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Ballroom Dance

J M (Mike) Nelson
Phone: 612-810-0157

Dance Band Leaders

Bands that play primarily for a passive, listening audience often take liberties with tempo and use it as an expressive component; they might also take the liberty to play a song for several minutes. Dance bands must be more attentive to tempos, song length (duration), and, in some cases, song variety. Though some dancers like improvisational groups, most are frustrated by excessive long songs and unpredictable tempos; thus, improvisational bands with a significant dance following might consider some of the guidelines for dance bands on those occasions when they have a large number of dancers. Even style-specific dance bands might consider the appropriateness of some of the following.

Tempo - tempos should be consistent throughout most of the song, and the introductory portion should introduce that tempo. Only for a short ending should the tempo change. Dance organizations have developed tempo guidelines for most popular musical styles. Tempos for Popular Social Ballroom Dances is a PDF file containing a tempo chart with notes.

Length/Duration - most songs should be 2 to 3 minutes long, no shorter than 1.5 minutes and no longer than 3.5 minutes.

Variety - except for style-specific venues, where dancers expect only one musical style, no particular style or tempo should be repeated successively. Successive fast tempos should particularly be avoided.

Tempo and Style - tempo should conform to at least one tempo standard associated with the musical style being played.

Volume - sound levels above 85 dB cause cumulative hearing damage; furthermore, social dances are for conversation as well as dancing. Conversation can also serve almost as well as a dB meter for approximating sound levels. If conversation is comfortable without the need to speak loudly near the ear, then the sound level is likely not much above 85 dB. If people need to shout near the ear to be heard, then the sound level is not only unsociable, they are harmful. There is no rationale for playing music at deafening sound levels; it is disrespectful, unethical, and unhealthy for all concernedl. Dance Home Page Dance Curriculum Dance Articles

Copyright (c) 2006, J. M. Nelson. All rights reserved. Reproduction of contents prohibited without prior permission from the author.