Tuesday, July 27, 2004

The WCS Matrix

Last night was the usual West Coast Swing lesson at the Dance Spectrum. I've been going for the last month or so, and doing both the beginning and intermediate classes. The intermediate one is usually considerably more interesting and I'll probably stop going to the beginning ones soon, but getting a new approach on the basics has been really good. Last night in particular I really felt like I got a better sense of how the basic whip works, so it's more fun to do now and I'm less likely to confuse it with a Lindy Hop swingout.

The most interesting part of the class though, was at the end. The classes go roughly in one month cycles, though they're all drop-in-able as well. So this was the last one of the month and R2 was giving us a bit of a teaser to show us a bit of what you can do with WCS as you get better, and to encourage us to keep it up. His focus is on following and expressing the music, and so he described how he organizes this in his mind. He has a matrix of two independent variables (well, probably more, but this was the beginning class, after all) and different ways he dances depending on where a piece of music falls in that matrix.

One variable is heavy/light, which confused me at first, because the music he was playing for each one didn't seem to match my musical conceptions of heavy and light. I eventually decided that the music he termed "light" was generally more consistent and homogenous, whereas the "heavy" music had stronger accents that stood out more from the rest of the sound. The terms seemed to make more sense when he danced to them, working the accents with his body.

The other variable was direct/free, which seem like somewhat more arbitrary terms to me, though I can't think of better ones. With "direct" music, you can dance very precisely and robotically. It's good for beginners, since you can just focus on doing the steps and not stress out about style so much. You probably actually have to be a little better though, to make it look good -- like actual styling, rather than like a robot. With "free" music, everything was looser and more flowing. I wish I could remember the actual examples of the music he played, so I could figure out what the musical distinction in this variable was. I've forgotten now what it sounded like.

So R2 danced short examples to music from each combination of those variables, and it was really very nice to watch. He stuck mostly to pretty simple moves but his style changed dramatically for each one. It was very inspiring. I definitely want to keep learning from this guy.

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