Experiences of a Music Coordinator
By Jackson Fossen
One of my responsibilities is to DJ for the University of Minnesota Ballroom Dance Club’s general dance twice a week, and that has had a few side effects. Primarily, I end up doing a lot of social dancing during the school year. I dance while I DJ (obviously, because why not?), so I get a lot of time to practice what I’ve learned in lessons past. Besides practice, though, I’ve noticed a few things that may not have otherwise occurred to me:
- Once a group of dancers has learned a line dance version of samba, it is very (maddeningly) difficult to convince them to dance samba as a partner dance.
- Many people have a regular partner for a particular dance. They’re not necessarily partners who compete together, and they all dance with a variety of other people, but when a certain dance is announced, they’re guaranteed to pair up.
- Watching beginners dance reminds me of the variety of different ways in which leads interpret steps, especially when first starting out. As a competitive dancer, I end up dancing steps countless times in a (hopefully) consistent manner, trying to demonstrate as best as I can, what I believe the judges want. I forget that you can deviate from convention and still make moves work. While these variations may not always follow proper technique, they’re certainly entertaining to watch and break the sometimes monotonous conformity of competitive dancers.
- I get to see people learn and progress in real time, and it’s quite rewarding.
- I get to test the clarity of my leading with a variety of follows, and I am able to differentiate my social dancing from the sequences of steps that my partner and I are used to doing in a routine.
- I didn’t notice this right away when I started dancing, but some dancers spend a lot more time observing. People do take breaks to catch their breath or to skip a dance they may not be comfortable with, but some spend much more time watching. That’s not to say they don’t dance at all, and in fact they are happy to dance when asked. These are different from the shy people; they genuinely seem to enjoy watching dancing, at times more than dancing themselves.
- Occasionally, songs sound much better to a DJ who’s creating a playlist than they do later on the dance floor. Don’t be surprised if you occasionally hear a less-than-stellar song; it probably sounded much better earlier.
Overall, serving as Music Coordinator has greatly enhanced my dancing experience, and I would highly recommend being a social dance DJ to anyone who has the opportunity. There is definitely a learning curve, as playing songs with correct tempos is incredibly important, but it will give you a different insight into how the social structure of ballroom works.