Tag Archives: Salsa

Book Review: Partner Dance Success

Partner Dance Success by Don Baarns is a great collection of practical advice for anyone new to partner dancing.  The author is a professional drummer turned social dancer who brings experience from building skill as a musician to the dance floor.  The subtitle “What I Wish I Knew When I Started Dancing” is very on point.    While I come from a Ballroom background rather than social dancing background, I wish I had heard this advice early on.

The book is a series of independent chapters with good advice on many aspects of partner dancing.  It appears to be a cleaned up “best of” plus some extras from the author’s blog.  Unfortunately, it appears that the blog is no longer available.

His chapters on how to learn to dance are as relevant to American style Foxtrot as they are to social Salsa.  And while the club scene is significantly different than the social/practice dances at the Ballroom studios that I learned in, most of the snippets about etiquette and optimizing your dance experience work in both contexts.

Some of my favorite chapters are the ones where he emphasizes listening to songs many times and to listen deeply to the music off the dance floors as a form of practice.  I also particularly liked the chapter about protecting your partner.

I am particularly interested in a drummer turned dancer’s perspective on the relationship between music and partner dancing.  While his blog seems to no longer be available, his YouTube channel is still up and running as of the time of this writing – Music4Dancers – YouTube.  I’ve listened to a number of episodes and while there is less actual music than I would prefer, I will likely go through the rest soon and post if I find any special gems.

As a quick reminder: If you buy this book by clicking through a link on this site, it helps support music4dance.  Also, if you are feeling particularly generous, clicking through any Amazon link on this site before doing even unrelated shopping help a little.

And as always I love to hear from you – so please send me feedback about the site or with questions about this post.

P.S. As I was putting the finishing touches on this post, I realized that there is a Second Volume to this series, so I’ll give that a read.  If there is anything to say beyond “more good stuff” I’ll post again.

Mobile First improvements to the music4dance website

Most of the time that I use music4dance it’s on desktop computer, but I certainly want access to all of what it can do on my phone and tablet.  And I have tried to take what user interface designers call a “Mobile First” approach whenever possible.

But I noticed a while back that there are a few things that just weren’t working as well on smaller devices as I would like.  Several of them were on the core song list pages, which is particularly important.

So I finally took a couple of days off from other things and reworked these issues.

The Play Menu

The play menu (which is documented here) is now a modal which allows for bigger buttons and the ability to control the sample being played.

Play Menu
Play Menu (on the old site)

Play and Purchase
Play and Purchase Controls (new and improved)

Dance and Tag Menus

I’ve also converted the dance and tag menus (documented here) to modals.  This let me make the buttons bigger as well as adding some styling that I hope will let you navigate through options more easily.  The large chunks of text in the old interface were hard to distinguish even for the person that wrote them.

Dance Menu
Dance Menu (on the old site)

Play Menu
Dance Information (new and improved)

Tag Menu
Tag Menu (on the old site)

Tag Information
Tag Information (new and improved)

Let me know what you think.  Do you prefer the before or after?  Are there other aspects of the site that you find difficult to use on a small device?  Let me know by responding to this post or sending feedback.

Question 2: What dance styles can I dance to my favorite song(s)?

Again, I rephrased the question from my original post.

One of the things that amazes me about the best dance teachers I know is that they seem to do this matching instinctively.  They hear the first bar or two of a song and immediately know which dance(s) to dance.  I imagine “instinct” in this case is some combination of natural talent, many hours of practice and the amount of time that they spend listening to music and thinking about how it fits with dance.

After dancing for 20 years, I have something of this sense myself, but being a techie first and a dancer second I feel compelled to break it down a bit more.

There are two sub-questions here; let’s call them 2a and 2b.

Question 2a: “Does the style of music match the style of dance?” This is very much about the general feel of the music – so salsa music sounds like music that you would want to salsa to and swing music sounds like music that you would want to swing to.  But it’s also about the rhythm.  The most straightforward example of this is Waltz, where the three-count rhythm is very distinctive.  Conveniently, every partner dance that you can dance to three-count rhythm has waltz in its name.  There are more subtle variations on this concept: Cha Cha music has a distinct “4 and 1 (or cha cha cha)” emphasis that makes it feel like a cha cha, mambo music sounds a lot like salsa, but with emphasis on the second beat, and there is something called “Swing Rhythm” that distinguishes swing music from other kinds of music. And the list goes on.  I don’t have a great idea for a tool to help with this, but I’m considering writing a more in-depth series on how this relationship works.  So if you’re interested please let me know and I’ll move that up my to-do list.

Question 2b: “Does the tempo (speed) of the music work for the dance?”   Swing is a great example since there are a whole bunch of different dances that can be danced to music that is in the swing style, but they are each danced at  a different tempo.  For example, West Coast Swing is best danced between 28 and 32 measures per minute (MPM), East Coast Swing between 34 and 36 MPM and Jive between 38 and 44 MPM.  I’m building a web application  that at least partially solves this problem.

With this app. you can count out a few measures by clicking the count button on the first beat of each measure and it will not only show you what the tempo is, but also suggest a number of dances that will “work” for this tempo.  Pretty slick, no?  What would you add to this to make it more useful?