Dancesport Life was there!
The first Grand Slam of the year is a really important event as it determines the tone for the new season of competitions. It sets a new Grand Slam Ranking that will bring the top 12 couples to the Shanghai Grand Slam Finals on 7-8 December 2019.
The Dancesport Life team was present at this historical event seeing that it was the first Grand Slam ever organized by Romania. We were truly impressed by the quality and enthusiasm of the dancers and by the dedication of the DanceMasters organizers.
If you want to see us interviewing some of the top 12 WDSF couples make sure to subscribe on our YouTube channel as we are going to post the interviews there soon.
First impressions from the Grand Slam DanceMasters 2019
We were super curious to see how did the dancers (and not only) feel about one of the most important events of the year. What better way to do that than to ask them directly?!
New winners in Standard
There was a new scenario in the Standard, on Saturday, where for the first time after the long-reigning period of Dmitry Zharkov and Olga Kulikova winning 20 Grand Slam titles, judges had to choose their successors. All the expectations, of course, were on Evaldas Sodeika and Ieva Zukauskaite (LTU). They won their first Grand Slam title of their career with 3,546 points of difference from the runners-up Francesco Galuppo and Debora Pacini (ITA). It must be underlined that Evaldas and Ieva received four “10.0” and six “9.75” in Slow Foxtrot in the Final. That’s impressive!
Things were heated in Latin
In Latin American instead, as in 2018, the fight between the top two couples Tsaturyan – Gudyno and Balan – Moshenska continued. The results were really unpredictable until the very end. In the Final, they were equal in Rumba and only 0,041 apart in Jive. But at the end, Armen Tsaturyan and Svetlana Gudyno (RUS) won by only 1,122 points away from Marius-Andrei Balan and Khrystyna Moshenska (GER).
The venue and the organization
The competition has been held in the Sala Polivalenta, a 5300+ seats hall, just a few kilometers from the center of Bucharest, Romania. When you enter the building, you don’t see immediately the floor, because you are in the area behind the tribunes. There, you can find all the dancesport-related shops, some cafes and some food providers. The changing rooms for the athletes are downstairs, so is the warm-up floor and the main dancing floor.
All around the dance floor organizers placed evening-gala tables with catering service that perfectly recreated the warm atmosphere of an elegant ballroom hall. It was great because it filled the gap between the dancers and the spectators from the tribunes. As the evening session started at 19:30, the seats on both sides of the hall were full and all the tables were occupied.
P.S. Hopefully the music next year will be just as good as in the first round ”
At least we were very appropriate to dance”
Here are some numbers
- 167 couples
- 26 countries
- 3 continents
- 2 days
- 10 rounds
- 2 re-dances
- 54 dances
- 36 solo dances
- 442 m2 floor (26×17)
- 34.100 € total prize money
My opinion is that, while there’s always room for improvement, it was such a great event overall. Sunday night I left with such happiness in my heart and such a fulfillment. I would have hugged everyone. I wanted to go and hug all the dancers and thank them for what they did on the dancefloor. And the organizers too, for their great effort and the success of this year’s DanceMasters … and the WDSF representatives.”
We hope you enjoyed this year’s edition of the DanceMasters Bucharest Grand Slam. And if you weren’t present this year, make sure to come in 2020!
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Maintaining The Core Principles & The Development Of Dancesport
Development of dancesport
In dancesport, as in any other sport, there are adjustments in the procedures and regulations that have the purpose of developing and keeping this sport evolving. There might be changes in the Federations, modifications in the ways adjudicators mark the dancers, different rules for costumes and routines or innovative ideas for the future of the sport.
Furthermore, as in any other form of art, in dancesport as well there are trends and currents that make an impact on the way dancers express themselves through their routines and movements. These trends come without doubt from the social environment. For example, in the ’60s, the ballroom and latin routines were more conservative let’s say. But so was society. Nowadays people express themselves more freely; the rhythm of life is much faster. And so is the rhythm in dancing.
Nevertheless, if we wish dancesport to maintain its identity, we should always keep in mind the core principles and the roots of this beautiful sport and art form. No matter if we are active competitive dancers, teachers, officials, adjudicators or dance enthusiasts.
In a thought-provoking interview we had with Espen Salberg at the 2018 Blackpool Dance Festival, we tackled some important aspects like what he values at a dance couple or the evolution of dancesport.
Value of partnering
Dancesport is a style of dancing that is done in a holding position, thus the partnering skills are essential in order to create a harmonious dance.
Dancing together requires certain chemistry between the two dancers. As Espen said, dancing should be a conversation, a “question and answer situation”. This is obtained through a coherent choreography, leading & following ability and technique. You should see the dance actions being attuned and the bodyweight used in the right manner.
A very big topic of discussion in our world is the “lead & follow” subject. In dancesport, the man should be the leader and the woman should follow; the man gives the action and the woman has the reaction. Espen encourages men to actually be in charge of the situation and to command the right way.
Espen confessed that he loves beauty. And what else are the ladies of ballroom & latin but a true depiction of beauty?
Nonetheless, it does not matter how superb the lady is with her hair, make-up, and dress. As long as her footwork is not impeccable, everything is for nothing. For Espen, beautiful leg actions are crucial in dancesport.
Joy of dancing
Let’s not forget that the reason we all dance is because it makes us feel good. This is the way we express ourselves. We love the music, the movement, the emotions, the show, our partners, the crowd and the other competitors.
As Espen puts it, dancers come in on the floor with sheer pleasure and they fill the room. In the end, we wouldn’t want to see a dancer that looks that he or she doesn’t want to be there.
The future of dancesport
Having in mind these values, we also need to think about where dancesport is going. What trends should we follow and which ones should we ignore? What’s for sure is that there should be a balance between slow & fast, traditional & innovative, artistic & athletic.
If you want to watch the whole interview and find out more about Espen Salberg’s vision and career, click here.
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How It Feels Like To Win A World Title
A World title – an athlete’s dream
As athletes, dancers go to competitions and give their best on the dance floor for different reasons. Some wish just to get through the next round, some wish to get into the final. But the happiness you feel in your heart when you win the first place is incomparable. And let’s be honest, all of us dreamt (or are still dreaming) of being on the very top. By “the very top” I am thinking about the World title of course .
In our interview with Paul Moldovan and Cristina Tatar we talked about the memory they cherish the most from their career: winning the WDSF Youth World Championship in 2012, Beijing.
Competing in important competitions such as World Championships you must not only be 100% physically prepared, but your mindset has to be also very powerful.
Cristina told us in the interview that she felt strong from the moment she woke up on the day of the competition. She confessed that she was feeling like an alien or like a robot – definitely something out of this world.
Paul confirms that on a day like this you should feel mentally prepared just like fighters feel before combat. If that isn’t a true winner’s mentality, then I don’t know what it is! The key is to remain focused the whole day, even during the warm-ups or the first rounds.
Emotions of a champ
Winning a World title is a huge honor as it represents the moment when all your hard work, sacrifices and talent are recognized. Baring that in mind, you can only imagine how emotional it must be to find out that you are the new World Champion.
Here’s how it went for Paul & Cristina:
Cristina: The peak was when we were waiting for the results and the guy with the paper was coming, trying to hide them. He was really just next to me and all the crowd came and people were squeezing me and I just saw the results because I was so close to him. I saw that we were in the 1st place and in my mind I couldn’t believe it. I knew that we could really win, but when I saw it I was trying to get excited but then I was saying to myself “Oh no no, calm down, wait, what if it’s not like that?”. I turned around and I think it was Paul or our coach and I just turned and said: “I think we won!”. We waited and when they announced us it was such a great feeling. Especially because people were thinking that no one from Romania could ever win a World title. But we were the first ones to do it. Even now when I remember I am getting goosebumps. Then when we climbed on the highest step of the podium the emotions grew even bigger. Finally, when they put the Romanian national anthem on my tears just starting to fall off.
Paul: When I saw the result I remember I shouted. But remember, we were in China and the hall was really quiet – no music, nobody was dancing, people were just sitting down. And then there was me shouting! Our coach came to us and asked us what’s wrong and I just said “We won! Check the list – we won!”. We hugged, we jumped, but we also said: “Let’s wait!”. Even now when I am thinking about the moment I can relive those emotions.
Lessons to learn from them
Listening to this story, every dancer should understand that a World title comes only after a lot of work and dedication. Competing in such a championship requires a lot of emotional and mental strength. And finally, once you win, you’ll feel a warmth in your heart and honor, but at the same time, you remain humble.
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Foxtrot Music Theory: Is The Accent On 1-3 Or On 2-4?
Giacomo Pasutto, a professional drummer from Italy, will explain the music structure of this dance.
Matteo: What is the difference between straight tempo, swing, and shuffle?
Giacomo: Trying to write down the differences of the swing and shuffle as rhythmic style is a challenge because this kind of style has been passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. We should keep in mind that every theoretical approach is something that comes close, but not exactly where the definition of swing and shuffle should be. As Marco Di Battista says in his book Improvvisazione jazz consapevole this is also because “we use a European Approach, called Divisive, of the theory to explain styles that find their roots in the African Culture which is based on Additive conception”.
Every transcription, score, or music can also be played with more or less swing or shuffle “feel” that we can’t write down. For example, modern shuffle comping is different from the oldest one in terms of interpretation of the subdivision. It depends also on the musician’s choice and background.
To understand and explain which are the differences between these tempos in indications I’ll offer some examples.
The Straight Tempo
The straight tempo is simply the exact interpretation of a regular beat in terms of feeling and playing a score or music. Imagine that we have a measure of 4/4 and 1 quarter note per beat so if we clap the hands on every quarter note, we will have 4 Claps/Notes in one measure that takes the downbeat and upbeat.
Now, what happens if we want to clap the hands two times at the same distance, in one beat? We will have one clap on downbeat and one clap on upbeat. These are called “eighth notes” so 8 notes/claps in one measure.
We can check how the notes are regularly subdivided between the downbeat (numbers) and the upbeat (e). So, paying attention to the regular pulsation we can hear the “Straight feel”, a perfect subdivision of the beats that can be also played in quadruplet (per beat) so, 16 notes in one measure.
Swing and Shuffle
Now imagine playing 3 eighth notes in one beat. We will have an “Eighth Notes Triplet” – an irregular group/subdivision placed between the downbeat and the upbeat.
If we place a rest on the second note of the triplet we can see the “basic” of the swing/shuffle triplet feel. The shuffle often is written in 12/8.
The regularity and the shuffle feel
Now comes the hardest part!
We should first say that the terms swing and shuffle can also be used to indicate a musical genre. But, here we are talking about swing and shuffle as rhythmic styles, so the differences in drumming are in the comping.
In swing and in shuffle, the strong pulsation is always on 2 and 4 of the measure.
For example, when playing the drums in the shuffle, this pulsation is strongly accented on the snare and the duration of the first note is something like two times of the third note. Nevertheless, it depends on genres: for example, in modern shuffle rock/blues the pulsation is more “regular”.
In the swing comping, instead, the 2 and 4 are accented on the Hi-Hat while snare keeps the “suspended feel” with free comping improvisation.
And also in swing rhythm, the pulse is divided unequally. Therefore, certain subdivisions, typically either the eighth note or the sixteenth note subdivisions, alternate between long and short durations.
The “regularity” of the subdivision depends on the musician’s background, style, and musical genre. It can be changed by delaying the 3rd note of the triplet (the upbeat) close to the next downbeat. Here is a link where you can see all the differences in terms of ratio between the notes.
Here are two examples of “regular” triplet pulsation of the shuffle/rock comping:
In terms of musician’s choice, in “Pride and Joy”, you can hear how Stevie tries to “rag” the time while he’s singing, just playing a delayed chord on the upbeat with the guitar.
Now, if we take a look at this Jazz Shuffle record of 1961 we can easily listen how the 3rd note of the triplet (the upbeat) is much more delayed, close to the next downbeat. We can also observe how the swinging feel of soloists can coexist with the shuffle comping played by the drummer Philly Joe Jones.
Heads Up For Music Nerds: At min 2:50 something happens. Philly starts to play the Ride Cymbal on every quarter notes and the snare only on the 4th beat leaving more space for the Wynton Kelly’s solo and you can easily check how the pulsation becomes less “ragged”, and more of a “regular” triplet.
Here’s another example of Jazz Shuffle played by the Roy Hargrove’s Big Band where you can hear the 3d notes delayed and the strong 2 and 4 accents on the snare.
The pulse perception
Often in the traditional swing, the Rhythm Section – the core group of instruments that plays the accompaniment – in the introduction of the theme does what we call “plays in 2” or half bass, a kind of halved time where the accent seems to be on the 1 and 3.
Let me give some definitions here:
- Playing in 4 or Walking Bass = to play every beat of the measure;
- Playing in 2 or Half Bass = to play half beat of the measures (example: 1 and 3 or 2 and 4, in a 4/4 time signature).
In the following example, you will listen to how in the first minute the bass movement is on 1 and 3 (plays in 2) but the left-hand piano plays the 2 and 4. At the minute 1:14 starts the B Section where the bass plays on all 4 beats and after that, they repeat again Section A with the bass on 1 and 3. But you should keep in mind that the pulsation is again on 2 and 4. After that, they will repeat the chorus all in 4 till the end, also on the trombone solo.
Matteo: What is the accent in music?
Giacomo: The accent, also called stress, is a momentary emphasis on a particular rhythmic or melodic detail. In metrically organized music, accents serve to articulate rhythmic groupings. This happens especially in music used in dancing, where the regular accentuation facilitates the patterning of steps. Usually, the heaviest accent falls on the first beat of the measure. The matter of fact, it is the accent that determines where the measure begins.
Matteo: These are some examples of the music we use to dance the foxtrot. The first is a more “classic style” and the other derives from modern popular music:
Is there any difference in terms of foxtrot music theory between the “big band swing” music and the modern one?
Giacomo: The first differences I noticed between traditional and the modern one are in the harmonic progression.
In other words, the modern one has pop melody and pop harmonic progression rearranged and played in “jazz” style. There are a lot of different music elements mashed up, that recall the second line style, the ragtime, and dixieland. The traditional ones are standard jazz songs, more complex in terms of arrangement, harmony, and structure. It also has articulated movement of the brass section in a perfect Big Band Style.
One of the most important things that I noticed is that the modern song is “played in 2” and doesn’t go in 4 so the bass plays on every beat of the measure.
Here is another example of the differences about the half bass and walking bass:
We can see how John Clayton plays in 2 (half bass) at min 0:42 when Clayton says “I get my bass and we went for a walk” and starts to play in 4 (walking bass) and you can feel the strongest 2 and 4 pulsation.
Matteo: As a musician, do you think we should dance in two different ways, placing the accent in different moments if we are dancing the classical swing or the modern one?
Giacomo: Honestly, I think I can not say what is best for a dancer to do. Nevertheless, in my experience as a musician in the ballrooms, I have always noticed that it is important to know a little about the basis of the dance and try to understand what the dancers need. At the same time, I think that even the dancers should try to get a little closer to the world of musicians and to the origins of the music they are dancing to.
I believe that “the end justifies the means.” For example, to facilitate reading of the scores for big bands, when I was at the Conservatory, the director said to visualize the groups of notes in blocks on one and three, but this does not mean that the strong pulsation is on the one and the three.
So, if you feel the need to “visualize” the one and three in order to count the steps or teach, I don’t think it is entirely wrong. Try to remember though that the natural pulsation of that kind of music is on the two and four, therefore it would be appropriate to emphasize the nature of that style.
I think any kind of music-related activity should pay attention to what the musicians are playing and the musicians should pay attention to the needs of those who are interacting.
Music, as we know, is a language just like dance is. Therefore, communication is essential and for good communication, it’s better to talk the same language.
- Marco Di Battista, (2014) Improvvisazione jazz consapevole (volume 1) Jazz Convention
If you have more questions for Giacomo, you can follow him on:
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