Recently I learned about a new kind of dance event, called Fusion, which is interesting in the context of my recent article about the meaning of neotango. The various words being used to describe alternative tango events usually describe the music. In Europe there’s not a lot of modification of the dancing going on, besides contango (the mixing of contact and tango), which seems to be an entirely separate community. I recently had the chance to interview Bo Wang, one of the organizers of an event in Los Angeles called Angel City Fusion, one of about 6 Fusion events per month in Los Angeles, accompanied by some small weekly events.
My expectation was that Fusion meant that dancers from different styles (Salsa, Bachata, Zouk, Blues, Swing, Lindy Hop, Argentine Tango, etc.) would share an evening together, rotating the music between the different styles. But the answer is far more interesting. Fusion dance actually mixes the different dance steps and techniques within one song! Moreover, the music is not a rotation among the different styles, but music chosen because it is danceable by all styles. This means that the music is slower (60-90 bmp) than Lindy Hop (usually 120-150) and Salsa (usually over 100).
Wang has learned that beginners who are trying to do Lindy Hop often find the triple steps are too hard, they can’t do it on the dance floor. Beginners often find that it’s easier to dance to slower music; they can more easily use the moves they’ve learned. They feel they make less mistakes and feel more successful. “Finally I feel like I’m dancing, not just self-judging do I do it right or wrong.”
Wang explained that many people decide they want to start social dancing and they start with whatever is familiar or convenient. But for many people the specific music played at the dance school is a bit strange. It’s not what they listen to while driving. It’s not the music they want to dance to. When they find Fusion, they get to dance to contemporary pop music and they say “Oh, this is the thing. This is the kind of music I want to dance to.”
Beginners and intermediates more satisfied by Fusion than by whatever social dance they started with make up about half of the participants in the LA Fusion scene. The other half are more expert dancers who have topped out or become bored with in their chosen dance style, and look for something more.
My friend Sébastien Sery is a Fusion dancer from Réunion who knows 9 dances, including tango. He explained to me that Zouk dancers tend to be experienced in many different dances and are not purist. For them it’s very easy to come to the idea of fusion. Wang confirmed that Tango, along with Blues dancers, are the most likely to be purist. In Los Angeles there is not one leading source of dancers for Fusion. The people come from many different dances.
I asked Wang if there are crashes because of different expectations about how to use space. He said no, partly because the dance floor is quiet spacious. He also explained that there is a sub-style of Fusion called “Micro” which is specifically about using less space. One of the monthly Fusion events is a Micro event.
Of course, like every social dancer, Wang claimed that “connection” was the most important thing in dancing. Apparently Fusion proposes that there is a form of connection through which one can communicate any move from any dance to any partner. I’d be curious to learn the technology for that!
And of course there are cultural conflicts when multiple dance styles share an evening, such as whether alcohol is a desirable element (Tango and Latin dances say “yes”, Lindy Hop says “no”), what kind of body contact is to be expected as a normal part of dancing (Lindy Hop dancers keep their distance, tango dancers get very close), and whether the dance floor will circulate (it doesn’t). The Angel City Fusion organizers are slowly developing a “Code of Conduct” regarding some of these issues, which will be interesting to read when it’s complete, and I will link to it here.
photos Bo Wang