A fellow club member at Hour 25 just received an internship to work on his Master’s thesis. The thesis is that there is a correlation between the way the Ancient Greeks built new cities and the way Homer composed the Iliad. Cool, huh?
Oh, Homer didn’t write the Iliad, he recited or sang it accompanied by a lyre. He had to keep a certain beat; dactylic hexameter. In a possible autobiographical sketch in a lesser work he might have been an inerrant poet singing for his supper before dining aristocrats. He would pick a tale appropriate for the occasion and using traditional language, style, format, quotes and blocks of text compose their song during a totally oral spontaneous performance.
His thesis and internship were much discussed in Hour 25. It has been much on my mind. What else that has been on my mind is country-swing dancing. I am teach the class and we are half way through the Spring session.
Last night one of the girl’s said she preferred dancing with me because I signaled what we were going to do next. “I do?” Apparently, to use the literary term I foreshadow what is coming. It is the nudge of a shoulder when I am spinning her away, the lifting of my arm in anticipation of a Left Tuck or the subtle shift in our hand position. I never occurred to me that dancing was composition in performance.
For those that don’t “boot scoot” there are several different styles of country and western music. There are fast melodies with strong beats for swing dancing, slower softer music for “polishing your belt buckles” that is the two-steps and a waltz among others. The man leads, that is choreographs dance as he and his female partner dance. The lady’s job is to “follow”. The “meter” would be pounded out by their feet. Swing is with both dancers putting their left foot in and their left foot out. For men the two-steps is “left (foot forward then, bring up your right foot) together, left together, right (foot back the, bring back your left foot) together. Waltz is the basic 1-2-3, 12-3. You can’t waltz to a swing song. Swinging to a two-step is just sad. And trying to two-step to a waltz gives one a headache. Lord and Parry the definitive researchers in composition in oral performance say the audience’s trained ear can tell when the poet misses the beat in the poem’s meter. And trust me your audience can tell you stepped on your partner’s feet when you missed the beat.
The guy choreographs the couple’s routine right there on the dance floor. They have a set routine or routine moves they like doing and can do without concentrating too much. These are probably tradition moves they were taught by other. While waltzing or two stepping they traverse the floor going counter-wise as tradition dictates. The guy might interrupt their “Five Basic Moves” by whirling them around in one spot or spinning her away should the traffic flow get jammed up. They will warm up a bit and then advance into more complex swing moves. The moves are all built of more basic moves “moshed” together, condensed and contracted. And maybe at the end of the song it will be the elbow-wielding “Pretzel”, sweet “Window” or their signature move; unique to them but composed of all the tradition elements.
Should they take a break and another gentleman ask the lady to dance. She and their audience and their fellow dancers will expect him to keep the appropriate beat, perform the appropriate steps and moves, dance the traditional style and use the traditional moves or moves recognizable as from tradition. If he doesn’t she wouldn’t be able to follow, she and anyone watching will deem him a bad dancer and his fellow dancers will deem him a nuisance.
You don’t get to be Homer by being a nuisance, and you definitely must know how to do the “Pretzel”