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. :)

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