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Ballroom Dance

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

SQQ and the Variety Dance Mix

Selecting music for a dance, or establishing music policies for a ballroom dance club, is not a simple task. Even so, any solution to this dilemma has a common implication for the beginner.

Discussions regarding music at dances often focus on the excess, or lack, of music related to a specific dance style. An excess of any one dance seems always to get attention, and the lack of a favorite style is often a disappointment. This article will attempt to elucidate some of the primary issues associated with selecting music for a variety dance and suggest a starting point for beginning dancers who aspire to variety ballroom dancing.

Dance Styles. A typical Variety Ballroom Dance includes music beyond the traditional American Smooth and American Rhythm dances, and, indeed, the "traditional" list seem always to be expanding. As a starting point, consider the following traditional American ballroom dances: Cha-cha, East Coast Swing, Foxtrot, Rumba, Tango, Viennese, Waltz

The list might be significantly restricted with certain bands, which is perhaps why recorded music has gained so much popularity. Given a capable band or the availability of recorded music, the list will likely expand considerably, depending on the preferences of the sponsors of the dancers. If the group is diverse, the list could be quite long, perhaps also including the following: Argentine Tango, Bachata, Bolero, Cajun/Zydeco, Country Two-Step, Cumbia, Hustle, Mambo, Merengue, Milonga, Night Club Two-Step, Polka (3 or more styles), Quickstep, Salsa, Samba, Vals, and West Coast Swing, for a total of over twenty dance styles.

With an average song length of two minutes, one can expect no more than one of each style in a 40-minute mix. With an average song length of three minutes, it would take an hour to include one of each style. One rarely encounters a venue wherein twenty different styles are expected, but it is not unusual for one to encounter a variety dance with fifteen; indeed, most variety dances within the ballroom dance community do contain fifteen dance styles. Furthermore, though there is overlap among some styles, the overlap is not sufficient to ameliorate the dilemma.

Style Sets. Some dancers prefer, and some bands plan, sets of two or three songs of each style. This approach further exacerbates the problem of creating variety, often extending to over an hour the time required for a repeat of a given dance style. Perhaps this is why many DJ's rarely repeat a style successively.

Happy Dancers. Specific style notwithstanding, most dance music is in 4/4 time. Thus, for beginners and dancers whose styles are limited, we have a compelling argument for first learning a basic SQQ, applicable to Foxtrot, Rumba, Samba*, Night Club Two-Step*, Bolero, and most country and folk music. In addition, most of the variations within these styles are applicable to other SQQ dances and to the Waltz. So, if you are new to dance, any style that is based on SQQ is unquestionably the most efficient place to start if you aspire to variety dancing. Though traditional Foxtrot lessons begin with SSQQ, pedagogically it would be much more appropriate to begin with SQQ.

*Though usually categorized as QQS, theses are also taught as SQQ.

See "Where Do I Begin?" for a more detailed strategy for selecting a sequence for learning ballroom dance styles. 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.