Dancing to the music can really come alive when you consider phrasing in your dance.
I’m a musician/dancer so when I approach the whole concept of phrasing, etc, I’ve seen and HEARD things from both sides of the fence, and trust me, there can be two sides to that fence.
Let’s get right into it.
The count and time signature
Music has BEATS which in pop music is typically 4/4 time. Counted 1, 2, 3, 4
In dance we refer to the beats as two types: Down and Up which are 1 (down) 2 (up) 3 (down) 4 (up)
When songs are written there is usually melodic patterns that are repeated in phrases.
A phrase is a segment of music, whether a melody or a rhythm, that has a complete musical sense of its own. Put more simply, it has a natural sense of structural completeness.
Often WCS instructors sometimes break these phrases up into what they call MAJOR and MINOR phrases, but there is no official musical equivalent of this, I don’t tend to use that terminology.
Songs typically have repeatable phrases ranging from 16, 24, 32 or 48. Songs have simple to complex verses and choruses, intro’s, outro’s and bridge and a lot of other wacky things.
What we are really looking at is the phases the “main” vocal occurs on, and how long the “chorus” phrases are.
Dancing Patterns so you start on phrase
- If a song has a 24 beat phrase you typically might dance 4 – 6 count patterns or 3 – 8 count patterns
- If a song has 32 beat phrases you typically might dance 4 -6 counts and 1 – 8 count pattern.
- If a song has 48 beat phrases (like “I got the blues” by Brother Yuself) then you can dance a lot of things in that space of time so the world is your oyster.
Often these phrases repeat.
You get the “basic” idea.
How do you “HEAR” a phrase
Normally toward the end of a phrase there is a “music” or “lyrical” buildup, possibly a break, or special effects. Listen for those things a “clues” that tell you when the phrase is going to end.
There are more songs than there are structures, and some structures are VERY common. For example:
A very common structure is INTRO – VERSE – VERSE – CHORUS – VERSE – CHORUS – BRIDGE – CHORUS – OUTRO
There are many variations of this. To us, the Verse is a typically called a phrase. Dance may break this into Major and Minor phrases.
Other things that happen is that parts are interjected into songs and are called things like INTRO, OUTRO, BRIDGE, BREAKDOWN, etc.
Pop music tends to have a similar structure whereas progressive pop/rock and have more complex structure and even strange time signatures which, can be danced to, but are very hard to dance to. Most good dance DJ’s would NEVER play a song that has a 5/4 structure for example (5 beats per measure instead of the normal 4). Some songs “Sneak” in a 5/4 measure as a glue between different phrases. A very complicated glue occurs in “EASY” by the commodores.
Major phrase resolves to the tonic. What??? It might, but then again, it might not!! The Tonic is the root note of the key the music is in. Any music phrase change usually involves some sort of “indication of change”. Maybe it reaches a high melodic note, maybe there is a drum roll. Often when a phrase repeats, it seems to return to it’s previous resting place and starts the process all over again OR and a big OR, it may go to a Bridge or Chorus which may or typically not start at the “Tonic”.