Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Holiday Ball video plus playlist of Holiday music

The Holiday Waltz Ball last Saturday was a great success with over 150 people attending. Norse Hall never looked so festive and the dancing was so enthusiastic we had to extend the dance by a half hour. Thanks to Nancy and all those who helped with decorations and treats. Also a special thanks to Theresa Koon and Craig Jones for the live music.

Steve Carruthers made the following video that captures much of the spirit of the evening.

Also for those who would like some danceable Holiday music here is a playlist that is also on Spotify (Username:denmyers) We hope everyone has a great holiday and that we will see you dancing.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

When Waltzers meet Tango Dancers- Floor craft Suggestions

There are differences between the tango etiquette and other partner dance etiquette.

First and most important is how dancers use the floor. Tango dancers are accustomed to traveling counter clockwise at a slow to moderate pace in the outside lane whereas those doing traveling dances (waltz, fox trot, one step etc) will be also wanting to use the outside lane but at a much faster pace. A suggested resolution to this potential conflict is to have two traveling lanes. Those doing traveling dances should use the far outside lane and limit weaving through the interior of the dance. Those doing a more traditional style of tango should dance in a second lane being aware of faster moving dancers to their outside. As always, those doing dances that occupy a set space should stay to the inside and slot dances like west coast swing should align themselves with the direction of the flooring. The key to sharing a dancing with others is to expand your awareness of your surroundings to include the dancers around you and to have fun and allow others to have fun.

There are also differences in how people ask one another to dance and the number of dances that a couple is expected to do. In tango a common practice is to ask another to dance nonverbally with eye contact and a nod and to accept by meeting the gaze and affirming the nod. Also partners usually dance an entire tanda (a set of 3 to 4 songs ended with a “non danceable” cortina that gets dancers off the floor).

At Dance Eclectic "Tango and Tapas" dances, the music will not be organized in recognizable tandas although “cortinas” are planned to mark a transition between blues, world, non tango and nuevo tango sections.  So dancers should feel free to use their preferred ways of asking partners to dance and not have an expectation of a multiple dance commitment. Again the object is to allow dancing to be a lively conversation with your partner and to have fun.

As always comments on how we can improve this event are appreciated.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Portland Dance Eclectic YouTube

A great resource for dancers is YouTube. There are excellent videos of just about every different style of dancing. You can be inspired, motivated to learn, instructed, film yourself dancing and then upload the video. You can discover a form of dance you never heard of like Zouk or check out how they are dancing on the East Coast or what you favorite instructor is up to.

You don’t need another reason to spend hours surfing on the Internet when you could be dancing, so here is the Portland Dance Eclectic YouTube channel:  When I find something that might me of interest to the group, I will sometimes put it in a blog,  but all the time it will be posted on the channel. Let me know what interests you and feel free to suggest additions.

Check out Fred Astaire dancing the blues to a very nice version for St. James's Infirmary by Jonah Jones. The dancing is in the second half of the video. It is also an example of 50's TV cabaret skits that were common on shows then.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Another Taste of Tango - an example of alternative tango

We are fortunate in Portland to have a great tango community as well as two world class festivals. Going to the festival milongas (dances) can be an intimidating experience with so many experienced and accomplished dancers from around the country and world descending on Portland to dance obsessively at all hours, in many styles and numerous venues around Portland. It is also is inspiring to see how a dance and a community can grow and prosper in the 21st century as an alternative to passive activities where we sit and are entertained by performers. What is it about tango that makes it so addicting, that it allows us to be entertained just by our participation? What can we take from the tango experience and use in other dancing? 
One characteristic is the way Tango focuses on creating a connection with your partner that is responsive to the particular musical moment.  Other dance genre seem to focus more on patterns and finding a rhythmic groove while tango focuses on developing a vocabulary that can create an expressive response to both the rhythm and melody. 
Here is a video Homer and Christina - dancers and instructors from San Francisco who are very familiar to the Portland tango community and who are excellent examples tango dancers in the alternative style. They are   dancing to a waltz by Ludovic Einaudi “The Days” that is around 130 bpm (the rhythm seems to fade away at times). This is a moderate tempo for waltz eclectic dancers and a very slow tempo for tango dancers. It is a performance dance by highly experienced dancers doing moves that took years to perfect, but the phasing that they are using as they dance primarily with the melody is an example being focus in the moment and on your partner. 

The first weekend in November we will be having a workshops and a dance that will provide a “Taste of Tango”  as well as dancing to some beautiful music from around the world. Details of the weekend are on the website. Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Playlist Styles - Blues Eclectic

 Music affects dancers in  different ways. Some music is uplifting and inspires celebration and joyful expression. Some music is sensuous and inspires us to feel the music in the movement of our bodies. Some music is contemplative and brings us into the present moment with a zen-like focus. And some music is soulful, and pulls us down into our own sense of being human, of being an individual.

Over the years I have tried to put together playlists that focus each of these different musical styles. The waltz eclectic playlist which I play at brunches, balls and most Thursday nights tend to be uplifting. The latin eclectic (sensual) and tango eclectic (contemplative) playlists are still in their formative stages. I am beginning to slip a fe songs in on Thursday night and at Tango and Tapas dances. The playlist that I feel is the most developed and focused right now is for blues eclectic. It is soulful, it inspires movement that is innovated and individual. After an evening of being pulled down into dancing the varied moods of blues artists, I feel cleansed and, paradoxically, uplifted.

Below is the beginning of the playlist for Saturday night's Blues Eclectic dance. If the mood of the music interests you, come join us. If you have not blues danced before, Marjorie's beginners lesson will show you how to adapt the dancing you know to blues styling. I will also post has much of the playlist as I can on Spotify over the the next day or so.

Death Came a Knockin' (Travelin' Shoes)
Ruthie Foster
Blues West Coast
Walk Away
Christina Aguilera
waltz blues
Diana Krall
Blues stroll
Blue Prelude
Asylum Street Spankers
Blues slowtwostep
That's How Strong My Love Is
Taj Mahal
waltz blues
I Got the Blues
Brother Yusef
Blues West Coast
Algiers Hoodoo Woman
Dr. Michael White
Blues swing
Gina Sicilia
Blues West Coast
Knockin' (edit)
Carolina Chocolate Drops / Luminescent Orchestrii
Blues fasttwostep
Fireman's Lament
Firehouse Five Plus Two
Blues slowtwostep
Please, Mr. Jailer 
Rachel Sweet
Blues West Coast
The Jive Aces
Blues stroll
Alicia Keys
Blues sixeight
Wade In the Water
Logan Wells
Blues West Coast
I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl
Nina Simone
Blues slowtwostep
Too Little, Too Late
Karen Lovely
Waltz medium
I'd Rather be a Blind Girl (edit)
Etta James
waltz blues
Nobody's Fault
Rising Appalachia
Blues stroll
Fumblin' With the Blues
Tom Waits
Blues West Coast
Blues 2.0
Fruteland Jackson
Blues stroll
Papa Mali
Blues West Coast
St. Gabriel
Janiva Magness
waltz blues

 I will have more to say about this and other playlist styles in future blogs. And as always your feedback is much appreciated.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Nightclub Two Step with a taste of tango

Tango is a great dance and a great way to approach dancing. It allows you to dance expressively to the melody of a song; to sink deeply into the music and the connection with your partner. In my opinion it does not have to be done exclusively to tango music and only at tango milongas. Here is a video from a dance instructor pair from San Diego, who are primarily west coast swing, ballroom dancers, using tango with nightclub twostep to dance to a piece of new age music by Secret Garden. Ordinarily you would feel the music did not have a strong enough rhythm to be danceable. Tools learned from tango allow you to feel the structure of the dance in the melody of the piece.

We will have another “Taste of Tango and Tapas” in November. These dances are focused on music and dancing where tango can be combined with other forms of dancing in ways that are both expressive and playful.

Thanks to Don Harvey for finding the video.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hugh Laurie, " Let Them Talk": Blues for dancing

A blues record by an English comedic actor?  In his own words “ Let this record show that I am a white, middle-class Englishman, openly trespassing on the music and myth of the American south.” 

After passing over it a couple times in iTunes, I spent some time listening to it and was pleasantly surprised. It is a great tribute to the New Orleans tradition of blues and includes covers of 15 standards. A large part of the success of the album can be attributed to producer, Joe Henry and an excellent band that includes such legendary artists such as Dr John, Irma Thomas and Tom Jones with horn arrangements by Allen Toussaint. Hugh Laurie does vocals and plays piano and guitar. His voice is a little thin on the vocals, yet he has a kind of an English actor's phrasing that gives the songs an “eclectic” flavor and makes you listen to the lyrics from a different perspective. I like that.

And it has some great songs for dancing.

 “Let Them Walk” is a blues waltz that has crossover possibilities. Its one of those waltzes where the tempo (150 bpm) does not match the energy of the song. (In a traditional rotary or Viennese style waltz, the tempo and energy mesh and invite a smooth, flowing style of dancing.) Because of this tension it offers other possibilities of using a variety of rhythms to dance to the emotion in the music. 

Other songs that invite dancing include:
“Battle of Jericho” -  A spiritual that is rousing two step. I love the arrangement on this one.
“St. James Infirmary”  -  The second half is a great blues/ west coast.
“Buddy Bolden’s Blues” and “Six Cold Feet” works nicely as slow blues.
Dancers will be hearing these songs at our dances. Let me know which ones you like. 

Check out the rest of the songs on Amazon:

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Dance Eclectic DJ Blog - A new start

The purpose of this blog is to open a dialogue between me as DJ and you the dancers of our community, and in so doing improve the quality of the music, the dancing and the overall experience of our events. In this blog, playlists of dances will be published, music of interest to dancers will be discussed, videos of dancing from places such as YouTube will be shared, and testimonial memoirs of our events will be presented. There will also be occasional musings about dancing, dance etiquette, and the dance culture in general as well as discussions generated from your feedback.
The transition to our new newsletter format is a good opportunity to begin a venture like this. I will attempt to update the blog with new content weekly and introduce the content in the weekly newsletter. Your feedback will be especially helpful in this endeavor.

FM to Spotify- the search for dance music

This has got be the golden age of the musical search. There are so many ways to find new music from small groups or distant cultures.

Over the last 15+ years of DJing for first zydeco/swing dances and then for waltz eclectic, the search for music has been one of my most enjoyable past times. Its something like the stamp collecting I did as a kid, finding the rare piece of music from some exotic culture to which you can actually dance. But when going back and pondering the changes that have occurred in my way of searching for music I am just amazed. No longer does one have to buy numerous CD’s or stick to the tried and true repertoire.

Here’s a timeline of how finding music and DJing as changed over the period.

1996 to 2000:  I would hear a song at dance and find the name of the song and “try” to remember it. Record stores like “Hear music” had booths where you could listen to music with headphones which make even mediocre music dance in your head.  So many CDs were bought this way and then rarely listened to again. Then there were FM radio stations, Rolling Stone’s and other magazines’ music reviews. However, while there were more sources for finding music , it was hit and miss with the music coming through cultural and commercial filters.

2000 to 2004: Then there was Google. The Internet opened up the world of music. Typing a few words in a box allowed one to find music from little known artists, to see what DJs from the East coast or Europe where playing and maybe even hear a 20 second snippet of a song. This explosion of accessibility to different music is what allows me to really be “eclectic” in my playlists.

2005 to 2010: Along came iTunes and YouTube.  Typing words in a box was easy but one still needed to find the words. With iTunes finding music became a purely surfing activity allowing me to ride a rhythm of clicks from one artist to the next, listening to samples of music and discovering artists I had never heard of. With YouTube, one could search for dancers and actually hear what they were dancing to. The music discovered through these venues was available to buy with additional advantage of being able to buy just the songs off a CD that were of interest.

The present:  Music from all around the world is now available to everyone and the unique character of that music has not yet fused into a world blend like a MacDonald’s restaurant but still represents the indigenous values and visions of local cultures.  In addition, Itunes and YouTube have been improved and they have a lot of competition. You can now listen to a whole or at least most of a song before you buy it instead of just a sample.

At present my preferred sources for music are:
1. First and foremost, suggestions from dancers in our community. Keep them coming.
2. I still use Google to search forums, artists and other DJ playlists.
3. Online music distributors. I use iTunes, Amazon, eMusic, Calabash (for world music) and Spotify.

My current favorite is Spotify. It’s a music streaming service that was developed in Europe and therefore has a strong representation of European and world music. It allows for the creation of playlists that can be streamed through your computer consisting of any music that is on their service. This means I can listen to whole songs numerous times before I decide to buy that song (elsewhere) and play it at a dance. Playlists can also be published that other subscribers can listen to. If anyone would like to subscribe to my playlists and hear music I am evaluating for possible play at a coming dance. I would like to get your feedback. Subscriptions range from free (you need to be invited) to $5 or $10/mo for paid subscriptions. If you would like an invitation, email me.  I only have a few left, so first emails get them.

Lastly I would like to thank the community of dancers who come to our events for allowing me to turn an activity that could easily be seen as a collector’s addiction, into a craft where the end product is the vision of dancers participating in the joy of music.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Playlist for 2011 Black and White Ball

Title Artist Genre
As Much As You Lead Lex Land waltz slow
Welcome to Mystery Plain White T's Waltz medium
Clear Blue Eyes (Feat. Lucinda Williams) Amos Lee Waltz medium
Diddy Wah Diddy Taj Mahal Blues West Coast
Call It A Night KGB waltz slow
Le festin Camille Waltz medium
Hesitation Blues Asylum Street Spankers Swing EC slow
Dreaming My Dreams The Cranberries waltz slow
Good Man Raphael Saadiq Night Club Two Step
Les 'Tites Yeaux Noirs Jambalaya Cajun Band waltz cajun
Ring My Bells Enrique Iglesias Swing west coast
In Gods Hands Nelly Furtado waltz fast
sweet_pea Amos Lee Swing EC slow
Moon Waltz Yesh Gvul Waltz medium
Siempre Me Quadana Bebe Night Club Two Step
One More Ride on the Merry Go Round Jane Olivor waltz fast
Summertime Ft. Chick Corea The Jive Aces Swing EC slow
Wishful Thinking Rupa & the April Fishes waltz slow
Cheek to Cheek Max Raabe & Palast Orchester Fox trot
Flightless Bird, American Mouth Iron & Wine Waltz medium
Crabbuckit [Canada] k-os Swing EC fast
Das schlechte gewissen Annett Louisan Waltz medium
Fever Elvis Presley Swing EC slow
Yumeji's Theme Shigeru Umebayashi waltz slow
In These Shoes? Bette Midler Cha cha
Nara E.S. Posthumus waltz fast
Fenkoro Smod World twostep
Beauty in Walking Away Marie Digby Waltz medium
Rolling in the Deep Adele Blues West Coast
When You Taught Me How To Dance Katie Melua Waltz medium
Up A Lazy River The Jive Aces Swing Lindy
La Dispute Yann Tiersen waltz slow
When You're Smiling (Bonus Track) Leftover Cuties Swing EC fast
Erin Shore The Corrs waltz fast
What A Wonderful World (3m 58s) Jive Aces Night Club Two Step
Il pleut sous la mer rene aubry Waltz medium
Original Charleston Max Raabe & Palast Orchester Swing EC fast
Il vecchio e il bambino Carla Bruni waltz fast
Moonshine Fran Healy Blues West Coast
Angel Sarah McLachlan waltz slow
Marvin & Miles Gare Du Nord Blues West Coast
I'd Rather be a Blind Girl (edit) Etta James waltz blues
Dark Sunshine Dr. Michael White Blues swing
Stop (edit) Sheryl Crow waltz slow
Sunny Side Of The Street Rod Stewart Fox trot
we are all in the dance Feist waltz slow
Let's never stop falling in love Pink Martini Cha cha
Turning (Instrumental) Suzanne Ciani waltz slow
Esperanza Enrique Iglesias Night Club Two Step
Nothing Else Matters Apocalyptica Waltz medium
La Camisa Negra Juanes mambo
Joyeuse espi├Ęglerie Marimuz waltz slow