Musicality Is Not Monotony; Further Discussions On Call and Response.

A while back I wrote about how I view musicality. While watching the following video from Lone Star Championships it reminded me of that post, so I’m expanding on an idea briefly discussed in that post.

I have, for a little bit now, admired Nathan Bugh. But only from a very far distance. When I was at Lindy Focus I had a glorious opportunity to take classes from him (and Evita Arce, of course) and, even more gloriously, watch him furiously at work on the dance floor. That is when I fully apprehended how wonderful he is.

He is one of the very few leads that creates something with his partner instead of just using her to do cool moves or tricks. When he dances he constantly gives the follow an opportunity to shine completely on her own. Then he augments her spotlight by elaborating on whatever she just did. He is constantly paying attention to her.

Just to give you an idea of what I’m talking about:

Watch at 1:27 how he clearly gives Sharon Davis her own time to play with the music, then takes whatever she did and elaborates on it or changes it to fit the riff he is dancing to.

Another thing which blew me away, is how musical all this is. The call an response session fits so naturally within that phrase of the song, and ends naturally just as the phrase changes and the horn starts. Also if you closely watch Nathan’s movement it also changes as the feel of the melody changes throughout the song. He starts out with very smooth moves with almost no pulse and hanging back on the beat then, when the music changes at 0:48, he dives in to a swing out and makes his pulse more visible, his movements more energetic, and more on top of the beat. When the music changes back to those long, dragging horns at 0:58, he changes his movements yet again to match.

Check out both Nathan and Sharon (and Evita! and Jo Hoffberg, Kevin St. Laurent, and Juan Villafane) on their web site The Killer Dillers.

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6 thoughts on “Musicality Is Not Monotony; Further Discussions On Call and Response.

  1. Breanna says:

    YES! Nathan is awesome. If you haven’t danced with him yet, you absolutely need to. He is one of my favorite leads to dance with, partially for the reasons you touched on here, but also because every dance Nathan has is a good time.

    • Rich says:

      On the other hand… I’ve been told by some ladies that this gesture of “now you go” strikes them as “dance monkey dance” and they hate it.

      • Ah yes! I completely agree with that. That is a very fine line to straddle.
        1) Well first off I think it depends on the character and dancing mindset of each person. Some followers would just like to follow, which means they probably are a billion times better at following than those that go crazy (that one would be me).
        2) Also depends on the creepiness factor of your lead and the way that opportunity is delivered. If some one brings you into side by side Charleston and will not lead anything else unless you do the same variation with him, that man should be shot. However if instead of a command, you offer a suggestion, this is more the kind of thing I’m trying to express. Then your dance turns into a conversation instead of just an oral presentation.
        3) I think most people kind of forget about this because they are trying to be so awesome all the time, you have to keep dancing to the music. If the call and response routine becomes a move that you just pull out whenever, it’s not really the same. Mr. Bugh heard a change in the music and decided to do something different, then, when the music changed again, he changed his dancing into something else. All very natural and simple. Sometimes it can be awkward when a leader will give me time, but for like 9 counts or 13 and 1/2 or like 3.14… counts. Then it’s just awkward.
        In general I love it when a leader gives me some space when he feels I need it. And to top that, takes something I did and elaborates on it. This blows my mind. Even if your just leading swing outs and you notice your follow do like a kick ball change, try repeating what she did on the next swing out. It’s something you don’t have to deliberately plan and treat it like a move, but a concept. Just because you’re giving me space doesn’t mean you have to stand still, either.
        But in the end, you cannot please everybody.
        I hope this helped? Maybe? Reply back! I love blabbing on about these stupid little things!
        Brevity is not a trait I posses clearly…

    • Fo sho. I think that comes from just being around Evita for even a micro-second.
      I did snag one small dance at LF. I felt kind of bad though ’cause he was tired and I asked him and then he left, but then he came back and had to dance with me. *sigh* I’m sure he remembers me as that annoying one that wouldn’t let him leave/was stalking him all night. He was super kind though, even though I was a total teenybopper probably. Ah… story of my life.
      BTW. You totally rocked it with him at ILHC!!!

  2. Apache says:

    One of my favorite dances at Camp Hollywood this past summer was a follow and myself playing call and response on the 7&8’s of swingouts. It started with me jokingly copying a heel-pop she did on a previous swingout and turned into a game (which was awesome!).

    About what Nathan did though, as a lead (who is not even close to being near that level of awesome) I am not sure how I would insert that without feel like I as another poster wrote, striking them as “dance monkey dance”.

    P.S. I found this blog from Jerry’s blog and its fun, keep up the good work!
    P.S.S. Its nice to find another college student who is all over the U.S. in terms of dancing. Its odd bouncing between dancing in the Southern California area to the D.C./Ohio/Pennsylvania/New York area.

  3. Shawn says:

    Stumbled on here randomly… that’s a fantastic clip you caught onto here! I’ve never met the man, but from these 2 dances it is clear Nathan is extremely responsive to his follows. In the 2nd song, Sharon started off the first eight bars and it is fun to see Nathan instantly catch on. The Pretzel? Yea, classic!

    To apache and the other respondents as well, I think this is where the conversation metaphor starts to sink in. Beyond “talking all the time”, re: just following or just leading, conversations ebb and flow with one side speaking, the other responding.
    As a lead, you have to make your statement and react to how your follower responds. If you don’t give her anything to respond and then just clam up, then it’s asking her to be a dancing monkey. However, if she picks up on your topic and expands, go with it… Or, if she’s not, pick up what she’s done and go with that.
    There will always be the follow that can’t or hasn’t improvised like that and the lead that is not good at conversation or call and response type of things. However, I think it is worthwhile to pursue.

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