8.4 Playing & Feeling The Music (by Skippy Blair)

PLAYING & FEELING THE MUSIC You are the VISIBLE part of the Music By Skippy Blair 1/94

Feeling the music and playing with the music are two sides of the same coin. In West Coast Swing, there are several levels of awareness, so let’s explore them one at a time.

BASIC TIMING: Feeling the music at a basic level involves listening to the sets of 8 beats of music that exist in all swing music. You will start to hear 2 beat increments of one Down-Beat, followed by one Up-Beat. Being able to connect your center (CPB) to the beat of the music, puts you ON-TIME.

PULSING: ACCENTING each Up-Beat, as you dance, immediately makes you feel something a little different. This rhythmic recurring accent is called Pulsing the Up-Beat. Pulsing The Up-Beat connects you to the music.

PHRASING: Listen to the number of sets of 8, you are soon able to identify the end of the Phrases, the same way that you identify the end of a paragraph when you are reading. The next step is being able to start a NEW PATTERN at the beginning of the next phrase. This is a stage of development and is understood in it’s own time. Don’t push the development.

At this stage, one learns to extend a 6 beat pattern to 8 when the need arises. One learns to syncopate the anchor steps in a way that does not interfere with the partnership.

BREAKS: Listening carefully to the Music, and counting out the 8’s as above, you will begin to hear little Breaks in the music that require a different accent – stop or Rhythm Break that makes you feel closer to the music. This is the point at which you understand that SYNCOPATIONS are supposed to be used to interpret the music – or to counter the music.

Syncopations should not be dances just because you know how. they should be placed carefully, skillfully, to interpret the music, to ADD to the performance.

This is also the level where SHE can feel when she will be allowed to take liberties with the lead and extend her syncopations if they FIT THE MUSIC. It is also a point when the MAN discovers that he gets credit for the move, when she hears something in the music and is ALLOWED to interpret what she hears.

Finally, YOU ARE THE MUSIC: This is the point where YOU are the instrument in the beat. The rhythm is very 1 & 2 & 3 & 4, but you add your own pulse with &a1 &a2 &a3 &a4. You will not only LOOK better, but it will actually FEEL more exciting. The music could even have a silent break while you do a syncopation. There is a point in your development where YOU become the VISIBLE part of the music. Excitement comes from having someone SEE something happen at the same time that they HEAR something happen in the music.

CHALLENGE or ECHO: This level of playing to the music involves the level of both dancers. It usually takes place on a set of 8 where the man (usually) dances a 4 beat rhythm break or syncopation and she counters with something that either matches or exceeds. It is a game of playing with the music. This was a popular sport in the `50’s, no doubt brought on by the popularity of challenge in the Cha Cha. This is a form that will surface from time to time, even if it was not being taught.

This form of play is much the same as carrying on a conversation with someone new. You don’t carry on a conversation about nuclear physics unless you know that your partner understands nuclear physics. BOTH partners must stay aware of the level of understanding of the other partner.