WEST COAST SWINGFor the Want-To-Be...

by Tom Peadon

Reprinted (edited for space) with permission from the Classic Swing Times, Vol. 16, No. 10, March 1998, Texas Classic Push Club, Dallas, Texas.

I want this dance! Unfortunately it does not happen as easily or naturally for me as it does for some. I have to work at it and I look for the silver bullet everywhere. Watching and listening in hopes that I will see or hear something that will set me free. Occasionally some things come to me in ways that really make a difference. Those "events" are truly valuable to me and to those of us who are less gifted from the womb than those we idolize.

I have made a couple of observations over the past few years that have and are beginning to make a difference for me. Maybe there will be something in them for you.

The first is that most of us in our quest to be.. completely skip, are unaware of or are never given the fundamentals of dancing and I don’t mean the basics as in basic steps and patterns. Most of us didn’t pay enough attention to those either because we were in such a hurry to be... .My awakenings have been often rude. I find myself in the close company of people who can really dance socially and competitively and I see almost daily my failings. A huge part of that is in not being grounded, sufficiently flexed, centered or connected (fundamentals). Oh, I heard the words from time to time but I didn’t really listen. I was after all on a mission as most of us are. Big mistake, because now I have habits, bad habits that prevent me from going on. We must first get our bodies in the habit of being fundamentally right and ready to dance. Let me say it again; grounded, flexed, centered and understand connection.. .then learn your basics then&ldots;.

The second more recent light bulb came on the other night while I was watching Olympic Figure Skating. My significant other has said to me since we met "just dance to the music, Thomas." God knows I want to. I just don’t know what that really means. I don’t know music. I didn’t study music. I don’t understand music. I feel music but when I dance I don’t do what I feel. I end up doing steps and patterns I have learned somewhere and they rarely fit the music. Not that steps and patterns are bad, they are not. They’re even necessary. But I would bet that you can’t randomly string 6 and 8 and 12 and 20 count steps and patterns together and have them consistently fit the music or match the phrasing. Back to the Olympics. One of the commentators was explaining the difference between Figure Skating and the other Ice Skating venues. Her explanation in short was that the Figure Skaters dance primarily to the melody rather than the rhythm....SHAZAM!

Dancing is an art form, a performing art form.. so is singing. When you sing a song how often do you sing the rhythm or the base line? No, you sing the melody - so why wouldn’t you dance the melody? I would bet that you would be right with the music and the phrasing. That along with having good fundamentals in place will make for a pretty sight and you just might find yourself dancing, really dancing. Easier said than done, right? Yes, but you have a better chance if you know where you’re trying to go. Watch the people that you think are good and that you enjoy watching and see if they aren’t dancing primarily to the melody instead of just the beat, beat. beat. Chats, of course, hears the harmony.. .what’s a guy to do...

I hope you glean a little something from this that makes it better. Enjoy!