d share a few works of fiction that I’ve enjoyed over the years that have substantial dance components.

Stardance by Spider and Jeanne Robinson is an example of science fiction at its best. The authors take an idea, in this case, “what would it be like to dance in space,” and explore it in a way that makes you see implications that make you do a double-take. At the same time, they build believable and relatable characters that carry you through the story and leave you wanting more. The novella is an excellent read by itself. Still, if you’re an SF/Dancer hybrid like myself, I’d definitely recommend the full Stardance Trilogy that goes deeper into the realm of Science Fiction to explore some concepts around first contact. I read this trilogy in my mid-twenties as I was learning to dance. While the dance portrayed was obviously very different than the dance that I was learning, even absent the outer space element, the way of thinking about dance was enlightening and helped shape my appreciation of dance, both as a performer and an audience member.

The first several books in Seanan Mcguire‘s InCryptid series feature a Professional Ballroom Dancer who happens to be a “crypto-zoologist” who studies and protects fantastic creatures that live unseen among us in the modern world. This series is straight-up fun urban fantasy, and I got a real kick out of Verity Price and her struggles to balance the different aspects of her life.

Confessions of a Ballroom Diva by Irene Radford is another straight-up fun Urban Fantasy. In this case, one of the two main characters is a celebrity on a television show called “Dancing from the Heart,” who is a psychic vampire. The other main character is a judge on the show who also happens to be a member of a guild of vampire and demon hunters. If you’re a “Dancing from the Heart” (I mean, “Dancing With the Stars”) fan, you can just read this as “Len Goodman, Vampire Slayer.”

I stumbled across Ballroom Diva while looking for another early read that I can no longer find. As I was learning to ballroom dance, a friend recommended a book that featured a vampire ballroom dance teacher. As I recall, the book was basically an extended metaphor for some of the worst aspects of what a ballroom teacher and a ballroom studio can be. I can’t remember the title or the author, so please point me in the right direction if anyone recalls that book from this very vague synopsis.

If you have books that you’ve enjoyed that feature dance in any kind of fiction (don’t limit yourself to Science Fiction and Fantasy), please comment on this post. 

As always, any kind of feedback is welcome both on the site and the blog. If you’ve enjoyed this little romp through dance in fiction, please consider supporting the music4dance project. If you purchase any books from these recommendations, please do so through the links provided, as that helps fund the site.

P.S. The books in this post and other books about dance can always be found on the reading list page of the music4dance site.

Ask music4dance: Why don’t you have info about musical genres like you do about dance styles?

One of the main reasons that I love working on the music4dance project is that I get to hear from dancers and musicians that find the site useful. 

Here is a question that a user recently asked:

I searched on your webpage, I could not find info about genre Pop. Can you show me info about genre Pop, please? Will you update/make info about genre Pop like the genre Bolero (https://www.music4dance.net/dances/bolero)

Which is perfectly fair.  I have certainly biased towards more information about dance than about music, and have kept the music details to those that specifically apply to partner dancing.  The way the site is set up, I have a primary “index” of the various partner dances.  Then I think about refining that search on things like musical genre or tempo.

That said, it is still possible to start from musical genre and go from there.  The full list of genres that are available on music4dance can been seen on the tags page.  The genres are the green tags.  And now that I look at it from this perspective, it would be nice to be able to filter on just genre tags – I’ll see if I can get that feature implemented soon.  You can click on the Pop tag on that page and see a list of all of the pop songs in the music4dance catalog.

What I don’t give you in this context is a description of the “Pop” genre the way I do with a dance style.  While I think that’s an interesting idea, I feel like it’s been covered elsewhere in more detail than I would be able to manage.  For instance, there is a site called rateyourmusic.com that does something pretty close to what I’m doing, but specifically for musical genres rather than dance styles.  Check out their Pop page.  And of course wikipedia is always a great source for information like this.

I’m always happy to answer questions and would like to get enough questions to make this a regular part of the blog.  So please feel free to submit questions via our feedback form or by emailing directly to info@music4dance.net.

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.