Archive for March, 2012|Monthly archive page
Just came from an interesting workshop — Afro-Cuban Dancing, demystified. Oops, that’s my editorial comment. The instructor, Julio, wasn’t demystifying anything as much as he was taking the class (of 4 women & 1 guy, me) thru a typical introductory lesson that he’d use in secondary grades.
What he helped demystify for me was the difference between dancing fwd (or back) on the “1-beat” versus on the “2-beat” in Salsa, Rumba, Bolero and other such Latin Am’ musics. Since my first UBC Dance Club lesson (way back then), I’d always danced on the “2-beat”. This makes perfect sense in the Cha Cha b/c of the very obvious split beat taking place where it did in the music. In CC, you had to dance the Chassé between the “4 & 1″ and not the “1 & 2″ (my apologies to all those who learned it the latter way from Anglo-cized dance studios) b/c that’s where the drum beat made its split.
But, in dances like Salsa, Rumba, Bolero and others of this Clavé beat genre, the drumming is not always so prominent as to require you to step to the side on “4-1″. To the untrained dancer (and to many who are ‘trained’, as my travels around to some dance schools have shown me), the “down-beat” or the “1-beat” is easiest to identify and thus easy to start on.
From my experience, having taught a few thousand kids and teens by now, I had slipped into the more convenient tac of breaking fwd (or back) on the 1-beat instead of the 2-beat. Ack!, you say. A mortal sin for someone who purports to have been a Latin American dance champion. But, consider this: When 140 teens are lined up in the gym trying to learn the cue that will get them started, would you rather that 100 per cent of them start on the (offending) 1-beat, or some small minority of them start on the (correct) 2-beat leaving the others to muddle through the remaining beats, and not getting it done?
(Yes, I sometimes face 140 in a class, 4-times a day. So, the idealist dancer in me sometimes has to defer to the teaching objectives of the class — get them moving.)
Now, before the purists out there send my words to the purgatory bin, consider Julio’s comparison of one versus the other interpretation. One of the advantages of breaking fwd/back on the 1-beat is you get to stomp down on the opening beat. Another comes from the ‘tap’ of the free foot on the “4-beat”. That is, UNO-dos-tres-Tap, CINCO-seis-siete-Tap (or, ONE-two-three-Tap, FIVE-six-seven-Tap).
Neither of these affectations are available when breaking fwd/back on the 2-beat. Why? I asked Julio.
It’s that 1-beat, again. It is still the prominent, down beat in the music — the music is still counted, or felt as, ONE-two-Three-four-ONE-two-Three-four-ONE-, and so on. Thus, the fwd/back breaking step is “subordinate to” the side step onto the “4-1″ (e.g., lighter or quieter) — hence the emphasis on exhibiting a strong weight transfer & hip settling on the “4-1″.
There you go. It’s a matter of how you, the dancer, interpret the music. If you prefer the melody, then break fwd/back on the ONE. If you prefer the percussion, then break sideways on the ONE, and catch your weight on the ’2-3′. (Of course, if it’s Cha Cha music, the percussion is so strong on “4-&-1″ that you’d be deaf not to hear it and dance it.) Danz always!