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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Charles Macfarlane Rhythm (20) RE: Rhythm 29 Jul 12

> From: Amos
> You hotheads need to chill

Fine by me. To return to topic and try and give the OP something useful ...

I did Rapper briefly while at uni, but can't remember very much about it except that the tunes were played quite fast to a regular, even beat - obviously there was accenting of the main beats, but it wasn't so pronounced that I particularly remember it, nor was there a memorable degree of back-beat. Not being a dancer of either, I'm not really qualified to comment on Morris or clog, though I used to notice when watching teams like Gloucester Old Spot that the musicians often seemed to be taking their timing from the dancers rather than the other way round.

As a former quite keen ceilidh dancer, before my knees gave out, and the then partner of a founding member of Token Women, there was, and probably still is, a huge variation in the 'dancability' of various ceilidh bands. My favourites were TW - naturally enough, but I sincerely believe that I would still have thought that without the emotional connection - The Old Swan Band, Gas Mark V, and The Electropathics. I used to get wonderful 'highs' from dancing to all these bands, whereas by contrast others seemed to play in such a way as to drive your feet into the ground rather than float them lightly over it.

Tempo had a lot to do with it. If the tempo is too slow, then the dancers can't keep in the air for the requisite hops and leaps, and so are almost forced to pause momentarily after each step, and it's much more tiring like that. If the tempo is too fast, then they haven't time to dance the steps and are almost 'fast walking' the dances in a style that seems more American than English. If the tempo is just right, it encourages the dancers to dance the steps correctly, and there's something about doing that that lifts both the soles and the soul and gives a real buzz.

Another factor was degree of electrification. Some bands seemed able to use a high percentage of electric instruments while remaining very dancable, for example The Oyster Band, but with many others the high degree of amplification involved seemed to isolate them from the dancers and their point of view, and were barely dancable. At very least, I would say the music should not be too loud at a ceilidh.

I would say that important musical features that the bands above share are a strongly held tempo, with clear phrasing of the melody which helps to delineate the sequence of figures in the dance, and an appropriate selection of good, melodic tunes.

As for accenting specifically, you could do worse than listen to recordings of these bands, and/or talk to their band leaders, and the callers who work with them.

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