What is Fusion

What is Fusion

If you were to ask 10 dancers what the definition of fusion is, you’re likely to get between 11-15 answers.

Most definitions vaguely involve blending multiple dances or dance influences with different types of music.

things like “you know… fusion” are thrown around haphazardly as if that means anything to someone not in the know.

Trip-Hop, Dub-Step, Norah Jones and David Keogh are certain to be mentioned for the music at some point.


So in the spirit of Fusion we have two definitions, both of which work for us.

  1. A hybrid of two or more partnered dances, being danced to music not necessarily native to any of the dances being mixed.
  2. Fusion is the infusing of Dance A into Dance B to add the flavor of Dance A without losing the most important characteristics of Dance B.


Since those are confusing, let’s just say it’s having access to all of your dance moves and technique and making it fit whatever the feeling of the music is, regardless if that’s how they were originally intended to be used.

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  1. 1


    To me, fusion is partner dancing without classifying said dance within a particular style. Shucking off labels to simply dance, creating a momentary, living piece of art that is created by the dancers, on the canvas of the music, upon the easel of the venue and the community it’s within. It does not hold to a particular esthetic, other than to what is expressed by the music, and even then not always. This is why I feel freeform partner dance is a better term and not dependent on what is being “fused”.

    Quality is not required in that definition, and really, why would it? Are little kids playing football “not really playing football”? Well, maybe not to the level of professional athletes, but come on, they are children! They are taking what understanding they have and applying in in real time, and they are enjoying themselves. Must we demean their effort by saying it is somehow ‘less’? I think that is a part of becoming a more whole human being is accepting that people are at different stages of development, that each person is at the right and perfect place for them at that moment, and everyone is doing their best. But enough hippy crap 😉

    You have bad, mediocre, good, and amazing dancers across all scenes. Someone that can only do the basic and underarm turn in salsa, is still doing salsa. As a fledgling dance scene, freeform is going through the painful process of deciding what it is, what is isn’t, and what that means in today’s world. As it solidifies, teachers will rise to the top, which will help immensely with the growth of the scenes in general.

    In any dance scene I’ve been in, safety is always a concern. I’ve seen salsa dancers dislocate shoulders, swing dancers twist ankles, ballroom dancers just straight eat sh*t over their own feet, and more. I feel like safety is so rarely addressed in ANY class, especially the beginners classes, over the on-and-off (holy crap I feel old) 12 years of partner dance classes I’ve attended. To me, the most glaring omission leads to what I’ve called “The follow is a lever” mentality. This is when the teacher fails to properly explain that the lead isn’t causing a *mechanical* domino like effect by providing force to the follow like pushing a lever. “Oh, I raise my arm and then push her and then she turns because I turned her”, versus “I am communicating my intention to make a turn by raising my arm and providing pressure to her back, and she agrees and makes the turn on her own”. This mindset seems most relevant in the leads that have engineering backgrounds for some reason 😉 but it can lead to some terrible, and dangerous habits. Freeform seems to focus more on communication between lead and follow as a necessity, since there is no base set of moves that one can fall back on and/or anticipate. IMHO, this leads to a dancer that is more equipped with the skills to dance with anyone and make sure everyone enjoys it, and isn’t that the point?

    ***As to why the lack of responses, I think it’s because you’re too kind. You need something inflammatory like “JUSTIN RILEY IS MURDERING BLUES” or “Trad-ers need to be shoved on the Tardis and shipped back to 1930 where they belong!” or something. Slip David Madison $20 to come piss all over the page and you’ll have a crowd, I’m sure 😉 (no offense, Dave!) ****

    1. 1

      Luke Weismann

      Yeah, you’re probably right about needing something more inflammatory to get people coming here, but really I want this to be less “inside-baseball” than I want to solicit ideas that are useful to someone who is new to Fusion and might not have a preconceived notion of what it is.

      I figure there are plenty of places for that on “the Facebook.”

      I like your ideas about whether someone is dancing “well” or playing a pick-up game. However nice it might be for a pro to go home to their old stomping grounds and throw the ball around, there is definitely something special about getting a great team together and seeing what levels you can achieve in your chosen sport.

      ***Oh, and I personally feel that any insult to “trad-ers” is mitigated by the fact that if your suggestion was taken, they’d get to take a ride in a freaking TARDIS.***

    2. 1


      Stasha: I think Free Form Partner Dancing is a great term … for FFPD. I think Fusion is a good term for Fusion Dancing. 🙂

      I see them as two different things done by two different communities (with plenty of overlap). Though, I also see a lot of people claiming to do ‘Fusion’ but really FFPDing.

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        I definitely agree, Mark. I should have clarified that most people that believe they are doing “fusion”, are simply doing Freeform. This arises from the dearth of public knowledge on what it means to be doing “fusion” blahblahblah. That being said, I think fusion, by that definition, is going to be pretty freaking rare. The majority of dances I have at a fusion venue are dances that could never fit in to one, or even many, different established dance labels. Not that those aren’t amazing, good quality dances with inherent value, of course!

        A true fusion song, as you said “songs that have two distinct genre styles (tango/blues, hip-hop/swing, waltz/blues, latin/hip-hop, etc)”, seems to be rare thing indeed, at least at most fusion events I have attended. Then I (as a predominately follow) have to hope I find someone that actually knows A) enough about each kind of dance to clearly indicate when we are switching from style to style, and B) knows enough about the music AND that particular song, to change when the song indicates it’s appropriate. AND hope that this amazingly talented lead can somehow smoothly transition between the two! Whew, that’s a lot of expectations.

        To be honest, when I observe or participate in someone attempting to dance that definition of fusion, it can be jarring and awkward. With any partner dance, a base 0 is established, so to speak, that is unique to each dance style. To someone that isn’t experienced in each dance to the point where every dance style attempting to be fused is at the muscle memory stage, the brain has to step in and be like, “Uh, wait, ok, I guess we’re doing tango now…AND back to blues!”. It requires a different set of skills, and frankly they aren’t ones that I’ve seen really taught, but maybe I haven’t been to the right events.

        But WHY?! Why bother with that at all? Ok, you have a small percentage of songs that call for it, a small percentage of dancers that can do it, and and even SMALLER percentage that will have any idea WTF you’re doing and why anyways. WHY does it matter? If it’s truly important to someone to “maintain the historical integrity” of that dance… go to a dance that ONLY does that style of dance. Or not! I don’t care! I just want to dance to music that I like, that moves me, with skilled dancers, in a supportive and fun community. If a dance scene isn’t doing that for me, I’m going to move on. As have a lot of other dancers.

        As a dear friend said once, “You know what we used to do? We used to get our friends together, and we’d put on music we liked, and we DANCED. Know what we called it? DANCING.” 😉

        1. 1


          Yes Stasha. I agree with a lot of what you say. You did mention “WHY?,” though, as in “But WHY?! Why bother with that at all?”.

          It makes sense to learn different styles of dance because it makes you a better dancer. These styles have been around for dozens if not hundreds of years and a lot of really talented people have poured their genius into fine-tuning the lead/follow dynamic.

          It makes sense to learn different styles of dance because it stretches your musical palette and allows you to dance (aesthetically) more honestly to the music.

          It makes sense to learn different styles of dancing because each dance has rules that transcend the dance floor. There is culture to dances that we must respect if we’re going to claim to do them.

          But I digress, many people ‘just want to dance’ and many of those want the shallowest learning curve they can find and care less about improving their hobby than actually doing it. Fine. But please don’t call it ‘fusion’ and please don’t call it ‘blues’ (or ‘alt blues) and recognize that I might not enjoy dancing with you as much as I enjoy dancing with someone who cares what they feel like to their partner.

          (And by ‘you’ I don’t mean ‘you’ but rather ‘them’). That make sense?

          1. 1


            I was thinking about my reply, and how I could have been clearer. But then I made some peach sangria and forgot to come post a clarification. 😉

            I, in no way, am against dancers learning different dance styles. IMHO, they should focus on becoming proficient at one before moving on to the next. Learning within a certain dance style has tons of advantages; that structure that freeform shucks off is imperative when attempting to get something in to muscle memory (unless you’re some kind of dance savant, in which case, AWESOME). This is why I rarely take “Learn this dance style” classes at fusion events; the only thing that is going to be accomplished by an hour tango class is confusion and maybe a “move” that only attendees of that class are going to get. At a fusion event, the classes I am going to attend will be the ones that have more general application: Andrew Smith’s isolation classes are AMAZING for this, or a class that may be at a higher level in a dance style I am well practiced in, or something random like a group dance. Taking a semester long modern dance class did wonders for my partner dance, but even then, at nearly 2 hours, twice a week, I really only felt I was really absorbing it toward the last 2/3 of the class. I can’t wait to continue. (BTW, more dancers should take modern!)

            However, I totally understand as to why one wants to improve and study other dance styles; I don’t understand why those dance styles have to be cleanly separated within a single song. In my experience, it creates a “Franken-Dance” that just seems really jarring. That is what I was speaking of when I said, “WHY?”. Practice, yes. Socially, no. I didn’t make it clear I was referring solely to social dancing, which was my bad.

            Regarding your comment about those without the desire to improve; meh. I’ve found them to be in every hobby I’ve ever had, taking up resources and being kinda obnoxious. Like you implied, I generally just avoid them.

            Yeah, I try to dodge all the butt-hurt I can by calling it Freeform. Never know who’s gonna get all pissy ’cause you used the wrong word. 😉

          2. 1

            Luke Weismann

            I understand what you mean Stasha. There is NO way to learn a dance in an hour at an event. However, there is a chance to get exposed to a new dance you may be interested in, but haven’t wanted to commit an entire weekend to previously. I believe that is the value of the “learn x style of dance” classes at a weekend like Fusion Exchange.

            Also, you get exposed enough to be familiar with some techniques someone may employ at an event where you’re not just dancing with people who know all of your same dances.

            –It’s true that more dancers should take modern- and ballet, and tap, and jazz classes.

  2. 1


    I think to truly be doing a fusion dance you need a deep understanding of one of the dances. This allows you to hold onto it’s core while adding spice. On the other hand I have a ton of fun taking my blues skills out for a spin when they play a cha cha and I know I don’t have a completely solid.understanding of the depths of blues. However I would call that fusion and a heck of a lot of fun. If you disagree then let me know what you would want it called 🙂

    1. 1

      Luke Weismann

      Right. At least one of the dances.

      Some of my favorite dances are with people whose dance “venn-diagram” only overlaps with one dance that I know. It makes for SO many unlikely wonderfully new combinations.

    2. 1


      I would say that’s you attempting to dance “cha cha” and having a heck of a lot of fun. If you and/or your partner are minxing in blues anywhere (either in the ‘look’ or ‘feel’ of the dance) then yes, I’d say you’re doing a fusion of “cha cha” and “blues”.

      Of course, if you’re not mixing in ‘blues dancing’ but rather the fundamental and pervasive dance technique you learned by dancing ‘blues’, then I’d say you are just attempting to dance “cha cha”.

      Which now forces us to define “blues dancing” and fun stuff like that :p

  3. 1


    Not sure why nobody else has responded. I’ve seen you, Lucas, ask in at least three different places.

    IMHO “fusion dancing” is combining of two (or more) styles of movement into one dance. Perhaps this can be done at the same time, or perhaps this means switching or flowing between styles in the middle of a dance (like blues/lindy, tango/blues, ci/blues, hip-hop/swing, waltz/foxtrot, foxtrot/blues, bachata/hip-hop) . This, of course, makes the most sense to be danced to songs that have two distinct genre styles (tango/blues, hip-hop/swing, waltz/blues, latin/hip-hop, etc).

    A “fusion venue”, I think has a bit broader a meaning, and one that still hasn’t gelled into something recognizable. I think it makes sense for a fusion venue to be a venue that offers “fusion dancing” (see above), but therein lies many problems (not to be detailed here, pm me). What a “fusion venue” is at this point is a venue that offers many different type of music (and therefore dance styles). Sometimes these are songs that one can combine movements styles to, but often they’re just lots of different musical.

    Other thoughts? Let’s start a dialogue.

    1. 1


      Good Idea Mark.

      I think a dialogue is in order. I’ll make anyone who wants to post on here a deal:

      I won’t use my comment-approval powers for evil- That is, I’ll only use it to block
      comments that are; spam, ad hominem (personal attacks, ad choro (against a dance style), and so on.

      Even if I disagree vehemently with a post I’ll let it go up.
      Scratch that, Especially if I disagree with it.

      –I’m not sure why no one has replied yet either. I did have a few reasons to want to ask:

      1) Curiosity about what other people think
      2) Don’t want to call a workshop by the wrong term and distract from the awesome people teaching at
      it or turn off potential attendees
      3) Wanted to see if what I’m thinking is anywhere near what other people are thinking.
      Particularly those I dance well with.
      4) Dance is like other important things in life; food, travel, vacation… It gets people feeling,
      but sometimes they put their feelings aside long enough to have interesting ideas about what, why and how
      they do what they do. That’s where philosophy begins and where I love to live.

      — I think that your ideas of fusion changing between styles or flowing between them. I also like the idea of
      taking ideas from one dance and expressing it using the shapes and idioms of another dance.

      — I’d love to hear about the problems inherent in the system. I agree that there are some problems with that idea,
      not least of which is the fact that fusion is actually the name for a type of music totally different from what we
      dance to…

      –It’s a great time to be a dancer in the fusion world, because the definitions are still fluid.
      When I play a set at a Blues Recess, I can start with Allison Krauss, go to Kool and the Gang, pass through Keb ‘Mo
      on the way to Norah Jones and end up at David Keogh. Then Nathaniel Volkening takes the stage and things start
      to get weird and wonderful.

      Being in a room with people inspired to dance being given a lot to sink their teeth into breeds more inspiration.

      A large part of what I like about the current state of fusion is the fact that my other dances (except blues
      depending on who you ask…) are old enough to be historical. Tango, Lindy Hop, Balboa, Shag, Foxtrot, Jazz, Ballet.
      They’re all established and codified.

      It’s nice to be discovering something that feels like new territory rather than re-discovering established material.

  4. 1

    Brian Holliday

    I agree with your closing statement more than anything else. I like the term “Freeform Partner Dancing” or just “dancing.” That’s really what most people are doing. Having gone to two of the fusion exchanges, Urban Blues Recess and Lost Valley Blues Recess I can tell you that most people are not fusing dance styles. Most people are blues dancers who take what they know about social dancing and dance to music they like.

    Is this a bad thing to do? It really just depends how good of a dancer you are.

    1. 1


      Most people don’t seem to actively fusing dance styles at Recesses or FX. However, it is impossible to lose all of the underlying principles you’ve learned
      while learning to dance in the past. I can usually tell someone who’d know what to do if I swung them out, just like you can usually tell when someone’s
      primary dance style is tango.

      I think you’re right that it’s essentially people bringing what they know about dance to play with to music that is fun, though not necessarily what they
      learned to dance to.

      That’s not a bad thing. After your first dance, you overcome a lot in learning to dance a new style without looking like you’re from your first style as a tourist.

      It’s very similar to language that way. Your first language always informs the way you learn additional languages.

      In fact, I’d say that as a teacher, wrestling and ballet inform how I structure classes to chunk information so that students can easily assimilate the information.

      “Just dancing” is never a bad thing to do unless it’s unsafe or not fun for your partner. However, it probably won’t look good unless you practice and study dance or unless you’re some kind of dance prodigy of course…

      The only reason your dancing needs to look good is so that when you ask someone new to dance, they say yes.


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