Dancing to a Flexible Beat

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SKF NOTE: Last night I realized a line dance class with 40 amateur adult dancers is a perfect place to study how differently people can dance out of unison with each other – and still be dancing in time. That is, keeping the beat, with some dancers pushing the beat, others falling smack dab in the middle of the beat, and still others – like me – almost behind the beat.

And I was reminded of how larger musical groups of any style — marching bands, to big jazz bands, to orchestras — have to rehearse, to discipline themselves, to give-and-take until the whole group is hearing the beat the same.

The line dancing class is also a fun place — for me, at least — to experiment with the beat without losing the beat. I tend to think of my feet, while dancing steps, the same as if I am accompanying the dance songs on a drumset.

Sometimes, on purpose, I hold back placing my feet down (equivalent to playing an accent on a drum) until the very last second. And when I’m simply dancing for myself, not trying to sync up with a the entire class, if I focus too long on the feet of a dancer who is right on top of the beat — it can throw me off.

In small bands, musicians playing slightly out of sync can create a nice tension to the overall sound. But there will always be times when band members need to hear as one, otherwise they sound sloppy.

I am reminded of that every Monday night line dancing.

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