Skippy Blair's DANCE BLOG

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Monday, October 25, 2004


It has recently come to my attention that we are in another one of those "Terminology" dillemas. Several DJ's have communicated their ideas about what they refer to as R&B music. (Rhythm & Blues) The results are enough to show that the term "R&B" itself is no longer a valid one. The MUSIC industry has specific words that mean something ONLY in the music industry. That is true of most specialized fields.

Simple things like DOWNBEATS and UPBEATS change meanings when you are talking to a classical musician - or one who plays professionally on stage for dancers: (Broadway or Hollywood) SOME Classical musicians say that the Downbeats are on the beat - and the Upbeats are the "&" counts. Wouldn't that be a mess for dancers? Pit Musicians (ShowOur Downbeats are: 1-3-5- and 7. Our Upbeats are: 2-4-6 and 8. All of our Dance Rhythms are confined to one "2-Beat" Rhythm, unless it is a Waltz.

No sense in going further with that. We already know that we can't go into a Music Store and ask for SWING music. We know that there are no schools that teach music - that separate music into styles of Swing - or even Latin. We can all remember when the CONGA song came out. Some of us expected to hear a Conga. It was a SAMBA!

Back to the subject at hand: Instead of trying to categorize what R&B IS - How about eliminating that category and going with the diferent STYLES of Swing Music? - Blues - Ballads (ones that Swing) - Beach Music (Great for Shag and West Coast) - etc. There should be one common criteria - DOES IT SWING? Dancers should be informed when the music is a HUSTLE - Cha-Cha - Rumba - HIP HOP - etc.

I travel all over the country doing Intensives. I study the general dancing. I'm not talking about the top dancers, They can make anything look good. (But even they sometimes have difficulty when the music is bad.) IN GENERAL - the level of dance across the country, is going down - not up. Winners of contests are frequently very fancy, very busy, and off-ftime. AGAIN, I am not talking about the dancers that we consider in the top 15 in the country. Dancers who are born with a sense of rhythm will always do well because they have a FEELING for the music. I used to brag that ANYONE could learn how to feel the music - and how to REALLY be ON TIME. However, in order to DO that - they have to dance to music that encourages the body to "Swing" - not to JUMP - not to CHECK and run. I think some people have no idea how much music influences their dance. Every dancer SHOULD be aware of that. Everyone has at sometime or other been driven to ask: WHERE did they get that music? It is not just finding music that pleases you. Music pleases us when we are dancing to music that makes us FEEL like dancing.

This was going to be short and sweet. I really CARE about the dance. I really care about WEST COAST SWING. I actually hurt when I see West Coast Swing looking like a cross between Swing and Hustle. Swustle doesn't cut it. I also hate it when Hustle looks like muddled Swing. The sheer JOY of the dance comes from connecting to specific music - iin a fashion that makes you feel like YOU are somehow responsible for the magic of the sound of that music. I have been there. I have experienced the tingle in the spine. I want EVERYONE to feel that thrill. It;s ELECTRIC!