"Clave change" - dancing on 5?

#1
While browsing the web looking for information on salsa music structure I stumbled upon the following description of "clave change":
http://www.salsanewyork.com/ourdancemusic.htm
[...] you may hear the expression "changing the clave", referring to when a song restarts the count after only 4 beats instead of 8 beats. When this happens, the dancer is now off-timing since we dance to an 8 beat count. More advanced dancers who feel this "clave change" will do a "transition step" which adjusts their timing to the new count in the music.
What do you people do when this happens? I guess that you could continue to dance "on 5" (or "on 6"...), but I find this a bit difficult. :headwall:
Any idea of what a "transition step" would be - a slowed down step of some sort, or just a stop? How would you lead the lady through such a transition?
 
#2
don_svendo said:
What do you people do when this happens? I guess that you could continue to dance "on 5" (or "on 6"...),
I usually keep on dancing on the reversed timing, unless (1) the follower switches back to the original timing or (2) I notice that the follower is feeling somewhat uncomfortable with it.

Any idea of what a "transition step" would be - a slowed down step of some sort, or just a stop? How would you lead the lady through such a transition?
One example would be --- say, you are dancing on 1 forward, you kick on 7 (back break with your R on 5, step in place with your L on 6, then you kick front on 7 with your R) , and then your R ends up landing on 1 (back breaking on 1). There are several ways to do this kind of thing, but in my case, I just use it only to fix it when I got off the timing by accident. Or do this on purpose within a certain moves. I can never lead her to switch the timing by me doing this.

Personally, I don't think it is necessary to reverse your timing (meaning that you don't have to switch back to your original timing) unless you or your partner feels very uncomfortable continuing. But if for whatever reason you think it is necessary to do that in a certain situation, what I would suggest is, let her go, do some shines, and start with the reversed timing.
 

tj

New Member
#3
If you and your partner have sufficiently good dance connection - it's easy enough to make her step back (and switch her footwork) from a closed position. With some it's as easy as a "look".
 
#5
Hmmm... it all depends on the song and the partner... sometimes I just continue on the reversed beat... some other times I do a transitional move... not necessarily a step... just something on the 1-2-3 measure to get back on 1...
 
#6
tj said:
If you and your partner have sufficiently good dance connection - it's easy enough to make her step back (and switch her footwork) from a closed position. With some it's as easy as a "look".
Yes, with some of my "regular" dance partners, we have a good enough connection/understanding to be able to change the footwork fairly easily.

Like other people have said, though, the technique mainly depends on your partner. Sometimes (particularly with new partners) I might just lean over and simply say, "Hey, I'm about to change the beat." That keeps us from stumbling over a few eight counts hoping that she recognizes what I'm doing. That also alerts her to look at my feet or pay attention to the fact that even though the lead will feel awkward for a second, I really do know what I'm doing! :wink:

I'm a bit of a fanatic about finding the "1," so I personally prefer to make the switch as soon as I recognize the clave change. However, if the particular song has a very subtle difference between the sound of the 1 and the 5, then I might just go along with the "5." Also, if we're dancing to a live band and the clave change happens more than once, I tend to "surrender" the second time and just finish the song on the 5.
 
#7
Hi,
Well Mike Bello has a good break down of the transition steps when the clave "changes". Notice that in his descriptions he makes the break down for
- classic Mambo (Power 2), you can use it for dancing on one and
- Modern Mambo (Tipico, ET).


Check out : http://www.mambofello.com/q&a.htm .

For those who are interested in the musical side of it, check out :

- http://www.mambotribe.com/theclave.htm (Stephanie Gurnon from Toronto)

- http://www.timba.com/fans/clave_debates.asp (The different types of clave change)

- The file clave info in the file section of the yahoo group salseroscorner, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/salserocorner/files.

Here some the related texts. I am sorry for the long posting.

Hope it helps

Stephanie Gurnon, http://www.mambotribe.com/theclave.htm,
The music flips; Clave remains constant


If you listen to the 2 parts of an ISOLATED clave, you start to get confused as to which one comes first or second, at the head or the tail of the 8 count sentence. You often think that the clave has changed from 3/2 to 2/3. If you listen with the musical structure laid on top of it however, you’ll hear that the music tells you which one it chooses to place first or second. In one song, especially in old school salsa, where the level of artistry and musical knowledge is high, the music will flip several times in one song. In commercial salsa, it rarely flips.

The important thing to understand is that the clave never really flips or reverses…but the music does. The arranger of the music cuts the 8 beats short, and places the strong accent in the middle of a sentence. So in reality, the ‘1’ placement has changed not the clave. So you’ve just done your front basic that takes up 4 counts, and suddenly the music flips back to ‘1’ instead of continuing to 8. You now hear the ‘1’ on your back basic, instead of 5678, you hear 1234 etc. Moments later, the music may flip again, so that suddenly you’re back to dancing 1 on your forward basic. You suddenly try and think back to when you could have changed your steps since you were never off beat to begin with….
=Mike Bello, http://www.mambofello.com/q&a.htm, Mambo Transition/Change step
Answer... (Mar 15, 2001)
The transition step that you speak of is really the Mambo Change Step. Of course, I didn't really know what you meant until our telephone discussion today. But, I want to give visitors to this page an opportunity to understand a very pointed question: How can the five-minute-partnership-of-dance maintain their individual timing with each other?
Many times dancers may fall out of their own timing by one bar/measure (four beats of music). This can happen for several reasons which I won't list here but what is important is this can cause clashing between the partners. A quick fix is the mambo change step! The following description is a presciption for the above malady:
Forward Mambo Change Step
Classic Mambo (2,3,4 -6,7,8 with a break on 2 & 6) - When completing the forward half of mambo do not place weight on the left foot but bring it back to the center by tapping on 4 (or 8 depending on whether you're the leader or follower). Hold the weight on the right foot for 5 (or 1) then break step with the left forward on 6 (or 2).
Modern Mambo (1,2,3 - 5,6,7 with a break on 2 & 6) - After completing the forward half of mambo do not place weight on the left foot on 5 (or 1) but bring it to the center by tapping (weight is still on the right foot). Now break step with the left forward on 6 (or 2) with a follow-up step on 7 with the right foot.
Rearward Mambo Change Step
Classic Mambo (2,3,4 -6,7,8 with a break on 2 & 6) - After you complete the rearward Core Rhythm with the with the left foot on 7 (or 3) continue to leave the weight on your left foot for two beats through 1 (or 5). This will allow you to do a short kick with the right foot on 1 (or 5). Now back break with the right foot on 2 (or 6) with a follow-up step on 3 (or 7) with the left foot. Complete the rearward half of mambo by stepping with the right foot forward on 8 (or 4).
Modern Mambo (1,2,3 - 5,6,7 with a break on 2 & 6) - After completing the rearward half of mambo do not forward with the right foot on 1 (or 5). Instead, do a short kick with the right foot on 1 (or 5). Now back break with the right foot on 2 (or 6) with a follow-up step on 3 (or 7) with the left foot.
If you have any difficulties whatsoever on executing the above please let me know! I'll be glad to work it out with you.
Take care and hope the above helped answer your question.
AOTC,Mike
http://www.timba.com/fans/clave_debates.asp , Different types of clave change
Having satisfactorily proven the existence of 2:3 clave, we can now neatly divide all music in 3:2 and 2:3 and live happily ever after, right? Wrong! Let's look at the song "Por Encima del Nivel", also known as "Sandunguera", by Los Van Van [audio example 8]

Sandunguera
se te va por encima de la cintura
no te muevas más así
que te vas por encima del nivel

Sandunguera,
se te va por encima de la cintura
no te muevas más así
que te vas por encima del nivel

y dicen que
que a esa muchacha no nay quien le ponga el freno que
que qué de qué
que si la dejas se lleva el baile entero
qué facilidad! mírala!
mírala!
mirala!

Sandunguera ...
Start clapping 2:3 clave such that the first clap of the 2 side falls between "gue" and "ra" of "Sandunguera". Hold on stubbornly until you’ve gone through all the words listed and arrived back at "Sandunguera". The section now repeats, note for note. But what happened to your clave? Your 2 side is no longer between "gue" and "ra"! Now your 3 side begins right with "gue". Also, you may have also noticed that the clave began to feel very out of place right after "y dicen que".
Now try dancing to it. At the first "Sandunguera" start dancing a basic step, breaking forward first, and keep dancing until this part comes around again. The second time through you’ll find yourself breaking backwards instead of forwards! Dancing the basic step and clapping one clave both take exactly the same amount of time, 4 beats. But this song has an extra two beats which keeps the clave and basic step from coming out even! What if you have a great song which doesn’t come out evenly? Or, what if you have a great song which sounds better in 2:3 at one point and better in 3:2 at a different point? Let’s see how Los Van Van solved these problems in "Sandunguera".
Try clapping 2:3 clave again, but when you hear "y dicen", leave off the last note of the 3 side and then start the 3 side again (a second time in a row) right on "que". Now everything will come out right and you’ve just experienced what the composer, Juan Formell, refers to as "Clave License".
Now we’re getting to the really interesting part. Many, if not most, Latin songs, coros, mambos and breaks sound better, sometimes a lot better, when accompanied by one clave rhythm than they do when they’re accompanied by the other. If the rhythm section plays in the other clave pattern underneath, it sounds off, and this is called "cruzado". This is not one of the great clave debates because to'el mundo y su hermano agrees that "cruza’o" is not a good thing! The disgreements revolve around how to best avoid this undesirable state of affairs and this brings us to the term "clave change".
The simplest solution would be to never write music that doesn’t break down into equal four-beat measures, and to never combine musical ideas that sound better in 3:2 with those that sound better in 2:3. This is indeed exactly what happens in more than half of Salsa and Timba arrangements, but there are many great arrangements which don’t. Whenever one of these issues arises the arranger has to do something to reconcile the situation.
The first solution is that the last measure of 2:3 can be cut two beats short so that the 3:2 section can begin on the 3 side. This way, the percussionists don’t have to change, but the emphasis of the new section causes the listener to start hearing the music in 3:2 clave.
The second solution is to let the phrase end naturally and then have the percussionists themselves change to the other clave for the next section. This can be broken down into two types of Clave Change, those where the 2 side is repeated and those where the 3 side is repeated, and each has a distinct personality.
How to name these three types of clave change brings up a whole new semantic can of worms, which we’ll explain in the final section.
Clave Debate #4: Of the three ways to "change clave", is only one of them "correct"?
This one is much more than a silly semantic argument. It’s a very real and complex aesthetic musical issue. There are those who feel strongly that the integrity of the arrangement is compromised by breaking the flow of the clave and playing the 2 or 3 side twice in a row, and a survey of a huge amount of the best music of Ruben Blades, Tito Puente, The Fania All-Stars, etc. will show a strict adherence to this rule. Since we haven’t found any existing terms to describe the different ways of changing clave, we’ve decided to make up our own. We call this method "New York style", which is where many of these famous arrangements were written. It's not that the Cubans don't also use this method - it's that a significant number of master arrangers in New York only use this method.
"New York style" clave change: With this kind of clave change it’s possible to play clave from the beginning to the end of the arrangement without ever playing the 2 or 3 side twice in a row. To repeat, this style was not invented in New York and is also used freely in many types of Cuban and Puerto Rican music, but many of best New York arrangers use it exclusively and consider the other method to be incorrect, so we chose this term, aware of the danger that it might add new semantic fuel to the debate! But we had to call it something. Of course it doesn’t really matter what it’s called as long as you understand what it is.
While there are those who will argue to the death that this is the only correct way to change clave, there are two counter-arguments. The first is of course that Los Van Van, Issac Delgado, Charanga Habanera, NG La Banda, and others have created dozens of drop-dead masterpieces which change clave however they see fit. The second argument is that changing clave New York style will confuse and/or irritate some dancers. We call the other way to change clave "Clave License" style.
"Clave License" clave change: In this case the clave changes by playing one side twice in a row. The term "clave license", as in "poetic license", comes from an interview that Rebeca Mauleón-Santana conducted with Juan Formell for her book "101 Montunos" in which he said something to the effect of "we like to think that we have clave license", meaning that he has no problem with changing the clave any which way as long as it sounds good, and that he trusts his intuition to know what sounds good. We break this down into "2:2 Clave License" and "3:3 Clave License" depending on which side gets played twice in a row. The above example of "Sandunguera" is an example of a "3:3 Clave License" clave change, but note that when the section above repeats, the clave changes back to 2:3 again, and this time it does it New York style. With the Cubans, there’s no philosophical preoccupation with clave. They just play it as they hear it and let the clave fall where it may.
As noted, an interesting side-effect of the Clave License method is that it doesn’t change the foot pattern of the dancers. The New York style change will result in the the leader breaking backwards with the musical phrasing instead of forwards, while the Clave License style is likely to be completely unnoticed by the dancers. Some dance teaching methods actually include a special 2 beat step for flipping the basic step back around when the clave changes.
To conclude, let's look at one of the greatest examples of New York Style clave changes,"Todos Vuelven" from Ruben Blades’ 1984 classic, "Buscando America". The arrangement is by Oscar Hernández. The song changes clave five times, but if you start clapping 3:2 clave from the very first note, you can go all the way through without ever changing. The opening is a bit nasty, but remember that the first sound you hear is the downbeat of the 3 side.
Here’s the roadmap:
Todos Vuelven [audio example 9]
0:00 3:2 (the first note is the downbeat of the measure)
1:51 2:3 (coro: "todos vuelven")
2:27 3:2
3:03 2:3 (conga solo)
4:11 3:2 (vibes)
An even wilder example of multiple NY style clave changes is the Fania All-Stars’ version of "Bamboleo". Marty Sheller’s beautiful arrangement of "Oye" (from "Tras la Tormenta") by Ruben Blades and Willie Colón) has only one clave change but it’s done so naturally that it becomes one of the highlights of the arrangement. It’s as if the NY arrangers imposed this artificial restraint on themselves to inspire their own creativity. Each clave change presents a problem and the creativity expended to solve is has resulted in a lot of great music.
NOTE ON LISTENING TO AUDIO FILES: If you have difficulty hearing the examples, just search www.google.com for WinAmp and install it. There are versions for both Mac. By changing the setting you can make one example stop as soon as you click on next.
NOTES ON THE AUDIO EXAMPLES:
audio examples 1 to 4 — first you hear the bell on the downbeats for 4 beats, then the clave with the bell twice, and then finally just the clave twice.
audio example 5: is from "Pare Cochero" from Charanga Habanera’s "Hey You, Loca!" on Magic Music Records.
audio examples 6 and 7 start with a count-in of one measure, then a measure of clave and then the melody.
audio example 8 is from "Por Encima del Nivel" by Los Van Van from the box set "The Legendary Los Van Van on Ashé Records.
audio example 9 is from "Todos Vuelven" by Ruben Blades from "Buscando America" on Sony Tropical Records.
don_svendo said:
While browsing the web looking for information on salsa music structure I stumbled upon the following description of "clave change":
http://www.salsanewyork.com/ourdancemusic.htm
[...] you may hear the expression "changing the clave", referring to when a song restarts the count after only 4 beats instead of 8 beats. When this happens, the dancer is now off-timing since we dance to an 8 beat count. More advanced dancers who feel this "clave change" will do a "transition step" which adjusts their timing to the new count in the music.
What do you people do when this happens? I guess that you could continue to dance "on 5" (or "on 6"...), but I find this a bit difficult. :headwall:
Any idea of what a "transition step" would be - a slowed down step of some sort, or just a stop? How would you lead the lady through such a transition?
 
#11
I'm a follower, and the two easiest for me are:

1. If the guy stops leading and makes me shine.
2. If I'm pulled close (bodies touching), and am led in a body wave or a rocking motion. Personally, I only feel comfortable being led this way by my friends, but I suppose it depends on the connection you feel with your partner right?

After each of these, the guy can start up whenever he hears the 1 (or 6?! I don't know about transitioning on 2)
 
#12
Seriously, I've danced to "Sandunguera" for years, without ever thinking twice about the changes :? ......... those days we just danced, the debates/discussions were purely left for the musicians :twisted: !

Thankyou for the eye (or ear :wink: ) opener, SalsaForFun! I shall share this with my locals.....

My take to this topic is: with the right connection & good musicality, it is possible for people to enjoy these changes without worrying too much about it :? ...........
 
#13
I quite often use a transition step when I'm dancing - infact I have a few:

5 - 1, 1 - 5

plus

1 - 2, 2 - 3.

There are only a few dancers that can cope with dancing on3 so i dont
do that too often! :lol:

If I find myself on the 5, I normally do a side step to the right (or
kookaracha - whatever you want to call it. ) to the right, and then
do a second one straight after so you are doing right-left-right,
right-left-right, then step forward on my left showing lots of confidence
on 1 so that my partner knows that I have changed the beat.

Its harder to describe, but occassionally I will take things a step further
and switch to 1-3-5-7 timing, using only my right foot so that the transition
is more noticable.

By this, I mean that (with the right foot) i step to the right on (5) like
a normal sidestep, then take my rightfoot back to the centre on (7).
To the right again on (1), to the centre again on (3) and forward with
the left foot on (5).

Except (5) isnt (5) anymore it's 1.

If you're not confused now, I certainly am, but I hope that gets the point
across. What my partners think of this move, I dont know, but they all
seem to cope. I think they assume I'm doing a silly shine or something.

Cheers


Graeme
 

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