Sly and the Family Stone Had it so Right: Dance to the Music!

How can you dance to the music if the music lacks a real beat? In my last article I asked if our dance had gone too “contemporary” and the response has been overwhelming. For many of you, the article struck such a nerve that you felt compelled to write back.

Here are some of my Favorites:

Deb writes:

“It appears that a common practice is to have dj’s actually play music purposely, that so opposes the swing beat, it’s as if they are challenging or daring anyone to try to dance to it! If you are a WCS dancer, brought up on bluesy sultry beats that do indeed compel you to move, and you try to dance to the former, you become a dancing contortionist to try and match anything you can grasp in the dissonant, irregularly rhythmed selection. And so, since swing music is becoming an aside to the WC Swing dance, you could say that the dance is no longer WCS, but a different genre altogether, and one that begs a new and different title.

The silver lining is that there are many new and young dancers joining this dance community. But, is it because of the new music played? Can we assume that’s true? Some DJ’s and teachers are exposing new wcs dancers to swingable music and that is what I call teaching. Just as salsa dancers have to learn the genre of music associated with salsa dancing, argentine tango dancers with that music, and country dancers with that music and so on, so too WCS with the matching music! Things change, it’s true, but can’t we at least compromise and play a 50/50 split at events at least? There have been nights when there are maybe two swingable songs played the entire evening. Ouch.”

Justin Wrote:

“Jonathan I agree with you wholeheartedly, I find much of the music the younger DJs are playing to be un-danceable.”

In a Facebook Message Dave Wrote:

“There was a time when I thought you were just complaining about the music because you are a DJ and somehow had a deeper understanding than the average dancer. I dance 3-4 a week and after reading your email I realized that, for the last 9 years I have been dancing, the music has been getting progressively worse. I don’t think I would take up swing dancing if I started dancing now…The beat…the beat…My Swingdom for a beat!”

There were many more comments, messages, emails, and text messages that echoed these sentiments and nearly everyone, it seems, would like the music to change back to swing. They want to dance to the music! The question is how do we the dancers get the DJs, Promoters, and Teachers to start to play swing-able music again?

This makes me think of the Emperor and his new clothes. He was the cat’s meow until that little kid shouted out that he was naked. Imagine how embarrassing it must have been for that guy…he got taken and walked around his kingdom NAKED! I assure you this is how these new DJs will feel if suddenly 1000 dancers rush the booth week after week pointing out the obvious lack of swingable music, lack of originality (everyone is playing the same stuff), and the lack of variety when it comes to the beat (or lack there of).

We need to play this smart and be in it for the long hall if we want to dance to the music that we used to. “Do you have anything that swings?”… “Every once in a while I like to dance to something that really swings!” …or “Would you mind playing something with a subtle Cha-Cha Rhythm like ‘Getaway Car’ by Hall and Oats?” (its a song that 85% of dancers will dance to no matter what their music preference is) These are all good questions to ask a DJ. Be overly polite and courteous and be sure to thank them if they do grant your request. We are looking to make friends and win people back over to swing not alienate our selves from those in control of the music.

I went about this the wrong way for many years and I built a reputation for being a dancer who was never happy with the music. This made it easy to marginalize and sideline me as just a complainer and I never got what I asked for. Steer clear of the negativity and embrace the positive… you just like swing music to be played in regular rotation at the swing dances so you can dance to the music!