Sophisticated Slowdance
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Sophisticated Slow Dance

A Beginning-level course taught by Rick Archer on how to gracefully Slow dance to classic Romantic songs. 

Course objective - when a Romantic song comes on during the Holidays, you will be prepared to shine.

  •   As Time Goes By
  •   Moonglow
  •   The Very Thought of You
  •   Baby, It's Cold Outside
  •   You Send Me
  •   I'm in the Mood for Love
  •   I Only Have Eyes for You
  •   Till There was You
  •   Stardust
  •   Whatcha doing New Year's Eve?

2015 Schedule:  4 Thursdays (Nov 12, 19, skip Nov 26, Dec 3, 10) 7:00-8:30 pm
(at Rick's house) $40 a person

Email me if you are interested so I can sure the boy-ratio is close.

rick@ssqq.com

 

About the Sophisticated Slow Dance Course
Written by Rick Archer

The idea for this Slow Dance course came back in 2011 when I purchased Rod Stewart's 4-album collection known as The Great American Songbook.

At the time, I was infatuated with a wonderful Slow Dance system known as Nightclub.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Nightclub, this dance works to a range of music between 60 to 75 beats per minute.  This range is considered the slowest of Slow Dance music.

The reason I bought the The Great American Songbook collection was to find more music to dance Nightclub to.

Previously I had looked in my own collection of Slow Dance music.  I was disappointed... out of a list of 80 songs, only 16 had the right speed. 

That meant only 1 in 5 of my favorite slow dance songs fit the Nightclub speed criteria.

It is not difficult to dance Nightclub to music faster than 75 beats.  The problem is that the dancers begin to move "too fast".  Dare I say the dance looks "bouncy" at faster speeds?

In other words, it isn't "Slow Dancing" any more at 80 beats per minute.  The dancing might be fun, but it cannot be called "romantic". 

By definition, the only way to dance slowly is to dance slowly

When bodies begin to move too fast, it isn't Slow Dancing anymore.  It doesn't look right to see people moving swiftly to slow music.

Unfortunately, Nightclub only works to the slowest of all slow music.  Try as I might, every time I danced Nightclub to a song faster than 75 beats per minute, it was not graceful. 

Beauty is in the eye of beholder.  What might seem fast to one person may not seem fast to another.  So, yes, some people might think dancing at 78 bpm is okay.  Or perhaps they could care less about moving fast to slow music.  But what about 84 bpm?  With each increase, the "Look" of the dance becomes further compromised. 

In my opinion, Slow rhythms call for slow motion.

What makes Nightclub so popular is that the unique footwork allows people to move and travel.  For dancers, standing still on the dance floor goes against the grain.  As long as you stick to the right speed of music, Nightclub is smooth, graceful and not too fast.

But when you try to use Nightclub to faster tempos, the dance changes into something else.  At that speed, the "Romance" element disappears.  For Slow Dance to lead to Romance, the dancing needs to be gentle and unhurried. 

Discouraged by my 1 to 5 ratio, I decided to look elsewhere for more music.  I had an idea.  Why not try Rod Stewart's Grammy-winning 4-CD collection?  I looked at the list.  These were wonderful songs created by some of America's most famous song writers - Rodgers and Hart, Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, and Jerome Kern. 

I figured this shouldn't take long.  Surely there were plenty of great songs at just the right speed for me to use.   After all, I had over 50 songs to choose from.  So I put the first CD from the Great American Songbook into my computer and got out my stopwatch. 

"Beats per Minute" is a common way for dancers to measure the speed of a song.  The most accurate way to get a beat count is to count the beats for 60 seconds.  But that isn't very practical. It would take me over an hour to count every song in this collection.

It is much easier to count the beats for 20 seconds and multiply by 3. That cut my job down to half an hour.  So that's what I did.  I began to count each song.  I was upset at what unfolded.  Song after song clocked in at over 75 beats per minute.

At the end of the first album, I had 2 songs the right speed out of 14.  One was We'll Be Together Again.  The other was That's All.  Unfortunately, I had never heard of either song. 

Gamely, I tried the second album.  Until the Real Thing Comes Along and Crazy She Calls Me were the only songs I could use for Nightclub.  2 songs out of 14 were the right speed. 

So what about Album 3?   This time only What a Wonderful World clocked in at Nightclub tempo. 1 song in 14 was the right speed. 

 And what about Album 4?  Nevertheless was the only one.  1 in 14.  This was ridiculous.

Out of 56 songs, 6 had the right speed.  One in nine.  And not a single one of them was a favorite song of mine.  You are welcome to look for yourself.  I posted the speed for each song. 

I was very discouraged.  Here I had this great dance that I really liked, but Nightclub was virtually useless to the vast majority of the songs.

So I gave it some thought.  Why force Nightclub to speeds this dance was not meant for?  I decided to let Nightclub handle one range of music and use my Ballroom training to develop a different style of Slow Dancing to handle the faster rhythms.

Why not add certain Ballroom patterns from Tango, Foxtrot and Nightclub to standard Foxtrot moves to create a different kind of Slow Dance, one that could work to faster music?

So that is what I did.  I created several patterns that work just fine to the faster tempos.  These became the patterns I taught in my 2011 Sophisticated Slow Dance class. 

The class was so popular that I have made a point to repeat the class every year since.

 

 

 

   

Rhythm Switching

060-075:  Nightclub tempo...     Quick Quick Slow (QQS)
076-110:
 Slow Dance tempo... Slow Slow Quick Quick  (SSQQ)
111-150:  Foxtrot tempo...     Quick Quick Slow (QQS)

The speed of the music determines the dance.  Based on the speed of the music, 6 songs from the Great American Songbook were Nightclub, 10 songs were Foxtrot, and 38 songs used the Slow Dance 'SSQQ' tempo. beauty of Nightclub is also its handicap. 

Take a song like Unforgettable, the beautiful remake of the Nat King Cole classic by his daughter Natalie Cole.  This song is 84 beats per minute.  The best tempo for Unforgettable is is Slow Slow Quick Quick (SSQQ). 

So here is the rule: When a song gets slower, add more Quicks.  When a song gets faster, add more Slows

Dancing to Slow music is like cooking soup.  If the soup is too bland, add more salt.  If soup is too salty, add more water.  In a similar sense, if you are moving too fast to a song, add more Slows.  Adding extra Slow steps will slow down a fast song.  If the music is too slow, add more Quicks.  Adding extra Quicks will speed up a slow tempo.

This technique allows a couple to move gracefully to all Slow Music no matter what the speed of the song is. You "slow down" a song at 100 beats per minute and "speed up"... or "Dance Quicker"... to a song at 72 beats per minute by using more quick steps.

However, there is a negative.  This strategy means there is no constant rhythm for all Slow Music.  This puts the burden on the to identify the correct rhythm based on the speed of the music.  This puts great emphasis on improving a man's lead skills. 

Rhythm Switching is very difficult, but not impossible to learn.  One thing to keep in mind is that people are dancing slowly.  The woman does not have to make instant reactions to keep up with any changes in the man's tempo.  She just has to pay attention.   As for man, he needs to practice until Rhythm Switching becomes natural.

Yes, this kind of dancing is complicated, but it is also fun once you catch on.  I predict the people who will enjoy this class are already dancers looking for a new challenge.  There is one thing for certain - Slow Dancing is fun once you get the hang of it.

"Sophisticated" is the word that fits this dance style perfectly.  Just as the music is sophisticated, so is the dancing.  The patterns in this class are refined and tasteful.  This class will cover more than just footwork.  In addition to all sorts of Inside turns, Outside turns, Carousels and Moving Pivots, we will add Lunges, Oversways and Dips. 

As you might gather, this dance style will be complex and intricate. This class is aimed at experienced dancers.  It should definitely appeal to men and women who wish to dance gracefully to the most romantic music ever recorded. 

   


Practice Night

Since learning to Slow Dance is clearly a tricky dance form, I invite all students to stay after class for Practice Night.  I will play music for up to 30 minutes following the class.

I will turn down the lights and play several songs with different tempos.  The only way this class will ever click is for the men to stay and practice. 

If anyone needs extra help, I will be on hand to make suggestions.

   

A Word to the Wise

This class is a great idea for one specific reason - Nightclub doesn't work to the majority of the Romantic classics. 

Just to be sure of my research, I checked out Tony Bennett's famous Duets CD.  You Nightclub enthusiasts will be pleased to note that 7 of his 20 songs were recorded in the correct range for Nightclub.

But that is still only 1 song in 3!!  What about the other 67% of the music?  Are you just going to ignore those songs?

I don't know whether the ratio is one in three, one in five or one in nine, but the percentages are clearly in favor of learning a second style of Slow Dance. 

You might prefer Twostep to Polka, but you still learn Polka.  You might prefer 4-step Swing to the Triple Step Jitterbug, but at some point you still learn Jitterbug to expand the number of songs you can dance to.

That's exactly the situation here.  The value of this class is to prepare for all speeds of Slow Dancing. 

 

This will be an unusual dance class because the ladies will be challenged just like the men. Posed positions like Dips, Lunges, Oversways, and Shadows are essentially "unleadable".  These moves are used in theater arts.  You ladies will be putting on a show! 

Ladies, you know it is pretty tough to put on a show without rehearsal. You need to learn the choreography just like the men do.

Yes, a large bulk of what I will teach will be lead-follow material.  Since I will teach the men to lead the various patterns wherever possible, there will be a practical side to this material.   That said, for these sequences to be very pretty, they should be memorized in order to develop an appreciation of just how pretty this form of dancing can be.

Another form of learning for the women will be to develop the ability to follow rhythm switches.  The best way to do this is to practice and to understand what is going on. 

So I expect you ladies will need to pay attention... which is what you want!  Women love to learn new things in dance class.  While I am at it, let me add how much fun it will be for you ladies to dance to this pretty music.  Few things in life are more pleasant than being held in the arms of a guy who is attempting to sweep you off your feet... in a nice way, of course.

As for you men, this is a dance class that any man with an ounce of common sense should take.  Not all men have the ability to sing like Rod Stewart, but most men can at least learn to dance if they put their mind to it.  With the stakes of the game being what they are, learning to slow dance is a pretty good investment of time. 

We all know t
here are moments in every man's life when the ability to dance gracefully to romantic music is mighty important.  You could be on a cruise, you could be on a date, you could be at a party, or the opportunity could come as a complete surprise. The smart ones learn how to Slow Dance AHEAD OF TIME.

You never know when you will need to learn how to Slow Dance. That's right - You never know.  Yes, your Magic Moment might come as soon as an office Christmas Party or a New Year's dance this coming December, but who can predict for sure?  Slow Dancing is a skill you should always have in your pocket... especially when you hang around a group of dancers!

In the Boy Scouts they say 'be prepared'.  In life there will be moments when the ability to slow dance gracefully becomes the most important skill in the world. If that moment comes along and you don't have that skill, you're out of luck.  You might not get a second chance.

J
ust as the ability to change a tire comes in pretty handy at unexpected times, As Time Goes By, a sophisticated gentleman should know ahead of time how to gracefully lead his partner on the dance floor.  When a man sees his lady smile, he smiles to himself because he knows he has put in the effort to deserve this smile.  When it comes to affairs of the heart, you do not wish to drop the ball.

There are special occasions like the First Dance at weddings, a fancy New Years Eve party, or a torch song at a nightclub that will call for the ability to Slow Dance.  At that moment, you either know it or you don't.

The blunt truth is that most men don't have a clue how to Slow Dance gracefully. Women are lucky because they can probably wing it, but few men are able to fake it.  Sad to say, they usually flub miserably.

Yes, I am positive you can shuffle from foot to foot, but don't you want to be better than that?  When it comes to Slow Dancing with panache, the majority of men are helpless

If you are the guy who can Slow Dance, then you are also the guy who has the guts to ask the prettiest lady to dance when the song comes on.  The other guys get to sit and watch while you are one on the floor. 

This class is the perfect chance to learn the secrets of the Lost Art of Formal Dancing.

   
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