Link blog: jazz, foxtrot, aaron-sorkin, ballroom

A Parable On Obsolete Ideologies – Less Wrong
Yvain/Scott Alexander on why it might be a bad idea to continue to espouse a belief in God, the Devil and whatnot while having a sort of private understanding of what that means, even if that understanding is more palatable than the original theology.
(tags: psychology religion rationality hitler)
The Definitive History Of The West Wing
(tags: west-wing aaron-sorkin television politics)
The Fox Trot in the Jazz Age – YouTube
What they called Foxtrot in the 1920s was rather different to the modern ballroom version.
(tags: dancing foxtrot jazz)
Jazz Age Ballroom Dancing (“The Modern Dances”) | Mass Historia
A set of web pages on the Jazz Age ballroom dances.
(tags: 1930s 1920s dance jazz foxtrot ballroom)
Take The A Train
The AABA structure of “Take the A Train” illustrated in a neat little presentation which tracks the music.
(tags: jazz music)

Music and dancing

I muck around with music a bit (I tend to sing for better keyboard players, although I did bash out tunes from Andrew Lloyd Webber for Dummies at the last singing party we had), and I also dance. I thought it’d be fun to try to get these two things together in my head, by working out how the music for ballroom dancing works. After a bit of Googling for pages written by people who know more than I do, here it is. Seeing as there are better musicians and better dancers than me reading this, they can correct me if I get it wrong.

Foxtrot

Foxtrot is in 4/4 time, between 112 and 120 beats per minute (according to these people). It’s typically danced to Big Band music. The music emphasises beats 1 and 3. I think I can see that in A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, where the accompaniment either hits more notes on the treble clef, or uses the bass line to keep that emphasis. In Bobby Darin’s version, the brass is hitting those beats in the intro.

The steps are typically 1 beat or 2 beats long, and we call them “quick” and “slow”, respectively (if I’m writing it down, I’ll abbreviate to Q and S). The basic rhythm of the dance is slow-quick-quick, which means the first two steps hit the emphasised beats. Some figures in the dance vary the rhythm, but the “slow” step, if there is one, starts either on beat 1 or beat 3. Here are the Hiltons giving us something to aspire to, with music and the slows and quicks, starting about 1:25.

<lj-cut text=”Waltz, Quickstep, Tango, over”> Waltz

Waltz is in 3/4 time, as any fule kno . The tempo for slow waltz is about 84 to 90 beats per minute. The music strongly emphasises beat 1.

The steps are typically one step per beat, one-two-three, leading off strongly on beat 1. Sometimes, to get more steps into a bar, one of the beats is split into two half beats, with the second half of the split beat being counted “and”. For example, in the whisk/chassé combination we count the chassé “one, two and three”. Once again, the Hiltons show us how it’s done, starting about 1:20.

The Viennese Waltz is a lot faster, about 180 beats per minute. It’s typically done to classical stuff from Johann Strauss, although other possibilities exist, and of course, a fast waltz gives you the opportunity to dance to silly songs. It’s danced at 1 step per beat, and the steps are mostly turns in each direction as you progress around the floor, and the fleckrl, where the couple rotate about each other rapidly in the centre of the room to show off. There are no split beats in it, it’s fast enough already. Here are some good people doing it.

Quickstep

Quickstep and foxtrot have common roots. Musically, quickstep is in 4/4 again with the emphasis on beats 1 and 3, but faster, at around 200 beats per minute. Again, it’s typically danced to fast Big Band or jazz music, usually about a drum kit that’s getting lonely waiting for its owner to come back from World War II, or some such.

The steps are timed as 2 beat slows and 1 beat quicks like in foxtrot, and the rhythm is typically slow-quick-quick. But the figures we dance in quickstep have more in common with waltz than foxtrot. It’s also more common for figures to roll over the end of the bar, so that you lead off on beat 3 sometimes (the chassé and quarter turn that everyone learns as a beginner does this: it’s phrased as SQQS SQQS). Despite it being fast, we still get split beats in quickstep, too, usually called “quick-a-quick” (there’s obviously not enough time to even say the word “and”).

Tango

La Cumparsita is the quintessential tango. We’re still in 4/4, at about 130 beats per minute. The music is staccato (although I’m not sure how well the dots over the notes have come out in the image on the right). There’s a sudden “ba-dump” into beat 1: the piano has a half beat on the bass line of the previous bar in the example on the right, which came from 8notes.com. We usually feel like there’s an 8 beat phrase over the 4 beat bars.

Ballroom tango comes from Argentina via a bit of cleaning up in Paris. Again, there are 2 beat slows and 1 beat quicks, and the odd split beat too. Typically figures are danced quick-quick-slow. It looks nothing like foxtrot or quickstep, though: the style of it matches the staccato style of the music. The dancers stalk around on the slow steps and hit the quicks as quick as they can, and then stop as still as they can, so that the quicks end up being shortened. Here are Marco Cavallaro and Joanne Clifton having some fun with it. I saw them at a ball some years ago: they were great.

Next time, I’ll try and work out what the Latin dances are about.

Danceblog

Clive put endings on stuff, so I’ve added the three alemanas to the rumba and something called the Whirligig in tango to last week’s stuff, including a link to another one of those instructive videos where the commentator is clearly a bit too into the lady.

This week <lj-cut text=”More waltz from Clive, foxtrot from Bruce”>there was more waltz from Clive and foxtrot from Bruce.

Ballroom and Latin C – Waltz

Running spin turn (end in PP facing diag centre, woman doesn’t brush, apparently)
Whiplash: through R, side L without weight turning sharply to closed position. (1, 2, wait).
Straighten right knee, drawing LF in to stand on it (1 bar)
Lower into left knee, extending right leg (1 bar)
Transfer weight to RF (fallaway), ronde LF behind right, slip RF behind right and pivot to face diag centre (1,2,3).
Double reverse wing: for man, like double reverse spin but continue to turn body to lead her to wing rather than cross. (1,2,3 for us)
Chasse to right.
Outside spin.
Turning lock.

Dancesport Modern B – Foxtrot

Feather,
Open telemark,
Curved feather, SQQ, finishing outside partner on RF, sway to right
Heel pull – back L, rotate half a turn on left heel dragging right heel with it, transferring weight to right heel at the end (QQ), sway to L, I think.
Last two steps of curved feather again (QQ), finishing OP again, sway to R.
Reverse wave (there’s a lot to this, so here’s what I think it looks like, but I’m probably wrong): back L with right shoulder back (S), she steps outside you, back R dragging heel (Q), still outside, rising, back L, top of rise. Lower and pull toe of RF past LF and step back R (S), rotating so lady in line, back L (Q), back R (Q), lower and take toe of LF past RF and step back L with right shoulder back to repeat. The woman’s doing something a bit like the man’s feather and 3 step while this is going on.

Top tips: don’t be backweighted on the reverse wave: push the feet back from the body, almost feel like you’re leaning over her.

Danceblog: always take two shirts into the lesson

<lj-cut text=”That was a 2 shirt evening”>

Paul pp Clive

B rumba

Forward L, replace, side L,
Top (behind, side, close)
Forward L leading lady to step back and open out, replace, back L leading lady to close up and rotate further into cuddle hold.
Release hold with right hand taking it over lady’s head and out in front of you, rock forward onto R, replace, side R.
Forward and across L, replace R, side L (she ends up on your left)
Forward and across R, replace L, side R (she ends up on your right)
Somehow she ends up in front of you, forward L, replace R, side L leading alamana (I think, can’t see how else the feet for the next bit work)
Rock R, L, R.
close, side, close, L, R, L
Rock R, L, R
Forward L to start again.

B waltz

Start facing diag wall of short side near corner.
Spin turn, usual reverse turn ending, back, side, close, forward, side close.
Check: back R with upper body rotating to L, recover to L, side R to face toward centre.
Weave ending: side L under body keeping as square to her as you can, back R begining turn to L, side L to face wall.
Curving walk to right, R, L, R.
Back lock 1 2 & 3
Outside spin (back R with toe slightly in, pivot L to step outside her, forward R continuing to turn to end backing diag wall).
Reverse turn (I always do a turning lock instead cos my brain is programmed to follow outside spins with it).

Cha, can’t remember which lession

cha-cha right
New York to R
New York to L
Fast New Yorks R, L,
Spot turn to R
Taking a firm hold with both hands, step diagonally outside partner with RF, forward side back turning R.
Back side forward continuing to turn,
Forward side back contuning to turn,
Back side forward (on last forward L, take small step and gather her up)
Top (RF behind) ending closed
Thing like cuban break but stepping to side with LF and closing, twice: 2&3 4&1
Side R, replace, back R, close L, forward R 2 3 4 & 1


C foxtrot

Starting diag centre on long side
Feather,
Fallaway, QQQ
Slip RF back, pivot LF to diag wall, cross RF behind LF QQQ
Continuing to turn L, step forward left, side R, side L under body (another fallaway) QQQ
RF back, LF side, RF forward (feather finish) QQQ into corner.
Forward L turning so diag to new wall with RF closed to L without weight S
Extend RF to side S
Put weight to RF and lower into knee S
Stretch up left side S
Recover and rotate left shoulder foward. S (that’s 5 slows, count ’em)
Recover on to LF, slip RF back to face new LoD QQ
Forward L, side close side backing wall S Q&Q
Weave ending: side L under body, back R, side L, forward R to corner, outside partner QQQQ
Reverse turn (that’s the one turning L), L, R, L, SQQ to end facing diag centre of new long side
Back check: back R with rotation to L
Weave again, forward L, QQQ QQQ


There was a rumba but my brain melted.


For the rest of you: I recently re-read Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, so I’ll post about that soon.