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"Triple Steps in Blues?"Article on what defines Blues and Blues movement, originally in response to a posting by Michael Varney on FB
Michael Varney writes:
> Can you have triple steps in blues? Yes, but not if you want to dance to the music. See below. Please note that quick steps (half-time) is not the same as a triple step (syncopation). Michael Varney writes:
> Swingouts? Heck yeah! While the momentum transfer of a swingout is used (though generally in pieces) in Blues, the actual Swingout basic makes almost no sense at all in Blues, unless you are listening to one of the very rare songs that fits in both worlds. Again, see below. You talk about purists, so maybe I'm just a purist in all of this. Michael Varney writes:
> Some say that blues has no basic. Bullshit again. Agreed. In my book, the basic is the pulse and change. Here's my point on pulses versus triple steps. First, the word "Blues" means many things - and we need to first confess that we aren't using a musician's definition of "Blues" with regards to the music because it's too broad to have only one dance that fits. As an example, consider "Jump Blues" which is technically Blues, but is asking the dancers for Lindy/Swing as opposed to "Blues" dancing. As far as the word "Blues" with regards to partnered dancing today, it refers to dancing to music that has a strong down beat with the other on-beat accentuated. If you are counting to the music as '1234' then it looks like **1** 2 *3* 4 (strong emphasis on beat 1 and some emphasis on beat 3). (Apologies to Music experts if I am using the wrong terminology here, please do correct me! :) I like to think of this as "Boom-a-chick-a" ("Boom" on 1 and "chick" on 3). You can hear it in just about every "Blues" song (at least in the non-Fusion world). That strong beat tends to lend itself well to the body pulsing, and if you do the bigger pulse (a change of weight) to the strong beat ("Boom") and the straight pulse (no weight change) to the weaker on beat ("Chick") you will find yourself doing what I see as the Blues basic - the pulse and change. The music asks for it. If we look at swing, on the other hand, you'll find that it has clear "swung notes" which are the accent that happens before a beat. Now, to be clear, Blues music has swung notes and Swing music can have emphasis on the on beat. But if you listen to the music as a dancer, then what sticks out in some music is the down-beat-on-beat combination ("Boom-a-chick-a") and in some music is the swung notes. The first is "Blues" and the second is "Swing". What are those swung notes? If you look at each beat as a triplet, then there's an accent on the 3rd of the triplet. Yes, I know that swing is counted as 4 or 8 (depending on whether you're a dancer or a musician) and not threes. I'm not talking about three beats, I'm talking about splitting the beats up into thirds. Consider if we count four beats in Swing:
1 2 3 4If we break those 4 beats up into triplets:
1 2 3 4 123123123123Then we put an accent on the third of the triplet:
1 *2 *3 *4 * 123123123123I like to think of this as "1 and-A 2 and-A 3 and-A.." with the accent on the "A", though I'm guessing musicians probably wouldn't use the same description, but we'd be talking about the same thing. That gives us one of the most important aesthetic components in Swing. That accent is off the normal beats and is a syncopation. And what kind of syncopation is it? Let's look at our triple steps in Swing:
1 2 3 +4 5 6 7 +8Here we're putting the step exactly where our triplet would be emphasised, right before the 4th and 8th beats. Holy cow, the music asked for it! To me this is really beautiful - doing triples in Swing and pulses in Blues isn't just some arbitrary choice made by dancers - it's *in* the music, which is telling us what to do. And Blues is generally *not* asking for triple steps. I think the problem comes from the fact that Swing dancers are so comfortable with triple steps that they are ignoring the fact that they're either not in the music or so slight that they should be secondary to all the other things that the music is asking for. When I teach non-Swing dancers to Blues, you may see some interesting ideas eventually emerge from those dancers, but they don't include triple-steps, and I think that's pretty telling.
Somewhat retyped in response to the question "what is blues music?" http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_157662317619438&id=157847164267620 To me the question is off in the first place: "..defining what blues music is..." I don't think that's really the question of interest for this group. Blues Music is a huge phrase meaning lots of things. For example, consider Louis Jordan and his Jump Blues - which most of us would Lindy Hop to (if we are Swing Dancers as well). Even "Blues Dancing" is a big phrase, because there are many types of dance that fit into that world. I think the question is really the type of "Blues Music" that is appropriate for the type of "Blues Dancing" that is happening in the contemporary social dance scene that we are members of. And in that case, my answer follows: I think that when you look at the dance and the music we dance to, you will hopefully find a connection. To me the most important elements and connection between the two are: (apologies to Music experts if I am using the wrong terminology here, technical corrections welcome) 1) The drawn out beats and notes and movement (the precursor to Jazz!) 2) Blues Beat: What I call the "Boom-a-chick-a" 3) Blue Notes #2 is referring to music with a strong down beat and deep accentuation on the other on-beat. If you are counting to the music as '1234' then it looks like
**1** 2 *3* 4(strong emphasis on beat 1 and some emphasis on beat 3). I like to think of this as "Boom-a-chick-a" ("Boom" on 1 and "chick" on 3). You can hear it in just about every "Blues" song (at least in the non-Fusion world). That strong beat tends to lend itself well to the body pulsing, and if you do the bigger pulse (a change of weight) to the strong beat ("Boom") and the straight pulse (no weight change) to the weaker on beat ("Chick") you will find yourself doing what I see as the Blues basic - the pulse and change. The music asks for it, which is why when this dance was created a second time in the house party scene (which was ignorant towards the vintage Blues dancing from a century before) we ended up with an incredibly similar dance. That's one of the problems I have with "Fusion" - actually. I believe that the dance style is *completely* created by the music. Tango dancing, as an example, is entirely created and informed by the music. When you dance Blues to Tango, you are perhaps being clever in your creativity and experimentation, but you are doing this at the expense of completely ignoring what the music is asking for. I know some people who are otherwise very musical that have no problem doing this, and so be it, but for me, the connection to the music is holy, and no experimentation is worthy of ignoring that. So be that as well. I should get down off my soapbox now and get back to work...