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Rhythm and syncopation

Articles by:
May '98 - rhythm & syncopation
Flor de Mina
Barbara
Larry E Carroll
Jim Lane
Philip Seyer
Chajim Meinhold
Philip Seyer
Holger A. Bock
 
Jim Lane
Chajim Meinhold
Garrit Fleischmann
Frank Williams
Chajim Meinhold
Bruss Bowman
Sep. 98
Evan Wallace - syncopation
Philip Seyer
JC Dill
Philip Seyer
Evan Wallace
Bruss Bowman
Walter M. Kane
Brian Salisbury
Sharon Pedersen
Philip Seyer


Date:    Thu, 30 Apr 1998
From:    Flor de Mina
Subject: Rhythm

In several recent postings, Larry de LA has expressed the view that
Tango has no set rhythm.  He is correct insofar as his comments go.  A
couple may take strictly observe the rhythm underlying the music,
dance to the melody, take pauses, dance double time, dance to
syncopations in the music, etc.  Unfortunately, I have seen some
couples and danced with some men who seem to think that Tango has no
rhythm.  In that context, I think Larry's comments suggest far less
rhythmic discipline than I believe is required to dance Tango well.

Abrazos,
Florcita

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Date:    Fri, 1 May 1998
From:    "Slip.Net User"
Subject: Re: Rhythm


 From: Flor de Mina

> In several recent postings, Larry de LA has expressed the view that
> Tango has no set rhythm.  He is correct insofar as his comments go.  A
> couple may take strictly observe the rhythm underlying the music,
> dance to the melody, take pauses, dance double time, dance to
> syncopations in the music, etc.  Unfortunately, I have seen some
> couples and danced with some men who seem to think that Tango has no
> rhythm.  In that context, I think Larry's comments suggest far less
> rhythmic discipline than I believe is required to dance Tango well.
>
I, too, was quite puzzled by Larry's comments.  To us, the improvisational
interpretation of the (very definite) rhythm is one of salon tango's
greatest attractions.  My sweetie takes this to the point of not liking to
do club-style or 'milonguero' style tango because he finds it too limiting,
and the strict beat too boring. I like to intersperse some 'strict rhythm'
dances during an evening, but not the majority. However another trend he
has noticed as some dj's in the Bay Area play more and more D'Arienzo,
Biagi, etc. is that some of the women are dancing with much shorter steps,
or bouncing more, or pumping their arms up and down--these are followers
with a lot of experience, good dancers. This is also puzzling since the
follower should certainly take the stylistic lead from the leader,
including the most basic elements of posture and length of stride.
                                                Abrazos to all,
                                                        Barbara


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Date:    Mon, 4 May 1998
From:    Larry E Carroll
Subject: Re: Rhythm

I'm puzzled by both Flor de Mina's & Barbara Garvey's comments. I THINK
they understood what I mean when I say tango dancing has no set rhythm &
used my remark to comment on they way some people dance. But maybe I was
unclear. So here's more on the subject.

Every piece of music has a basic beat, like a heart beating, or a clock
ticking. This beat may be fast or slow or in between, sometimes the same
for an entire performance, sometimes varying within the performance. The
speed of the beat is called the tempo. The beat and its tempo is set by
the musicians & (good) dancers change their movement to match. (Flamenco
is the opposite. The dancer sets the beat & its tempo & the musicians
change to match.)

On sheet music every instrument has its own bar of music. Bars for
percussion instruments usually have just one line, but some percussion
instruments have more than one tone or pitch & have more than one line.
Two-handed instruments like the piano usually divide the bar into two
parts, the lower part for the bass notes (usually played by the left
hand) & the upper for the higher-pitched notes. Each bar is also divided
lengthwise into measures. The percussion or bass lines usually establish
the beat, by placing (for instance) three quarter notes in each measure.

By convention the first note is played a little louder than the rest, so
we hear waltz music as ONE two three ONE two three. When four quarter
notes are put into a measure musicians usually play the first note
loudest but also play the third note a little louder than the second &
fourth. So we hear ONE two Three four ONE two Three four.

Almost every partner dance has a set rhythm that exactly matches the
measures of the music. Waltz rhythm is SLOW slow slow or (for Viennese &
other fast waltzes) QUICK quick quick. Rumba is often danced as QUICK
quick slow, foxtrot as SLOW quick quick. Merengue & milonga is QUICK
quick (which matches the 2/4 time in which they were originally written,
though nowadays I believe sheet music for milongas more often has a 4/4
meter).

Cuban dances with their African heritage have more complex rhythms.
Mambo is HOLD quick quick quick, the salsa version of mambo is QUICK
quick quick hold. In mambo/salsa the hold is a hip sway, accompanied
sometimes by an adorno such as a toe tap or a little lift or kick of the
foot. Cha Cha is SLOW slow quick-ity-quick (three very quick steps).
This last is called a triplet by musicians. In the Cha cha this means
three notes played in the same time it takes to play two quarter notes.

Advanced rhythm dancers (& musicians) get so good at stepping (or
playing) exactly on the beat that they like to add variety by going off
the
beat. This is called syncopation. In a waltz instead of SLOW slow slow
the dancers might step SLOWER quick slow, almost but not quite a foxtrot
SLOW quick quick. In a tango the bass viola instead of playing VRUMP
vrump Vrump vrump (exactly on each quarter note) might start a fraction
of a second sooner than the first beat so that it sounds like verRUMP
vrump vrump vrump.

Advanced rhythm dancers do something even harder--begin step patterns on
other beats than the major (first) beat of a measure. Mambo virtuosos
pride themselves on not only "dancing on the two" but also dancing on
the one (like dancers doing the salsa version of mambo) OR on the three
OR on the four. And shifting back & forth between those four different
starting points. One mambolero told me he fell in love with his wife
when he did that in a dance & she followed right along without
(literally) missing a beat, just flipping her head & smiling as if to
say "Did you think that was hard?!"

Even at their most extreme, however, rhythm dancers are working with
step patterns that fit exactly within the metric structure of the music.
Tango dancers do something else: improvise step patterns & their rhythms
as they dance. In a minute of dancing at the average tempo of tango
music this could mean 60 slow steps, or 120 quick steps, or ANY
COMBINATION IN BETWEEN. It could also mean some slow steps that
are even slower than others, & times in which the dancers stop moving
altogether.

At the worst this freedom in tango means total anarchy: dancers who
totally ignore the beat of the music & the rhythms suggested by
different parts of the music (such as the singing or other melodic
elements). But at the best it means dancers who are in harmony with all
aspects of the music--AND their partners, AND everything and everyone
with whom they share the floor.

And this is why, when I say tango has not SET rhythm, I most certainly
do not mean that tango (or tango dancing) has NO rhythm.

                        Larry de Los Angeles
                        http://world.std.com/~larrydla
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Date:    Mon, 4 May 1998
From:    Jim Lane
Subject: Re: Rhythm


>Advanced rhythm dancers (& musicians) get so good at stepping (or
>playing) exactly on the beat that they like to add variety by going off
>the beat.

If only Pablo Aslan were still on the list.  He's been known to teach
classes in tango musicality from a musician's perspective.

As a sometimes musician myself (although not fit even to pick up an
instrument in Pablo's presence), it looks to me like Larry has a very
good understanding of musical rhythm.

A clarification:  there are timings available between the basic beats
of a measure.  In 4/4 time, not only is there "ONE two Three four",
but you can also add "and-a-ONE-a-and-a-two-a-and-a-Three-a-and-a-four-a",
making each "a" a sixteenth note, and each "and" an eighth note.  Or you
can play triplets, which is like mixing waltz time into the space between
notes in 4/4 or 2/4 time.

To syncopate, one uses (steps on/plays a note on) one of the "a"s or "and"s
either just before or just after the beat that would otherwise be used.

A number of years ago, I was lucky enough to take some rhythm instrument
(bodhran, an Irish frame drum) lessons from Tommy Hayes (arguably the
best bodhran player in the world).  In addition to syncopating, he taught
me to "sit on" the beat and to "rush" the beat, i.e. to play just a tiny
bit before or after the actual beat timing.  The timing is even closer to
the actual beat than the "a"/sixteenth note - more like the 64th notes that
hammer dulcimer or fiddle players use for the grace notes common in Celtic
music.

Steve Mitchell (the Lindy Hop teacher) also talks about this;  as the music
speeds up, he likes to dance just behind it, giving his Lindy a sort of
lazy,
easy-going look even at very high tempos.

Last week in a tango class, Manuel Ortiz talked about doing exactly the
same thing - dancing either just ahead of or just behind the beat of the
music, depending on the mood of a particular musical phrase.

Rhythm in tango is complex;  saying that one should only dance on the music
is too simple.  When one instrument in a tango orchestra is playing the main
rhythm, and other instruments are playing syncopations, "sitting on" the
beat
or "rushing" the beat or playing triplets, dancers have many timings to
choose
from, all of which can reasonably be thought of as dancing with the music.

Jim


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Date:    Mon, 4 May 1998
From:    Philip Seyer
Subject: Re: Rhythm

Larry (Larry de Los Angeles),

Thanks for your clarification about tango having no set rhythm. Your information is right on and technically correct in almost every aspect.

However, when you say:

"By convention the first note is played a little louder than the rest, so we hear waltz music as ONE two three ONE two three. When four quarter notes are put into a measure musicians usually play the first note loudest but also play the third note a little louder than the second & fourth. So we hear ONE two Three four ONE two Three four."

Well, that used to be true and certainly is true for most classical music. Even if no accent is provided, we tend to hear the first and four beats louder. It's more than convention. It's our natural tendency to perceive the first beat that we hear as more important, more accented. Usually the vocal part stresses beats one and three, too. The first important word or syllable of the lyrics nearly always falls on beat one.

But in modern music, only certain instruments tend to accent beats ONE and THREE. For example, certain drums accent ONE and THREE to provide the fundamental and usual expected accents, but other drums are used to give a heavy "back beat" -- that is they accent beats two and four.

In swing, it is the tradition to clap on beats two and four -- a kind of syncopated clapping.
This goes against the natural tendency to accent ONE and THREE.

Classical musicians tend to clap to music on ONE and THREE. People into swing, jazz, rock, etc. tend to clap on on TWO and FOUR -- the back beats or up beats.

In cha-cha, although there are still accents on one and three, the strongest accent is on beat TWO.
That's why experienced cha-cha dancers start dancing by breaking forward on the strong two beat.

I liked your discussion of syncopation. The best I have seen from a dancer! Usually dancers confuse syncopation with splitting the beat into two parts. Some dance teachers even mistakenly say: "In music syncopation is splitting a beat into two parts."
Wrong!

In addition to what you said about syncopation, syncopation in music also results when you accent a beat that is not normally accented -- or when you fail to accent a beat that normally *is* accented.

A lot of tango pieces use a powerful syncopation by holding back the last note of the song on beat one -- where it is normally expected -- and then play the last note on beat two.

For more info on views about syncopation you may want to see:

http://www.ilovemusic.com/syncopat.htm

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Date:    Thu, 7 May 1998 16:33:04 +0200
From:    Chajm Meinhold
Subject: Re: Rhythm

Hi Phil and list members.

It was very intersting to read the postings about rhythm in tango
music and and also Phil's web page about syncopation.

There are some questions I have about dancing tango which are
connected to this topic. I would like to get answers or opinions
from list members but or course it is not very easy to write
down the dancing steps together with the rhythm since I am
not a tango musician and do not know how the measures and
rhythms exactly look like.

So I will first try to describe my perception of a milonga rhythm
for demonstration:
1---2--- (a measure consisting of two quarter notes)
*---*--- (*: the strong beats, 1 ee and uh 2 ee and uh)
s---s--- (s: a step how it would mostly be danced)
I am trying to make this short and easy, if it is
not readible I apologize.

Then a measure in tango could look like this:
1-2-3-4-
the dance is more or less free to choose between
a slow walk:
s---s--- (s means any kind of step)
and a fast walk:
s-s-s-s-
where it is not normal to stick to the fast walk
for a longer time, then you would dance milonga to
tango music unapropriately.

My first question deals with doing the basic salida.
Recently I attended a class with the teachers
Christiane and Horst Kroeninger from Regensburg.
They were criticizing many dancers for doing
the salida wrong by walking fast through the
tango close.

This "wrong" salida looks about like this:
1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4- (four measures)
f---s---b---b-x-b---s-c-f---... (follower)
b---x---f---f-c-f---s-c-b---... (leader)
f-forward b-backward s-to the side
x-cross feet c-close feet
It is also going fast though the cruzada but
this was not the problem. They were calling it
a totally different style being popular among
younger dancers.

Instead they were emphasizing to really stop
at the tango close, the end of the salida:
1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1
f---s---b-b-x---b-s-c---
b---s---f-f-c---f-s-c---

Normally the salida was tought to me with
all steps slow and I have not had this kind
of emphasis on the rhythm in a dance class.
But because I found it interesting and
also plausible I tried to do it the suggested
way and found it more difficult to do, more
pleasant but more likely to crash into the
couple before me because as the leader I would
have to do a really strong movement forward.

I would like to know if others have experience
such a problem and how the oppinions are.

The other question is about syncopation. In tango
you often find a rhythm like this:
1-2-3-4-
-*--*-*- or
-*-*--*-
where you can easily continue to dance the way described
above or if you like really dance the syncopation.

What I am interested in is another rhythm I first thought
only exists in later tango music like tango nuevo (Piazolla
uses it extensively) but later also found it on some older
recording:
12345678 (eighth notes)
*--*--*-
This is really something different and normally it could
be considered not to be music for dancing because it
is irregular. At least it forces you to do something else
than normal walking and I found it can be very interesting
to try it but I have to be very concentrated.

Does anyone have any experience with this kind of dancing
or would you just not do it?
Or does anyone like to give corrections to my notation?

The third question is just for Phil in case he would ever
bother to get to this point:
You said there is a syncopation by placing the last note
of a song on beat 2 instead of 1 which I do not understand
or remember ot have heard myself. It would be nice of you
if you would describe it more detailed or give an example.

Is hope this is understandable to you.

- Chajim.

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Date:    Thu, 7 May 1998 19:55:11 -0700
From:    Philip Seyer
Subject: Re: Rhythm


>The third question is just for Phil in case he would ever
>bother to get to this point:
>You said there is a syncopation by placing the last note
>of a song on beat 2 instead of 1 which I do not understand
>or remember ot have heard myself. It would be nice of you
>if you would describe it more detailed or give an example.
>
>Is hope this is understandable to you.
>
>- Chajim.


Hmm,  I'm sure you have heard this kind of syncopation because
it is very common in tango music.   Now that I think of it again,
perhaps the last note is really ending on beat 4 instead of the
usual strong beat three.   (Earlier I said the last note came on
beat 2 instead of 1)

Listen carefully to the ending of the tango
pieces.  Notice how some of them "trick you" by holding back the
last note   The point is that instead landing on a strong odd numbered
beat, the music ends on an even numbered beat-- a very strong,
and amusing syncopation.

Another way to look at this is to regard the next to the last note
as a "fermata."  Since this is the end of the song, the musicians
can take liberties and actually *suspend* or hold the beat temporarily
This is called a "fermata" in classical musical terminology.

If you know this syncopation is coming, it's fun to dance right with
the music by pulling your left leg in (and holding it there during the
silence) and then extending it on the final note of the piece.

I'll try to cite a specific piece of music next time I bring this up.

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Date:    Fri, 8 May 1998 15:23:49 +0200
From:    "Holger A. Bock"
Subject: Re: Rhythm


Phil,

Philip Seyer wrote:
>
>
> Hmm,  I'm sure you have heard this kind of syncopation because
> it is very common in tango music.   Now that I think of it again,
> perhaps the last note is really ending on beat 4 instead of the
> usual strong beat three.   (Earlier I said the last note came on
> beat 2 instead of 1)
>
...
I just tried it out, turned my MD on, where I got my favorites
to have some Tango at the office and started with
Mala Pinta from Recuerdo (Pugliese, El Bandoneon 71)

It was clearly the 4 that got the honour of the last chord!

It's the same with the next, El Arranque, and the next, Recuerdo.

(Maybe Pugliese liked this especially in the mid-forties;
all those records are from 1944/45)

I could not find such syncopated endings on the part of my
collection which is from EBCD 1 (Troilo: Pichuco, 1941)

Salgan (EBCD 42, 1950-54) instead plays the last chord on
the 3, but very very soft, nearly imperceptible. So there
seemed to be some game going on according to teh last note
(Maybe to make it hard for the dancers to guess the right
ending ?-)

Unfortunately I forgot to recharge the batteries, so I
will not have the possibility to make many more test,
so I am curious, which examples you will find...

Kind regards,

Holger, El GRAZioso

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Date:    Wed, 13 May 1998 01:41:48 -0700
From:    Jim Lane
Subject: Re: Rhythm


Chajm Meinhold <cm4@IRZ.INF.TU-DRESDEN.DE>:
>This "wrong" salida looks about like this:
>1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4- (four measures)
>f---s---b---b-x-b---s-c-f---... (follower)
>b---x---f---f-c-f---s-c-b---... (leader)
>f-forward b-backward s-to the side
>x-cross feet c-close feet

How does this work?  The lead's second step is to cross
feet while the follow takes a side step?  Maybe, if the
lead is turning at the same time, and the follow is
stepping side-and-around instead of directly side.

>Instead they were emphasizing to really stop
>at the tango close, the end of the salida:
>1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1
>f---s---b-b-x---b-s-c---
>b---s---f-f-c---f-s-c---

Looks like the standard D8CB (Dreaded 8-Count Basic,
for those newcomers who haven't seen the acronym before).
This is very commonly taught to beginners.

>They were criticizing many dancers for doing
>the salida wrong by walking fast through the
>tango close.

If both partners stay in balance, then neither one is
wrong in the simplest sense;  it's just two different
sequences that each take two measures of music.  Tango
doesn't really have a basic step in the same way that
swing/foxtrot/waltz/etc do, and many experienced dancers
take a certain pride in seldom using any form of the D8CB.
The students may have been doing something different than
what the teachers were teaching, though, so it's hard to
interpret their intent in criticizing the students.

Any pattern that doesn't trip one or the other partner or
cause a collision is minimally acceptable.  A pattern that
fits the timing and mood of the music is better.

>Normally the salida was tought to me with
>all steps slow and I have not had this kind
>of emphasis on the rhythm in a dance class.

Also very common in beginning classes, but only because
beginners have enough to learn without worrying about more
complex rhythms.  With more experience, you'll start to
vary the step timings to more closely match the music.

Re the second question:  the more complex the rhythm
(Piazolla comes to mind), the more difficult it is to
improvise to it, and the more satisfying it is when you
manage to improvise something that matches the music well.

Jim

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Date:    Wed, 13 May 1998 11:24:47 +0200
From:    Chajm Meinhold
Subject: Re: Rhythm


shure there would be a typing error, thanks to Jim and
sorry for the inconvenience. Of course the x for the
leaders's second step should be an s for the side step
and it is really the 8CB which I believe as a teaching tool
is not dreaded at all.
The rest of Jim's answers is not what I was hoping to get.
If there will be more such comments I will try to
make more clear what I mean.
Apparently it took a long time for my message to get
distributed. Hopefully this will be faster so less
people will be confused by my type-o.

Greetings to all from Chajim.




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Date:    Wed, 13 May 1998 14:44:41 +0200
From:    Garrit Fleischmann
Subject: Re: Rhythm


> Date:    Thu, 7 May 1998 16:33:04 +0200
> From:    Chajm Meinhold
> Subject: Re: Rhythm

> Hi Phil and list members.

[... some stuff deleted ...]


> My first question deals with doing the basic salida.
> Recently I attended a class with the teachers
> Christiane and Horst Kroeninger from Regensburg.
> They were criticizing many dancers for doing
> the salida wrong by walking fast through the
> tango close.

> This "wrong" salida looks about like this:
> 1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4- (four measures)
> f---s---b---b-x-b---s-c-f---... (follower)
> b---s---f---f-c-f---s-c-b---... (leader)
> f-forward b-backward s-to the side
> x-cross feet c-close feet
> It is also going fast though the cruzada but
> this was not the problem. They were calling it
> a totally different style being popular among
> younger dancers.

> Instead they were emphasizing to really stop
> at the tango close, the end of the salida:
> 1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1
> f---s---b-b-x---b-s-c---
> b---s---f-f-c---f-s-c---

> Normally the salida was tought to me with
> all steps slow and I have not had this kind
> of emphasis on the rhythm in a dance class.
> But because I found it interesting and
> also plausible I tried to do it the suggested
> way and found it more difficult to do, more
> pleasant but more likely to crash into the
> couple before me because as the leader I would
> have to do a really strong movement forward.

> I would like to know if others have experience
> such a problem and how the oppinions are.

[...]

> - Chajim.

Hi Listmembers,
I am really enjoying this thread, allthough I fear I still haven't
fully understood what syncopation means in dancing. This is why I copied
all the measages about the rhythm on a webpage, so I can read them
again when my head is not baking in the sun, like today ;-)

Here is the webadress, for all those who are interested:

http://www.cyber-tango.com/art/rhythm.html


Hi Chajim,
sorry that my answer comes a bit late, but for some weird
reason, your posting from the 7th of may came only with the
digest of the 12th to 13th of may...


In my opinion, none of the ways to dance a basic pattern which
you discribed above can be seen _right_ or _wrong_, they
are just different ways of dancing it.

Dancing on every main beat (1 and 3) only can be a bit boring though,
 1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4
 f---s---b---b---x---b---s---c
 b---s---f---f---c---f---s---c

this is why you sometimes dance steps at double speed (I am not
really sure if this is syncopation... perhaps someone can enlighten me :-))

I personly don't follow a strict pattern in dancing double speed (syncopation?)
steps, I just try to follow the music or my personal feeling.

I was taught to dance all _slow_ only in the first 2 hours of my tango class,
then we were introduced to the basic pattern in the way the Kroeningers
describe as the _right_ way to do it, with emphasis on the close:
> 1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1
> f---s---b-b-x---b-s-c---
> b---s---f-f-c---f-s-c---

and in a more advanced class, I was taught that you can also dance it the other
way, the _wrong_ basic pattern acording to the Kroeningers:
> 1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4- (four measures)
> f---s---b---b-x-b---s-c-f---... (follower)
> b---s---f---f-c-f---s-c-b---... (leader)

and in this class I also learned that you can combine the _all slow_ basic
with the other forms, depending on your feeling to the music.

I am not sure if this clarifies anything, but it's the best I can do today ;-)

Enjoy tango dancing,
Garrit


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Date:    Wed, 13 May 1998 13:04:46 -0500
From:    Frank Williams
Subject: Rhythm and syncopation: the feel


Greetings friends,

Chajim, Jim, Garrit et al. have discussed rhythm and syncopation and I
like the notation that Chajim used to make his question clear.  Certainly,
all beginners need help in realizing that the form within which they dance
is so freely and wonderfully un-structured, whereas details of STYLE for each
movement are very important.

Here are a few questions for all of you.  On the issue of syncopation, how do
you leaders and followers perceive your syncopated steps?  Do the steps feel
distinctly "accented", or do they feel diminished (perhaps in preparation for
some subsequent figure)?  Sometimes both?  For me it's a question of
interpreting the music, and with highly syncopated music, merely walking on the
primary beat has the FEEL of dancing outside (or maybe "beyond") the primary
theme.  In contrast, tango music with a (boring?) steady regular beat dances
like a march unless you play with step timing.  This is all fairly obvious, I
think.

Of course, there's much fun to be had by sometimes ignoring the underlying beat
and dancing to the (real or imagined) lyrics of the song.  Doing this produces
many apparent rhythmic contrasts where a step is off-beat but the timing is
restored later.  TO ME, these lyrical steps don't have the FEEL of syncopation
because I'm not mentally contrasting what I do to the beat of the music.  Thus,
I doubt that the movements look like they were intended to contrast with the
beat.   Often, I don't even hear the beat because in that moment, the important
music is in my head.  In those moments, lyrical steps may seem UN-rythmic to
the follower.

What happens to your improvisation when the dancing is REALLY GOING WELL?  Has
something like this happened to you:  You're dancing with a lovely talented
(probably familiar) partner and the success of your efforts to weave the dance
music into a flowing, shared story in movement produces moments of such clear
(tender, hopefully) communication that the music evaporates while the dance
continues?  Those are times when rhythm is quite secondary.  Those are the
moments I love, and I NEVER reach that level by consciously thinking about
syncopation!  Thinking about syncopation is like being a dance-drummer.  It's
interesting sometimes, but there are enough other great dance forms in which to
explore music that way.

I would love to hear others describe their approach to rhythmic vs. "lyrical"
improvisation.  My personal issue is one of not overdoing showy stuff just
because I might be able execute it without strain.  Suppose that "on-the-fly"
you can compose a lyrical, technical figure that, by nature, is not rhythmic
yet drops you right back into the rhythm at the end.  Is that good tango?  How
much rhythm do you feel during your most complex figures?   Maybe another way
of asking the same question is - Those of you who have been dancing tango for
years, what do YOU practice to improve your "improvisational vision"?

And followers, how do you feel about being led (proficiently) off-beat, where
the "contrast" element of the supposed syncopation is obscure?


Best wishes to all,

Frank in Minneapolis

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Date:    Thu, 14 May 1998 15:49:22 +0200
From:    Chajm Meinhold
Subject: Re: Rhythm


Hi Garrit and listmembers,

I liked Garrit's message a lot especially that he told
he has been tought both ways. Maybe it is more a habit
than a mistake. It really does not look very good to
do it the same way over and over and disregard all
the other options (I mean advanced dancers)

Probably I have a different opinion about syncopation
than some other people on this list. The described
ways of doing the basic do not include any syncopations,
this are just steps at double speed. I think they are
very rare in dancing maybe do not appear at all.
A syncopation means that the emphasis/strong beat is
shifted in the music but as far as I remember not the
dance step. No matter if there is a syncopation you
are still free to dance the basic rhythm or do steps
more quickly. The syncopation would suggest to do
quick steps but not require them.

That is why I think that saying a syncopation is to
split a beat into two is not as wrong as some people
wrote on this list. It is wrong from the musical
point of view but not if you think about dancing.

Maybe it is possible to really dance a syncopation
by shifting the step but I do not remember anyone
doing it that way.

So neither the slow and fast walking in the 8CB
not the odd rhythm used by Piazolla was intended
to be something about syncopations but just
about rhythm in general.

- Chajim.


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Date:    Thu, 14 May 1998 10:20:20 -0700
From:    Bruss Bowman
Subject: Rhythm, syncopation and some humor:


Rhythm, syncopation and some humor:

Syncopation as it relates to music can be defined as a variation of
rhythm by placing emphasis or accent on a rest or silent beat

As it relates to dance this would mean 'stepping' on a rest or silent
beat.

There are two dynamics that can be syncopated:
1.      The music
2.      The dance

This leads to 4 possible combinations.

In the order of difficulty to execute in a dance:
=================================================
  1. A regular musical rhythm that is not syncopated by either of the dancers ( aka walking on the beat )
  2. A regular musical rhythm that is syncopated by one or more of the dancers
  3. Musical rhythm syncopation that is not itself syncopated by one or more of the dancers ( ie dancers are following the musical syncopation )
  4. Musical rhythm syncopation with that is syncopated by one or more of the dancers ( ie dancers are syncopating the musical syncopation. )
Musical examples:
Example of  regular musical rhythms:
        DiSarli's "El Pollito"

Example of musically syncopated rhythms
        Pugliese's "Gallo Ciego"

There is a reason that most good teachers will choose DiSarli as the
music of choice for classes and that they don't choose Pugliese.
DiSarli is definitely easier to dance to ( Syncopated or not ).
Although dancing to Pugliese offers a much richer experience but it
requires a higher degree of musical sensitivity not to mention a lot of
intensity.

Dancing Examples:
Example of a non-syncopacted dancer:
My vote would go to GodZilla.  Being a genetic mutant he is
physiologically incapable of syncopation.  When he invades Tokyo you
hear
Thump, Thump, Thump, Thump
Not
Thump, Thumpity Thumpity, Thump.
Also due to his small brain size he is notorious for stepping back in
the line of dance usually stomping some poor unsuspecting couple.  And I
won't even mention that tail thing.

Example of a syncopated dancer:
Omar Vega ( I'm serious now! ) For those who haven't seen Omar dance his
style is HIGHLY syncopated and beautiful to watch.  He is currently on a
teaching tour in the U.S. and if you have a chance to see him I would
definitely recommend it.

We can take these dancing examples and come up with a dance floor rating
system.  Let's call it the "ZILLA-METER"

As you enter a Milonga take an inventory of the leaders present and
categorize them as either being more like Godzilla or more like Omar
Vega.   Then take the resulting numbers and divide the number of Zillas
by the number of Vegas.  This will give you the "ZILLA-METER" rating.
Use the following chart to rate your dance floor

Zilla Rating Description
0 - 0.1 This is the dance floor of your dreams. Let me know if you find a floor like this !!!
0.1-0.3 Excellent floor. Although you do have a small chance of getting stepped on.
0.4-0.6 Moderately dangerous floor. Too many Zillas for general comfort.
0.7-1 Floor's pretty dangerous. Not safe for small children.
> 1 Thump, Thump, Thump.........Ahhhhhhhhhhh
:-)

Best Regards,
Bruss

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The Discussion was continued on Sep '98


Garrit Fleischmann Sep.98
Email: kontakt(at)cyber-tango.com