Was it good for you?

One of my resolutions this year is to support my local dance community. The Bay Area already has an amazing community – lots of friendly and talented dancers – but having been here for over three years now, I thought it was time to give back.

And as I work on starting a dance here in San Francisco [insert shameless plug for Mission City Swing] and on supporting the Bay Area’s biggest and honestly best dance convention [proudly promoting Boogie by the Bay], the same question keeps coming up in my mind: What makes for a great dance experience?

I’ve noticed at the dance conventions I’ve been to in recent months that the most influential component for me of a good night’s dancing is the music. Call me crazy, but as a dancer, I’m highly dependent on the music. If the music doesn’t move me, my dancing feels stale and boring and I just don’t have much fun. What makes for good music? That’s subjective, of course. For me, my favorite songs are those with a good rolling beat, those with variety and interesting musical elements to play with, those that grow and build, and those that have emotion and soul to them. But usually if a DJ plays a diversity of music – styles and tempos – I’m usually happy, because even if I don’t like one song, I’ll probably like the next.

Of course, a good night is about more than just the music. I have more fun when I’m with friends, when I have energy to dance, and when, quite honestly, there are good followers to dance with (or, at a minimum, I don’t have to struggle to lead my followers). It also helps if it’s not ungodly hot, if it isn’t so cramped I can’t find a slot to dance in, if the lighting isn’t too bright, and if the floor isn’t so fast I slip and not so slow I can’t turn easily.

But there’s also another element that makes for an amazing night, something abstract and intangible: the vibe. I think of the vibe as being that extra thing that’s more than the sum of all the different parts – an added energy that results from having fun, friendly, and talented people in the room, a good physical environment, and a DJ who knows how to keep people moving. Maybe the vibe is just the good feeling I get from all the other elements I’ve described, the chemical reaction when those different things come together, or the summation of everyone in the room having a good night. At the same time, it feels like one of those things that seems difficult to create and near impossible to replicate. It’s like something that just happens when you put the right ingredients together, but doesn’t happen when you try to force it. Whatever it is, it feels electric, like magic, and it leaves you wanting more.

What makes for a great night of dancing for you? Do you agree with the elements I’ve mentioned here? Are there others? Are some more important than others? What has your experience been?

Fade to Black

I admit it: I’m a music snob.

That comes as no surprise to those of you who know me. I like some music and other music, I just don’t like. I admit it, I realize some people may not like it, but I don’t see anything wrong with it. In fact, it’s sort of a rite of passage for some – when you pass from loving any song you can dance to to being selective about which songs you want to dance to and which you find completely uninspiring, either because you’ve been around long enough to hear them one too many times or because you’ve developed a sense of taste that reflects your personal preference and dance style.

Anyway, there’s a whole Pandora’s box to be explored concerning music, and for the moment, I’d like to pick just one item: cross-fading.

Cross-fading, as any user of iTunes knows, is when the end of one song overlaps with the beginning of the next – one fades out as one fades in. Personally, I really, really dislike it.

As a dancer, I like a beginning and an ending to my songs – a complete story to my dance – and cross-fading deprives me of both of those. Plus, I like time to finish with one partner, thank her and escort her off the floor, and ask another partner and guide her onto the floor before I’ve missed too much of the next song.

Honestly, I don’t know who thought or still thinks cross-fading is a good idea, but every now and then there’s a DJ who does it, and it irks me to no end. (Of course, waiting more than a second or two between songs irks me as well – where’s the music? why are you letting the energy die?)

So am I alone? Anyone else out there snobbish enough to care about things like cross-fading? Anyone have a personal preference for song transitions? (Song selection? Another topic for another time…) Anyone out there a DJ and have an opinion on this?