Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Music Nerdity

Tonight at Swing Dance Club, I learned the basic step to Lindy Hop, a specific style of swing dancing. Up until now, the semester lessons have taught East Coast Swing. This may not be interesting to most people (and I apologize for the dancentricity of this blog lately), but I'm going to reflect on the lesson.

Lindy and East Coast are really pretty different. East Coast always felt a little funny to me because it is a 6-count move, and therefore does not line up with the measures in music with a typical 4/4 or 2/2 time signature. Lindy's different, because it's an 8-count move. In the other styles of dance I've taken (ballet, pointe, tap, and jazz), most music is counted in 8, but music in 3/4 or 6/8 (such as a waltz) is counted in 3 or 6. I like this- because I was in band for 8 years, marching for 4, and church choir for probably at least 5, it bothers me when my movement with music doesn't match the measures. It took me awhile to get used to East Coast for that reason alone. Lindy, luckily, is an 8-count basic move, so the beginning of each basic step will correspond with the beginning of a measure in most music. Hooray!

Anyway. Another difference between East Coast and Lindy is the syncopation of Lindy. While East Coast's steps are all on the beat- 1, 2, 3 (hold 4), 5 (hold 6), repeat... Lindy's aren't- 1, 2, 3, a, 4, 5, 6, 7, a, 8. Actually, last night they explained this as 1, 2, 3, and 4- with the and *just* before the 4. Their explanation of the syncopation was a little weird, and not quite 'correct' as I understand basic music theory. I could be wrong, but as I learned it, "and" is the spot halfway between 2 notes (3-and-4 are straight eighth notes).

In swing music, though, eighth notes are not actually played "straight," instead, they are "swung." A beat can be divided into fourths, which is generally pronounced "3-e-and-a-4"- 'and' is still halfway between 3 and 4, but 'e' is halfway between 3 and 'and,' & 'a' is halfway between 'and' and 4. This gets confusing, I know, but basically, you're dividing the beat into fourths. When an eighth note is "swung," it is not played typically, as 3-and, even though it is written that way; instead, it's played as '3-a," which amounts to playing the second note closer to the beat of 4 instead of directly between 3 and 4.

Swing dancing definitely corresponds to this (especially since it is, of course, often done to swing music)... so, when they are saying the step is 1, 2, 3-and-4 with the 'and' just before 4... what they really mean is 1, 2, 3, a-4. And while I should've been concentrating on learning the basic step, I was instead concentrating on their incorrect words.

I do that sometimes during lessons; I focus on the fact that it feels funny to me to call it a 'roll-step' when I've always known it as a 'ballchange' or something instead of just paying attention. Luckily, they go through everything extremely slowly, and I have plenty of time to muse about band-nerdy and dance-nerdy things. :)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

I wonder...

What do most women do if their father, for one reason or another, cannot give them away at their wedding?

As I see it, there are a few options:
-The mother gives her away.
-Another person gives her away (such as brother, uncle, family friend).
-She walks down the aisle alone.

I'm going to be faced with this eventually, and I don't know what I'd want to do. I don't think, at least now, I'm close enough with either of my brothers to feel like they should do that. I don't think any of my other relatives or elder friends are close enough, either. I could have my mother give me away, but... part of me doesn't want someone else to stand there where I feel like my father should be. Still, part of me doesn't want to walk down the aisle by myself.

The weird thing is, this isn't something I need to worry about anytime soon. I know I'm kind of in a bad mood today, somewhat thinky, and a little overemotional... but it's a topic that's come up in my head many, many times since my dad died. I don't think wedding traditions necessarily have to be upheld or anything like that; it just feels to me like it's a role that my dad should be in, and if he can't be... I'm not sure what I would want to happen instead. I'm not sure if other people have come up with any better solutions than I have. I'm not sure I should even attempt to think about it until I need to.

I've said it before, but it scares me a little that I might not be able to fully enjoy big life events because a little part of me is sad that my dad isn't physically there. I know it sounds silly, he wouldn't want it, it probably won't happen, whatever. But I'm afraid that when I'm getting married, having a kid, getting a job, things like that- I won't be able to be 100% happy. And I guess that's okay... it's just depressing to think about.

I know people will want to comment with words of comfort, saying he is here, he's watching over me, etc... but I want him here. I don't want a long-distance relationship with my father, essentially, for the rest of my life, even if that is how things work. I want him to meet the people in my life that I care about, be able to talk to me and offer advice about what's going on in my life, and be physically present at events in my life. My memories are fading, and it hurts to think that eventually I might be left with little more than what photographs and home videos can show me.

I feel selfish worrying so much about a little thing like who's going to walk me down the aisle; really, I do. I'm not at all the only person who's ever had to deal with something similar, and it isn't really that huge of a deal. When it comes down to it, it's my wedding so I'll do things however I damn well please (pretty much, my future husband's the only one who'll have as much say as I do on things). Still, it feels like a big deal to me, because it's one of the few times that everyone isn't there. At your graduation, most parts of your wedding, having a child, etc.-- your father's role is not particularly more prominent than anyone else's. But at your wedding, it is very specifically a father's role to walk his daughter down the aisle and have a last dance with her at the reception. And, sure, there are alternative ways of handing all of that. I just wish, so much, that I didn't even have to think about them.

Saturday, February 03, 2007


I wrote a few posts ago about dance, but this post is more specifically about ballet. I'm really missing it this week, and today a fabulous find on YouTube motivated me to get out my pointe shoes, put them on, and dance around the room. I'm not even kidding.

I'm starting swing, and really enjoying it. I've done a tiny bit of mambo, salsa, and some other types of dance... but ballet is somewhat unique.

Ballet is extremely disciplined, as dance forms go. There were times that the monotony of the barrework or the slow precision of port de bras in the center could get a little boring. And especially to those who have never danced, warmups and technique exercises probably seem utterly banal.

In the 13 years I danced ballet, it was fun, but more than that. Dance could become something of an escape for me. This did happen occasionally in another activity, like marching band or guard, but ballet was a little different, either because of its nature or just the fact that I'd done it for so long.

When I get upset over things, it often happens in the form of being what I call 'thinky.' I'll get in a bad mood, for one reason or another, or none at all, and overthink things. I'll think about one bad thing, which reminds me of another, and another... and suddenly I'm overwhelmed with worries, memories, regrets, and other unpleasant thoughts. Sometimes I want to sit around and be mopey, but most of the time I feel like getting away. I feel like pushing it all to the back of my mind and forgetting the world.

When I was thinky, ballet was amazing. As soon as I settled into the familiar routine of barrework, I'd concentrate on my turnout or my extension or how hard my toe was pointing or the shape of my arm... and eventually the soft piano melody just sank in and took over. I'd become so engrossed in the dancing that my problems would go into hiding for the time being. They didn't go away; dancing never made my problems disappear. But somehow, the thoughts driving me crazy would go into hiding for the time being, and I would relax. Pushing off of the floor, reaching into the air, pushing each extension higher, feeling the music... just dancing.

Sports players will talk about being 'in the zone,' and that's exactly what this was like. I would concentrate on moving, performing, dancing... and nothing else mattered. Even after the lesson, I'd come away feeling much more relaxed and so much less stressed than when I came.

It's a difficult thing to describe, but I miss it. I miss the feeling of the music sweeping me away into a world where all that matters is dance, and the rest of my life fades away. It's been a long time since I've felt it, and sometimes when I get really thinky, like earlier this week... I want that escape more than anything in the world.