Monday, June 18, 2012

Hierarchy of Advancement Weekend Workshops Ten & Eleven

Note: In the following schedule, I will use term 'African' to  describe those who are cultural insiders to African or African-derived practices, and 'European' to describe cultural insiders to West European practices. This division, extreme and artificial, is purely for explanatory purposes.

Introductory briefing
In 2003, Brochard and his co-investigators reported a seminal piece of research; finding that their subjects perceived a monotonous metronomic sound as a 'tic-toc-tic-toc' and not a 'tic-tic-tic-tic'. In other words, the human brain added subjective accents to every other beat; and that the first beat was accented. Therefore odd-numbered beats were perceived as stronger than even-numbered beats.

This little-known work in the dance world is crucial to understanding an element of salsa's cultural diversity, and forms part of the basis of the "Why Men Shouldn't Count" dance research paper I will present to Conseil International de la Danse UNESCO. This weekend workshop provides the ideal opportunity to explore the phenomenon of subjective accenting, the European cultural bias of transnationalised salsa, and the redress of bias.

Concept: The beginning of the African rhythm cycle
Africans perceive the beginning of salsa's rhythm cycle as occurring one beat earlier, which coincides with the tumbao moderno's double open tones (as interpreted on the congas); what Africans hear as beat one, Europeans hear as beat eight! Therefore, from the findings of Brochard et al. (2003) where Africans would subjectively accent beats 1,3,5,7; to European ears these accents would fall on beats 2,4,6,8.

Evidence of this can be garnered from Afro-Cuban rhythms, which accent:
  1. the African downbeats (odd-numbered beats), perceived by Europeans as being on the backbeats (even-numbered beats); and
  2. the start of the African rhythmic cycle called the ponché [punch] explicitly or implicitly.
 For example,
  • conga - the tumbao moderno's double open tones (the first accenting ponché) and slap stroke;
  • bongó - the martillo's open tones on the hembra (accenting ponché) and macho;
  • timbales - open (accenting ponché) and closed tones on the hembra;
  • clave - the last beat of the 3-side (accenting ponché) and the first beat of the 2-side; and
  • bass - the tumbao's 'anticipated' beat (accenting ponché).
Supporting material on the above is available:

Section I - Son

Exercise: Listening for the African start of the conga's tumbao moderno
Solo. Locating and indicating the rhythmic location of the correct set of open tones which denote the start of the African cycle. Using the 'gung-gung' vocalisation.

Exercise: A side-step on the ponché
Solo, then partnered. This is an event-action practice of synchronising the taking of a side-step with the onset of the ponché open tones.

Concept: Contratiempo and Dance On2
It's very important to recognise that both of these terms are culturally European-biased as they reference features of rhythm relative to the start-point of the European cycle, with contratiempo literally meaning 'counter-time' backbeat emphasis. Although both contratiempo and Dance On2 have the same dance rhythm, stepping on (European) beats 2,3,4 and 6,7,8; they differ in accents and phrasing:
  • Dance On2 - accents on beats 2 and 6; phrased 2-3-4, 6-7-8
  • Contratiempo - accents on beats 4 and 8; phrased 8-(1)-2-3, 4-(5)-6-7
Exercise: Son basic, contratiempo
Solo, then partnered. To tumbao moderno on congas, and martillo on bongó. Understand which parts of the step rhythm synchronise with the instruments' accents. Note the feel of contratiempo phrasing.

Exercise: Son basic, Dance On2
Solo, then partnered. To tumbao moderno on congas, and martillo on bongó. Understand which parts of the step rhythm synchronise with the instruments' accents. Note that the phrasing is shorter with less flow.

Exercise: Change phrasing between contratiempo and Dance On2
Partnered. Preferred social dance movement vocabulary. Developing the African perception of rhythm.

Section II - Rumba guaguancó

Concept: Rationale behind rumba guaguancó's dance rhythm
Basic guaguancó's regular dance rhythm is a structural counterpoint to the drum rhythm, which when combined, create genre's rhythmic tension. The dance rhythm's simplicity is to allow for easy transition into and out of the improvisatory mode and other more advanced dance rhythms.

Exercise: Guaguancó basic walk
Solo. The first walks are sideways to the left and the right, comprising side steps with chasing-close steps: side-close-side-close.

Exercise: Guaguancó basic walk, complete rhythm
Solo. Interleaving each step in the basic walk with an accent: side-tap-close-tap-side-tap-close-tap

Exercise: Guaguancó basic walk, complete rhythm, to music
Partnered. Facing each other, mirror imaged. Full guaguancó basic dance rhythm i.e. side-tap-close-tap-side-tap-close-tap, to music.

Exercise: Guaguancó basic walk, substituting the tap with a 'drop'
Partnered, to music. The 'drop' is achieved by flexion of the knee of the supporting leg, such that the sole of the foot of the non-weight-bearing leg contacts the floor entirely simultaneously. The drop is timed by/further accented with the downward phase of the torso engine cycle.

Exercise: Isolating and understanding torso engine synchrony with the lower-limb rhythm
Solo. Static practice. Fire up the torso engine, accentuate the up-stroke and down-stroke further with (discreet) amounts of knee extension and flexion respectively. Then transfer weight from one leg to the other with each engine cycle. Add the 'drop' accent.

Additional materials
Salsa Gitana by Orquesta Gitano
La Llave de Mi Corazón by Juan Luís Guerra
My Latin Soul by Bobby Matos
Güajira Natural by Polo Montañez

Loo Yeo

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Why Men Shouldn't Count

That's the title of the dance research paper I'd submitted for presentation at UNESCO CID's 32nd World Congress on Dance Research. And it's been accepted. That's why I've been as quiet as a mouse recently, and I will be for another month - the congress in San Marino and apart from preparing the presentation, I'll be taking the opportunity to talk dance with my colleagues in the International Dance Council, travel the Emilia Romagna region and an cap it all off with a return to beautiful Rome.

I'll cover the congress experience in a post or two, with photos, when I get back. In the meanwhile, here's the summary of the paper to whet your appetite!

San Marino, Baby! Loo Yeo, Conseil International de la Danse UNESCO

Why Men Shouldn’t Count: Designing and assessing an event-led multimodal approach for the learning of salsa

By Loo Yen Yeo, Salsa & Merengue Society UK.

The conventional verbal approach to the teaching of salsa dancing was investigated and results indicated a bias in favour of females. A nonverbal event-led approach was developed and assessed for success rate and sex bias. Both pedagogic systems were compared and their neurological bases were discussed. Results imply an increased transfer in the burden of learning from student to instructor using the event approach. Extrapolation from neurophysiological studies leads to the hypothesis that sustained deployment of the conventional approach yields a cultural bias favouring salsa’s European component over its African influences. Exciting avenues for future research arising from salsa’s continued transnationalisation are indicated.

Keywords: dance – neurology – pedagogy – salsa – sex bias – cultural bias