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Rhythm and syncopation - part 2

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:    Fri, 25 Sep 1998 15:00:47 -0700
From:    "Wallace, Evan"
Subject: Syncopation


Several months ago, there was an interesting discussion on this list of the
meaning of syncopation in music and dance that I would like to revisit.
Merriam-Webster defines syncopation as "a temporary displacement of the
regular metrical accent in music caused typically by stressing the weak
beat." (I think most definitions would also add "or not stressing the
accented beat.") It seems to me that most dancers use the word syncopation
to refer to *any* subdivision of a beat by the steps of either or both
dancers, and I would like to ask the list if this definition fits the
dictionary definition.
For example, consider walking one step per beat to a song in 4/4 time: 1, 2,
3, 4, left, right, left, right, etc. Now, add a double-time step on the
"and" between the third and fourth steps: 1, 2, 3-and-4 (e.g., left, right,
left-together, left). At first glance, this seems to fit the definition
above, since the step on the "and" falls between beats 3 and 4, which are
normally accented by steps, and the "and" in normally not accented by a
step.
However, a musician that I posed this to said this was not a true
syncopation. The argument went something like this. In nearly all 4/4 music,
the odd beats 1 and the 3 are naturally accented more strongly than the even
beats 2 and the 4. To be a true syncopation, the accent has to come on the
weak beats, namely, 2 and/or 4. Now, the argument continues, when you
subdivide a beat, the accenting of the odd beats 1 and 3 seems to get
carried through to the 1st and 3rd subdivisions of the beat (perhaps for
reasons rooted in the psychology of how the brain processes music). Consider
breaking each beat of the measure into quarters, sometimes represented this
way:
1-y-and-a-2-y-and-a-3-y-and-a-4-y-and-a
Just as the 1 and 3 are normally more accented than the 2 and 4, the "and"
(like 3) is normally more accented than the "y" or "a." So, a double step on
the "and" is not a syncopation because it falls on a normally accented
subdivision of the beat. According to this definition, the extra step would
have to be on the "y" or "a" to be a true syncopation. Also according to
this definition, a heavily accented step on 2 or 4 would be a syncopation,
even without extra steps added.
Can anyone shed some light on this?

Evan Wallace
Seattle

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Date: Mon, 28 Sep 1998 02:17:40 -0700
From: Phil Seyer
Subject: Re: Syncopation
Evan Wallace wrote:

So, a double step on the "and" is not a syncopation because it falls on a normally accented subdivision of the beat. According to this definition, the extra step would have to be on the "y" or "a" to be a true syncopation. Also according to this definition, a heavily accented step on 2 or 4 would be a syncopation, even without extra steps added. Can anyone shed some light on this?

Evan, I think your comments are exactly right. For a discussion on syncopation in dance and music, you may want to visit:

http://www.ilovemusic.com/syncopat.htm -- which is now be used in some university music courses.

I've also noticed that Tango dancers seem to be much more in tune with music and more knowledgable about what syncopation means. They usually don't distort the meaning of the word as do ballroom dancers. Splitting the beat is simply splitting the beat -- it is not syncopation and it's time dance teachers stop misusing this word. Afterall, they use the other musical terms correctly -- terms like tempo, beat, and measure. What really irritates me, is when dance teachers say:

"In music syncopation means splitting the beat."
WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.

I think what happened is that some well-meaning ballroom teacher heard the term syncopation, misunderstood it and then incorrectly taught millions of dance teachers.

Syncopation can results when you:

Arrive slightly early or late when stepping in relation to the beat. By not stepping directly on the beat you are accenting a part of the beat that is not normally accented.

Accent a step on a weak beat. You can accent a step by stepping quickly. To step quickly, you may need to hold back and delay the start of your step; then you can step quickly to arrive "on time -- on the beat."

Don't step directly on a strong beat. (NOTE: I've noticed that Foxtrot dancers dancing in the English style, tend to take a very lazy slow step so that their foot hits the floor on beat two. They are taking one step to two beats of music, but the first beat is taken up by a lazy (or you might say slow graceful) step that doesn't reach the floor until beat two. It always looked to me like they didn't know how to keep time to the music, but now I realize that they're deliberately "kind of" syncopating their steps to try to look graceful. (I say "kind of syncopating" because when you continually syncopate, the syncopation loses its effect as a syncopation. A syncopation by definition has to be unexpected.)

Simply hold and fail to step on a normally accented beat. It's nice to do that at the end of a song that ends with a syncopation -- with the music tones coming on on beat 4 instead of 3. Hold back steping on 3 and then step or touch on 4 along with the music.

Take two or more steps to one beat in such a way that you accent those steps that are not on the down part of the beat.

Take two steps to one beat and hold the second step into the next beat. A good example is a basic 8 count pattern where you lead the follower to cross on the AND of beat four -- so she crosses early before beat five. Then she holds the cross into and through beat five. This works well when the music also does this. I think it is more fun to syncopate in parallel with the music. However, you can still syncopate your dance steps when the music is not syncopating if you feel like it. As others have said, it comes down to what feels right. Also, before you can syncopate with music, you have to practice dance syncopations a lot -- you can't always wait for a musical syncopation

Aside from syncopation, if the music is staccato (sharp, detached tones), you may want to do the same in dancing and instead of thinking SLOW for 2 beats of music, you might think QUICK-HOLD. This is used a lot in brash, Intenational Style Tango, but I think it might be appropriate a times in AT as well when the music is staccato.

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Date:    Mon, 28 Sep 1998 09:21:03 -0700
From:    JC Dill
Subject: Re: Syncopation - long definition reply


On 03:00 PM 9/25/98 -0700, Wallace, Evan wrote:
<quote>
Syncopation

Several months ago, there was an interesting discussion on this list of the
meaning of syncopation in music and dance that I would like to revisit.

Merriam-Webster defines syncopation as "a temporary displacement of the
regular metrical accent in music caused typically by stressing the weak
beat." (I think most definitions would also add "or not stressing the
accented beat.") It seems to me that most dancers use the word syncopation
to refer to *any* subdivision of a beat by the steps of either or both
dancers, and I would like to ask the list if this definition fits the
dictionary definition.
</quote>

http://work.ucsd.edu:5141/cgi-bin/http_webster?isindex=syncopate&method=exact

Hypertext Webster Gateway: "syncopate"

>From Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) (web1913)

Syncopate \Syn"co*pate\, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Syncopated; p. pr. & vb. n.
Syncopating.] [LL. syncopatus, p. p. of syncopare to
syncopate, to swoon. See {Syncope}.] 1. (Gram.) To contract, as a word, by
taking one or more letters or syllables from the
middle; as, ``Gloster'' is a syncopated form of ``Gloucester.''

2. (Mus.) To commence, as a tone, on an unaccented part of a measure, and
continue it into the following accented part, so that the accent is driven
back upon the weak part and the rhythm drags.

>From WordNet (r) 1.6 (wn)

syncopate v 1: omit a sound or letter in a word; "syncopate a word" 2:
modify the rhythm by syncopation, in music

http://work.ucsd.edu:5141/cgi-bin/http_webster?isindex=syncopation&method=exact

Hypertext Webster Gateway: "syncopation"

>From Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) (web1913)

Syncopation \Syn`co*pa"tion\, n. 1. (Gram.) The act of syncopating; the
contraction of a word by taking one or more letters or syllables from the
middle; syncope.

2. (Mus.) The act of syncopating; a peculiar figure of rhythm, or
rhythmical alteration, which consists in welding into one tone the second
half of one beat with the first half of the beat which follows.

>From WordNet (r) 1.6 (wn)

syncopation n 1: the loss of sounds in the interior of a word (as in
`fo'c'sle' for `forecastle') [syn: {syncope}] 2: a musical rhythm
accenting a weak beat


The musical term syncopation above, "a musical rhythm accenting a weak
beat" is the SOURCE for the newer dancer's term syncopation, which
originally meant dancing to that rhythm that accents that weak beat, and
now means dancing to a sub-beat (which may be faster or slower than the
main beat).  Thus, when you are dancing normally, you are dancing on the
beat, when you syncopate you are dancing to accent the sub-beat by taking
faster or slower steps than those danced normally.

Reference:

http://salsaweb.com/features/joe.htm
<quote>
        The truly best dancers in Los Angeles have worked
        with Joe Cassini. The everyday person probably
        recognizes him as the dancer instructor who teaches
        the advanced-level Salsa class on Friday nights at
        Sportsmen's Lodge - the class with all the cool footwork.
        ...
        But also, what I find with a lot of the dancers now is
        that they dance to steps. There are some that
        dance to music: they can hear the music, they know
        when they're on 1,2,3, or 4 and they can
        syncopate and use the music. That's what it used to
        be back at the Palladium [New York City] when
        we did the Mambo and we danced on 2.
</quote>

http://www.country-time.com/glossary.htm
http://www.apci.net/~drdeyne/glossary.htm
<quote>
        SYNCOPATED SPLITS
        Feet move apart separately and are brought back together
        Counted as "& 1, & 2"
</quote>

Check your dictionary for the term "netnews" or "usenet" or "email" or
"webmaster" or "webpage" or even "internet".

        Word usage evolves over time!

The terms that dancers have taken and re-defined to use to describe certain
steps are valid, even if those particular definitions haven't yet reached
*your* particular dictionary.

Phil Seyer writes:
<quote>
   "In music  syncopation means splitting the beat."  <===WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.

I think what happened is that some well-meaning ballroom teacher  heard the
term syncopation,  misunderstood it and then  incorrectly taught millions
of dance teachers.
</quote>

What has happened is word evolution.  There is nothing wrong with dancers
redefining syncopation from it's music definition to make it work as a
dance step definition.

Also See:

http://rylibweb.man.ac.uk/data2/text/lglass10.txt

<quote>
  `But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument,"' Alice
objected.

  `When _I_ use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful
tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor
less.'

  `The question is,' said Alice, `whether you CAN make words mean
so many different things.'

  `The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master -
- that's all.'
</quote>

Phil also says:

<quote>
now I realize that they're deliberately  "kind of" syncopating their steps
to try to look graceful.    (I say "kind of syncopating" because when you
continually syncopate,  the syncopation loses its effect as a syncopation.
 A syncopation by definition has to be unexpected.)
</quote>

Not at all!  West Coast Swing is FULL of continual syncopations.  Foxtrot
as you described it isn't syncopated, it's danced that way *as* the basic
step.  A *dance* syncopation is a departure from the *dance* basic rhythm,
which in most dances is not the basic rhythm of the music.  A common
exception would be waltz, the music goes 123456, the basic step goes
123456, and any departure from the basic step is a syncopation.  But most
other dance basic rhythms are syncopated to the music, either (as in
foxtrot) by stepping a slow step to two beats of music, (as in chacha) by
adding a step between 2 beats of music.  In chacha, the music goes
1234(cha) and the dance (starting on 2) goes 234&1, syncopating every basic
with the syncopation of the music.  Thus, the music is always syncopated,
the dance basic already includes a syncopation, and the dancer's term
syncopate is then saved to describe a step that departs from the (already
syncopated) basic.

That's just how it works, in dance.

jc

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Date:    Tue, 29 Sep 1998 00:48:05 -0700
From:    Phil Seyer
Subject: Re: Syncopation - long definition reply


I wrote:

>I think what happened is that some well-meaning ballroom teacher  heard the
>term syncopation,  misunderstood it and then  incorrectly taught millions
>of dance teachers.
></quote>
>

JC Dill wrote:

>What has happened is word evolution.  There is nothing wrong with dancers
>redefining syncopation from it's music definition to make it work as a
>dance step definition.

OK I gues dancers and dance teachers and change the meaning of
musical terms for their own use.
I still don't think it's a good idea.
Why is it necessary?  It just confuses students and
over simplified the idea of syncopation.

Keep in mind that what I object to so strongly to is statements like

   "*in music* syncopation means splitting the beat."

This is not word evolution, it is simply ignorance and lack of understanding
of what syncopation does mean in music.  By distoring and failing
to understand the basic nature of musical syncopation, teachers are missing
a very important part of dancing to music.

I would like to plead with dance teachers and dancers: "
"
Please, please don't twist a perfectly good musical term and confuse
students.  If you want to talk about splittng the beat, then just
say splitting the beat."

Basic musical terms are not evolving. Are you going to take the word tempo
and say it
means an increase in volume?  Are you going to take "measure" and
say it means to dance faster?  There is no need to distort perfectly
good musical terms.  If you want to say "In my dance class what
I mean by syncopation is ....... OK.  But don't say "in music syncopation
means splitting the beat. --- PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


> Foxtrot
>as you described it isn't syncopated, it's danced that way *as* the basic
>step.

No, it is not always danced that way as the basic step, that's my point.

In American, social lstyle dancing you don't syncopate by stepping
on beat two.  You step naturally and make sure your foot hits the
floor on beat one.

Only English Foxtrot dancers "syncopate" against the music
by stepping on beat two.

Since they do it more or less consistently, it loses the feel of
syncopation.  So in a sense it is not syncopation.  In the sense
of accenting an weak beat, it is syncopation especially
to a person used to American style Foxtrot..


 A *dance* syncopation is a departure from the *dance* basic rhythm,
>which in most dances is not the basic rhythm of the music.

Yes, that's way dancers have distorted the meaning of syncopation..
As long as you are taking liberties with syncopation why don't
you talk about *dance* tempo and *dance* measures and *dance* phrases?
You don't.  You don't distort the meaning of those musical terms.  So
why distort the meaning of syncopation.  Oh well, if you
must, please don't say, "In music...."  ... unless you know what you are
talking about I suggest that you leave discussions of musical terms  to
music
teachers.


Cha-Cha
=========
If a *dance syncopation* is a departure from the *dance* basic rhythm,
why call the 4 & 1 a syncopation.  Come on.  The basic
pattern in cha cha is:

    2   3  4 and 1

That's the basic way you dance it.
So by your earlier definition 4&  could not be a syncopation.
Yet most well-meaning dance teachers call it a syncopation,
simply because the beat is split into two parts.


> ..... A common
>exception would be waltz, the music goes 123456

No waltz goes 1-2-3;  It is not 6/4 time but 3/4.
Dancers sometimes counted it as 123456 to help themselves
think in two measure phrases.  Conductors don't conduct
waltz with 6 beats, they conduct it with one beat per measure
(as in Quick Waltz) or in 3 beats per measure (slower waltz)


When dancers take two steps on beat 3
as in:

          1 2 3&

...they are not really doing a syncopation (musically speaking)
That's because the 3& steps flow naturally into the 1
and do not cause an unexpected accent.

In the pattern:

       1 and 2   3 and

The 1& creates a syncopation.

The 3& does not.

All these subtleties are lost when you use the simplified
*dance* syncopation definition.


I know it may be a losing battle now to get dancers to refrain
from distorting the term syncopation in the name of
evolving language.  But perhaps I can help them
understand that *in music* syncopation has a
distinct meaning and that a lot of fun and enjoyment
can come from learning to dance along with
musical syncopations.

If you watch Ken Delmar's video

   http://www.sanfranciscotango.com/images/Ken2.mpg  <== downloadable video

you can see how closely his dancing matches the music.  When
the music syncopates, he and his partners are
right there with the music -- accenting the
normally weak beats.

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Date:    Tue, 29 Sep 1998 13:42:33 -0700
From:    "Wallace, Evan"
Subject: Syncopations


On Sept. 28 J.C. Dill wrote:

"The musical term syncopation above, "a musical rhythm accenting a weak
beat" is the SOURCE for the newer dancer's term syncopation, which
originally meant dancing to that rhythm that accents that weak beat, and now
means dancing to a sub-beat (which may be faster or slower than the main
beat)."

"The terms that dancers have taken and re-defined to use to describe certain
steps are valid, even if those particular definitions haven't yet reached
*your* particular dictionary."

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you CAN make words mean so many
different things.'
'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master--that's all.'

******

You've given no evidence to support your contention that the typical
dancer's definition of syncopation is valid or useful other than to state
that it is so. All of the definitions you quoted explicitly mention or imply
the importance of accenting a normally weak beat or weak subdivision of a
beat to achieve a syncopation.

Yes, language evolves. It is not a given, however, that this evolution
increases clarity, concision, or usefulness. If it is true that the ballroom
definition in now broadly accepted, then this is a clear case of a word
becoming less precise and less useful over time, since now there is no
economical way to distinguish between a "syncopation" on a strong beat or
strong subdivision, and a true syncopation on a weak beat or weak
subdivision.

The question would be merely semantical if it had no bearing on the way we
dance or hear music. But in fact, it does. A double-, triple-, or
quadruple-time rhythm or dance step is significantly different from a
syncopated rhythm or dance step, which, I suspect, is why someone found it
necessary to invent a new word for it in the first place. True syncopations
(as defined by musicians) sound different, look different, and feel
different than beats or steps that are merely subdivided and accented in the
usual pattern, i.e., with accents on every other odd beat or odd
subdivision.

Your quote from Lewis Carroll was apt. Who indeed is to be master, man or
language? Well, here is a clear-cut case of how imprecise language can get
the upper hand. Without a clear linguistic distinction between true
syncopations and merely subdivided beats, it is far less likely that
students (and teachers, for that matter) will ever discover the distinction
on their own, and thus will be denied an invaluable means for expressing a
certain mood or flavor in their dancing.

I have only recently discovered that what I thought were syncopations in my
dancing are, in fact, usually not. I was not blind, however, to the
delicious beauty of true syncopations in other people's dancing--I just
didn't have a name for it. I assumed they were doing the same things as I
was, just doing them better and more artfully. I now know that these skilled
dancers are doing things not just better and more artfully--they are doing
something distinctly different. Now that I know that, I can begin to learn
it and teach it to others.

Precise language good. Imprecise language bad.

Evan Wallace
Seattle

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From:    Bruss Bowman
Subject: Re: syncopation...reply to Evan Wallace


        Evan Wallace wrote me and asked the following.
 /*
 I'm still trying to figure out this syncopation thing. A while back you
 wrote:
 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 ( i.e. dancers are following the musical
    syncopation )
 4. Musical rhythm syncopation with that is syncopated by one or more
    of the dancers ( i.e. dancers are syncopating the musical syncopation. )

 I understand 1 and 2. Number 3 and 4 I don't understand. Did you mean to say
 in #3, "i.e. dancers are NOT following the musical syncopation"
 (that is, they dance normally on the beat as if the syncopation never
 occurred), and in #4, "i.e. dancers are FOLLOWING the musical syncopation
 (that is, the music syncopates and the dancers syncopate the same way, or
 perhaps in some other way.)?

 If this is what you meant, then surely #2 and #3 would be switched in
 difficulty (for the dancers, but not the musicians!), so I must be missing
 your point.

    */

Evan,  I think you understand what I was trying to say about #3 and #4.
Perhaps it's the order of difficulty where there is confusion?  The
order is not important and is just my perception anyway.  The difficulty
of #2 and #3 definitely can be switched.  I believe what is important to
understand is that in order to consciously depart from what is going on
in the music ( syncopate ) you absolutely must have an intimate
knowledge of both the structure of the music and the structure of your
own steps.  There are numerous people that "dance" in a manner that is
not matched in any way, shape or form to the music.  These people are
not syncopating just dancing poorly.  Also interesting #4 can either be
easy ( during a musical syncopation step on the metered beat ) or
incredibly difficult ( artistically syncopate around the syncopation ).
The later I've only seen a couple of people ever do well.  Examples in
tango, Chicho and Omar Vega.   Example in swing, Mary Ann Nunez.

How does one teach this?  I'm not really sure in tango.  In the swing
world there is an amazing teacher, Skippy Blair, who developed a system
( the Unit system ) to break down the dance/music  into a series of two
count units.   Her students are among the very best dancers in the swing
world due in large part to their intimate knowledge of the fundamental
structure of the dance.  There is a tango teacher in the U.S., Ricardo
Moncada, who is a long time student of Skippy's.  It might be
interesting to hear from him or his students as to how he breaks down
his teaching of tango and how he describes syncopations.

Also notable, this fall Chicho will be making a pass through the U.S.
There was already an advertisement for him on tango-l for the Atlanta
group.  I don't know that much about his teaching but if you get the
chance go see him dance.  His musicality is truly among the best in the
world.

Best Regards,
Bruss

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Date:    Tue, 6 Oct 1998 18:17:01 -0400
From:    "Walter M. Kane"
Subject: syncopation -- a simple-minded approach

Hi all,

I've been reluctant to stick my nose into this interesting subject, because
my credentials don't include formal training in dance or music theory,
which seem to be behind some of the erudite writings on the subject,
including on a point so basic as the definition of syncopation. I've been
following it with the hope of gleaning something I can use, but the more I
read here, the more complex the subject seems to become, and it makes me
wonder how useful such dissection is once you're out on the dance floor. I
find I must relate to it in a more intuitive way.

I won't attempt to formalize a definition, but I think I know syncopation
when I see it. Anyone who's ever watched a Fred Astaire movie has seen (and
heard) syncopation in his dance. As has been said in this thread, it's not
simply splitting the beat, no matter how finely, and it's not shifting the
beat, e.g., dancing on 2. What APPEARS and FEELS like syncopation to me, is
a step, or steps, slightly off the beat, but clearly  preserving a
relationship with the beat.

The time lag, or time lead, can vary, and is not intended to be an even
fraction of the tempo (splitting the beat). But the beat is not lost. When
it is, that's "not syncopating [but is] just dancing poorly," as Bruss said
 in his message headed "syncopation...reply to Evan Wallace."

Syncopation that I can recognize, and try to do, is a step executed just
before, or just after the beat. But more than just making the step *off*
the beat, the entire body is *anticipating* the beat, and *feeling* a
recognition of where the beat *really is*, even though the feet are hitting
the floor where the beat *ain't*. I will also feel a lean, or at least a
subtle tipping of the body's balance in recognition of the beat, even
though the foot is not going to get there "in time" or will get there ahead
of time.

Also, implicit in syncopation versus "dancing poorly" is the necessity of
eventually catching up with the beat.

The greater the skill of the dancer, the more complex the syncopation can
become, i.e., by increasing the number of steps taken in relation to a
given beat, or the number of measures over which the process is carried,
but the principle, it seems to me, is the same.

Einstein is purported to have said, "Do things the simplest way, but not
too simply." I hope I haven't made it too simple.

Tangringo
____________________
Walter M. (Tangringo) Kane

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Date:    Tue, 6 Oct 1998 17:32:53 -0700
From:    Brian Salisbury
Subject: Re: syncopation -- a simple-minded approach

Following the syncopation thread...

        For years, (about 35) I have shuddered when the word syncopation came
up outside my circle of musicnerds.  The flag goes up signaling, "all
that follows here will be a hopeless confusion of misinformation and
time will be wasted"  Its even worse in a dance studio of folks that
oughta be moving not standing around listening.

        Actually, I'm enjoying thrashing it out on the list which is the place
for verbage rather than movage.

        Part of the enjoyment of any aesthetic endeavor is creating an
interesting balence of UNITY and CONTRAST. Whether the creation be sound
or movement (or whatever) or a pairing of movement and sounds
satisfaction will come when those two ideas are nicely used.  Too much
UNITY; boring, too much CONTRAST; chaos.  The cleverness comes from the
design of flowing the elements at hand--  You, your partner, the floor,
the other couples, the basic beat, the variations in the music, the
variations in the space, the gestalt for heavens sake, all into this
amazing experience of "tango"

        I think we all agree:  Talk on the list, work out details of movement
at practica, and dance, just dance at Milonga.

        Brian Salisbury


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Date:    Mon, 12 Oct 1998 09:20:12 -0400
From:    Sharon Pedersen
Subject: Re: Syncopation


Laurie Moseley (at home) wrote:
> [...]
> syncopation. Until now I had always thought that it referred to:
> doing something on the off-beat (where 'something' can be stepping, clapping,
> hitting a drum, or whatever).

AND not doing anything on the following on-beat.

Thus:
    1    &    2    &    3    &    4    &
    step step step step step step step step
is not syncopation.

But
    1    &    2    &    3    &    4    &
         step      step      step      step
is syncopation.
(Or being late, if you don't do it with perfect control and artistry.)

I defer to other contributors who have written more subtly about the
beat, back-beat and the emphases in the music.  But on a basic level, I
think it's "**leaving out** emphasis on the on-beat after putting
emphasis on the off-beat" that most dancers ignore when they use the
term syncopation, which drives most musicians bats.

In particular, taking two quick steps while your partner takes one slow
step, is not syncopation from a musician's point of view.  It's just
adding a step.  (Like playing eighth notes instead of quarter notes.  Or
marching double-time.)

--Sharon
  pedersen@bowdoin.edu    Brunswick, Maine, USA
(flute-player and tango-dancer)

> In practical terms this means that if the beat is going
>
> 1 & 2 & 3 & 4
>
> you step (clap, etc.) on one or more of the &s.
>
> Is this really too simple-minded ? It works for me.

> Laurie (Laurence)



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Date:    Sun, 29 Nov 1998 10:30:00 -0800
From:    Phil Seyer
Subject: Re: Syncopation


I agree completely with Sharon's astute comments.
I continue to be amazed at the level of
understanding on this list of synccopation.

Perhaps that's because Argentine Tango dancers
are very much concerned with dancing to the music
instead of just moving their feet to
long memorized patterns.

When the music stops, most AT dancers actually stop,
too.   Amazing.  (smiling)

Other dancers *often* just keep dancing several
beats after the music stops -- as if the
music didn't exist!



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