In Maroon 5′s song Maps, we started the dance extremely quiet, with a few subtle body movements to acknowledge the guitar.
As you listen to the song, notice the shift that happens when the introduction repeats during beats 33-64. What stands out during this section?
What happens in this second musical paragraph is very common in pop music structure. Many verse-chorus songs are structured so that the verses take 2 major phrases while the chorus takes a phrase. The second paragraph of the verse often has more energy than the first paragraph because the song is building into the chorus, and so we want to show this energy in our dancing.
In this specific song, the drums come in on beat 33 to create a more driving rhythm to the song. But, the song still has a long way to build, so we need a way to dance the driving rhythm without being overwhelming.
For this section, let’s show the drive by changing our rate of weight transfer. When you dance WCS, you have a great deal of freedom for how much of your weight is on the receiving foot at the strike of the beat. A slow rate of weight transfer—like having 60% of your weight on the receiving foot when the beat hits—creates a slow, delayed feeling. By contrast, moving as much as 90% of your weight onto the receiving foot creates an energetic, staccatto look.
During this section, begin dancing with a faster rate of weight transfer. At the start of the beat, aim to have 80-90% of your weight on the receiving foot. This will require you to move faster as the sending foot is pushing to the receiving foot, and then moving slower as your roll through the receiving foot and prepare to send the next foot. The slow roll through the receiving foot is the harder element: if you don’t control that foot, you’ll end up flat-footed and the quality of your body flight will decrease.
Put on the song and try dancing to this section with a faster rate of weight transfer. Your goal is to express the driving energy of the drums while keeping the swing rhythm of your patterns.
One trick to dancing to the layers of music is that you don’t always have to dance an entire section in a specific way. If you dance the first four or eight beats of a new section of a song in a clearly distinct way, that style of dancing will shape how the audience hears the rest of that section. So, by clearing changing your rate of weight transfer for the first eight beats, you can return to a more neutral dance style for the rest of the paragraph. This is useful when you have lots of elements that you want to show (because otherwise your dancing would look frantic), but it also is useful when the song has lots of energy changes. It’s much easier to build the energy of your dancing if you can express high energy, pull back slightly, and then increase the energy again in a different way. We’ll play with that idea as we continue through the song…