Music for Ballroom Dancing

Don Herbison-Evans ,   donherbisonevans@yahoo.com

Central Queensland University, Bundaberg
Australia

(updated 3 November 2007)

Introduction

Dancers describe tempos using "bars per minute", which has the same unfortunate abbreviation as the musician's "beats per minute". So Tangos (including Tangoette and La Bomba) and Slow Foxtrot dances (including Carousel, Balmoral Blues, and the like) are listed by dancers as 28-32 bpm, which mean around 120 beats per minute. Modern Waltzes (like the Woodside) are also 28-32 bars per minute (= around 90 beats per minute). Viennese Waltzes can range from 45 to 52 bars per minute (the Lucille is at the slow end, Twilight at the fast end). Quicksteps need to be 50 bars/minute (= 200 beats per minute) or even a bit faster: it is hard to maintain body flight at slower tempos in these dances.

Many Latin American dances have hip movements between the musical beats which are hard to do if the music is too fast. So recommended speeds for these dances are:

  • Paso Doble 60 bars/minute = 120 beats/minute
  • Samba 50 bars/minute = 100 beats/minute
  • Jive 44 bars/minute = 176 beats/minute
  • Cha-Cha 30 bars/minute = 120 beats/minute
  • Rumba 24 bars/minute = 96 beats/minute
  • Phrasing is very important for the sequence New Vogue dances. For New Vogue and Sequence Dances, dancers like a simple 4 bar introduction, then music with a strict 8, 16, and 32 bar melodic phrase throughout the whole track. Many composers and arrangers delight in inserting 1,2,4 or 6 bar codas between melodic phrases, or using rubato to give the music more 'feel'. These however make the music unaesthetic to dance to. The simple phrasing and constant rhythm may be very boring for a musician, but are necessary for dancers.

    Below: I have popped a list of some records and tracks that adhere to the strict phrasing throughout the whole piece.

    Note: I dont actually sell CDS. For this I suggest you contact for example :

  • Superior Dancing Music,
    PO Box 2654,
    Logan City DC, Qld 4114,
    Tel. 07-3208-7141

    CD's

    CD Title
    Artist
    Track
    Rhythm*
    Introducing the Moorhead Dance Band Jenny & Alan Moorhead allV,F,T,W,C,Q,R,J
    Championship Old Time DancingSydney Thompson allV,T,M,F,
    Easy Listening MusicJohn Colville allV,F,T,W,Q,M,C
    CongratulationsBryan Smith allM,V,Q,F,T
    PatriciaBryan Smith allM,F,Q,V,W
    Red PepperBryan Smith allM,V,F,T,Q
    BarcarolleSuzanne Clachair Elizabethan SeranadeV
    Guitar GuitarNicolas de Angelis El Condor PasaS
    Dance Collection Volume 1Werner Tauber Gypsy TangoT

    Vinyl's

    Record Title
    Artist
    Track
    Rhythm*
    Mexican WhistlerRoger Whittaker Where the Rainbow EndsF
    Favourites in Dance and SongSydney Thompson allQ,W,F,T,S,R,C
    Old Time Dancing PartySydney Thompson allV,M,Q
    An Evening with Sydney ThompsonSydney Thompson allR,S,C,P
    The 2nd Sydney Thompson CollectionSydney Thompson allC,S
    New Vogue and Sequence DancingSydney Thompson allV,T,M,F,

    I would be pleased to hear from anyone with details of other tracks or records to add to this list.

    * Rhythm Abbreviations

    AbbreviationDance
    C
    Cha Cha
    F
    Slow Foxtrot
    J
    Jive
    M
    March
    P
    Paso Doble
    Q
    Quickstep
    R
    Rumba
    S
    Samba
    T
    Tango
    V
    Viennese Waltz
    W
    Modern Waltz

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