We Shall Have Music

By Paula

Musical Notes
It’s not only a matter of ‘Pop’ - that is, a type of music that is currently popular - the contemporary ‘pop’ aspect is welcomed and appreciated on all sides. But when it comes to ballroom and Latin dancing no-one can escape a glaring fact; that whatever the music, ‘pop’ or ‘classic’ in it‘s style, it should relate directly and explicitly to the dance concerned.

This no dedicated ballroom/Latin dancer can deny, no matter how ‘trendy’ they, or those who are directing operations, would aspire to appear. And in point of fact truly involved and gifted dancers of this genre have a supreme respect for and appreciation of such ‘classical’ ballroom and Latin music - and classical in its field it certainly can be.

Only last year the Royal Albert Hall (and Derek Deane) presented a striking proof that Gershwin continues to rule, when the English National Ballet re-assembled work of the renowned George and Ira Gershwin along with other great names, 1920’s/30’s notwithstanding, illustrating their endeavours with the co-operation of a small host of Ballet greats and a celebrated U.S. Vocalist.

Upholding ballroom and Latin dancing at the highest of superior levels were Darren Bennett and the stunning Lilia Kopylova, U.K Latin Champions and glowing stars of that sphere. Their programme, varied Latin styles from Salsa, Rumba, to Cha cha, included a delightful version of American Smooth, danced to the unforgettable ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’, a timeless favourite.

Does anyone now remember, (related to an era which encompassed Irvin Berlin, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter and a Richard Rodgers then associated with lyric genius Lorenz Hart), the medium sized furore when Gershwin‘s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ was first performed as a ‘class’ offering at New York’s Carnegie Hall, a venue usually dedicated to the highest-brow music around. But the piece, which is quite magnificent, received tremendous approval. And the impact of ‘Porgy and Bess’ - yes, an ‘Opera’ - and by a ‘popular’ composer! Then there has been a magnificent version of ‘Carmen’. It’s called ‘Carmen Jones’, and who could forget that superb ‘Rhythm on a Drum’. Also, a score based on the original Borodin work, the wonderful; ‘Kismit’ - so many marvellous melodies and lyrics.

Only single instances of many, but proving that true classics remain classics regardless of the melodic sphere in which they are presented. The fact is, the ballroom and Latin music world is brimming over with supreme material, purpose-written for this genre, but perhaps we do tend to force the issue - with ‘Pop’ music which is of course excellent in its field of endeavour (Honours abound, including a fair show of Knighthoods), although perhaps such music may not always be precisely what the ballroom Latin dancer had hoped for.

Should we become choosy and particular, asking that the music should be designed to accommodate the dance/dancer, as opposed to requiring a species of genre adjustment on the part of the dancers/musicians. So wouldn’t it be welcome and wonderful, if one of our musical gurus, one with a gift for promotion , got into the act, and organised yet another of those popular ‘TV audience-participation’ competitions, with the aim of finding a contemporary composer able to offer your actual and specific ballroom/latin ‘music to dance to’. The compositions, would be demonstrated by some of our delightful and gifted dancers, such as those who appear on ‘Strictly’. Assisted no doubt by the TV Viewers and a panel of knowledgeable Judges.

Surely such a programme would be a success from the start! Bearing in mind the fact that if the music does not lead even a comparative beginner on to a ballroom floor, hold them there, engage them with their partner, and then inspire them to dance - if it doesn’t hint heavily how the body - and head - should react, how the legs should move - what arms, hands and feet should be doing, and inspire all this from within - no matter how excellent it is, it is not ballroom/Latin music. It’s just trying to be!