Barry Douglass- Good Dancer/Bad Theory

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02-01-2002, 07:01 PM
Bob B
Barry Douglass- Good Dancer/Bad Theory
I just got done reading an article written by Barry Douglass, a popular dancer and entertainer.
He tries to explain theory and timing , but has no formal training to do so , and so comes off as convoluted..
In the past I have seen dance instructors with no formal training in music theory try to the same thing, with the same bad results.
Douglass and the others FEEL timing, music and beats,and can perform very well without training.
There are also many musicians who cant read music, but they can play it- and well . What these musicians lack in formal training, they make up with a good ear, a great sense of rythym and in many cases, excell in improvisation.
HOWEVER, these musicians cannot work with large bands that are playing precise parts without rehearsals, or do studio work that involves playing patterns of music already scripted. Many pro musicians will ultimately learn how to read because it is easier to get work ,and write your own memos to remeber phrases one might forget otherwise.
Pro Dancers on the other hand , do not need to know theory to work. Many routines involve body styling, arm movements and not just foot patterns done at a specific time. It is far easier to visually choreograph complex routines by showing what is to be done, and using basic nomenclature to elaborate patternwork.. Even beginner lessons are taught visually , as it cuts learning time down.....Now to Mr Douglass...
02-01-2002, 07:22 PM
Bob B
Because dancers dont NEED to know theory ,does NOT mean they dance to differnt beats as Douglass implies in is article- Hustle music and most other Ballroom and Latin, is danced in 4/4 time- PERIOD. Mr Douglass and ANY dancer in the world steps within a 4/4 time signature if thats whats being played.
Below are measures of 4/4 - Broken down to 16ths, starting from one whole-
1 2
1 2 3
1 2 3 4
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and
1 e and 2 e and 3 e and 4 e and
1 e and a 2 e and 3 e and a 4 e and a
It is possible o break the same time down into even smaller increments but most dancers dont dance more than 16 steps with a single measure of music.
Doing Mambo basics will only be 4 steps witn a measure, when one adds flick steps in between each basic it would be eights , so one could imagine how fast double that would be.
Hustle can be danced to a lot of different types of song because the basic step is completed under a measure. West Coast Swing, the newest popular dance has a diffent answer to the beat that makes it danceable to even more music than Hustle- It varies counts, from 6 to 12 which gives it a real versiltility.
Before i get off topic, Mr Douglass is a great dancer, and he is qualified to teach dance based n his resume- But he should stick to what he knows , or expand his knowledge before stepping into a different genre. Musicians who "feel" music dontwrite charts for symphonies.
02-01-2002, 07:55 PM

Where/when was this article published? Was it written directly toward Hustle dancers, or the ballroom community at large (sorry, I am not familiar with Mr. Douglas' work)?

- J
02-01-2002, 10:50 PM
Bob B
Hi JPelg- It was a reprint to Swing And Hustle Newsletter that went out on 1/30/02.
If this were the first time Ive seen this type of thing it would not be worth my time- But Ive seen it before. Ive also seen people arguing about time without having a base in theory- . Its real easy to talk about timing/beats when one understands how its done by pros. Thats why they created it all those years ago. There is no mistake. If one wishes to find out at exactly which beat within a measure any given step is, one simply counts in real time. Its that easy. Writing it down can be a bit harder- But not much - Transcribing two feet is a lot easier than a Bass Drum , Snare, Hi Hat, Ride Symbol,et al percussion at once.
The accents can be transcribed also.There are also several basic positions choreographers and many dancers know which helps to expedite advanced routines. As stated above- Its much easier to copy by watching another dance and its not really neccesary for a dancer to know theory. However- It cant hurt based on some of the dialog these debates take on [Roll Eyes] .