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Two Step Tidewater Sunday Dance News  

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  (01/16/2009 wh)

To Syncopate or not


Like many other dancers I refer the Cha-Cha and Swing as syncopated dances. While looking at some information on the above site I read a piece written by Phillip Seyer on this subject. We exchanged some correspondence and as a result I am no longer referring to these dances as syncopated dances strictly on the basis of how we utilize stepping on both "on" and "in-between" the beats. Below is most of the content of the email from Phillip on this subject. It's a little long for this letter but very interesting.
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"In music, splitting the beat is definitely not syncopation, although many dance teachers use the term this way. To me this is just flat out wrong and seems to come from a lack of understanding of music. Some try to justify it saying that this is dance terminology. But so many also say, *in music*, splitting the beat is syncopation. Not true!

In music there are 3 types of syncopation.

1. Accenting a beat that would not normally be accented.
2. Resting on a beat that is normally accented.
3. Play a note slightly before or after where it would normally occur on an
accented beat.

A good example of #1 in dance is the stomp on beat 6 in St. Louis Shag. A stomp is where your foot hits the floor quickly but you keep the weight on the opposite foot. I've done this in West Coast Swing in the past, but can't remember the exact step, now. It was taught by Kelly Buckwalter, one of those Open WCS champs.

An example of #2 is when you do a kick-ball-change, kicking on one, but not stepping. This is illustrates type #3, because you step on the & of count 1, thereby accenting an off beat.

An interesting WCS rhythm is:

1&2&3&4&5 6 (used by both partners on a under arm pass.)

Kick ball change on 1& -- then go into a grapevine. On 5 the feet are crossed, on 6 they suddenly uncross. Lots of syncopation here, I think. On 5 there is kind of a pause or rest where the feet cross. There is an accent on beat 6 when the feet suddenly uncross.

Normally, odd beats are accented. So any accent on an even beat is a syncopation.

WCS has a lot of syncopation and syncopation is a characteristic of this music.

Often the syncopations we do in dance don't match the music. That's OK. It's like one thing superimposed on the other. Just like the follower's syncopations don't have to match the leaders. However, if we can match the syncopations in the music with corresponding dance syncopations, I think we are dancing on a higher level.
*Love for Sale* by Dr. John is a good WCS piece. The bass part has a nice syncopation repeated over and over at 3&. There is no accent at all on 4. The & of 3 is held over into 4. This tune has some very good breaks -- where the beat stops for a while. When the music returns after the beat, I notice a type #3 syncopation as the note come is slightly before the beat.

Kelly Buckwalter teaches leaders to do syncopation when leading a whip. Just *before* beat 3 she has them do a touch step with the left foot before pivoting around to land on the left foot on beat 4.

She counts it: 1 2 UH-3 4 (touching on the UH and holding into the 3)

The pulse is sometimes used to refer to the tiny "beats" that occur within the main beat. These are also referred to as subdivisions of the beat. For example, in Viennese Waltz in 3/4 time there are usually 3 pulses per measure, but a musician would say there is only 1 beat per measure! Watch a conductor conducting Viennese Waltz -- you won't see him waving his arms frantically, but directing a gentle slow swaying beat. Sometimes Viennese is written in 6/8 time, in which case there are 2 beats per measure:

ONE two three FOUR five six. Beats occur on counts ONE and FOUR. Here we are counting *pulses* -- not beats.

I think we need a simple way to saying we are splitting the beat or dancing on the pulse or on the subdivisions of the beat. Dancing on the pulse may or may not be syncopation. Syncopation sounds so sophisticated, maybe that's why dance teachers like say to use this word when all they are really doing is dancing on the pulse rather than just the beat."


 

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(www.twosteptidewater.com The Best smoke free Country & Western two step (2-step, Texas two-step), Ballroom, Latin, Disco (Hustle), West Coast Swing (WCS), Night Club two-step, Swing Dancing for all of South East Virginia (VA) or North East North Carolina beaches areas  (Norfolk VA, Virginia Beach VA, Chesapeake VA, Suffolk VA, Portsmouth VA, Newport News VA, Hampton va, Hampton Roads VA, Yorktown VA, Gloucester VA, Jamestown VA, Williamsburg VA, Hickory NC, and the beaches and outer banks of North Carolina (NC)