Fusion, as a partner dance concept, is a very new thing. It’s so new that we are still debating what the word means. This debate is complicated by the fact that many people do not even realize that there are multiple definitions being used. By my count, there are three distinct camps in the Great Fusion Debate.
Andrew Sutton, one of the first people to discuss fusion and an early promoter, instructor and organizer of the Fusion Exchange, defines fusion as “fusing your movement to your partners movement to the music”. This is the philosophical definition. It does not define a dance, but a way of dancing. (Or, more specifically, a way of conceptualizing partner dance.) In this definition, fusion is a way of approaching partner dancing. The actual dance style is irrelevant, all partnered dance can be done as fusion.
This is the first “fusion as dance” category. In this style partners fuse their respective dance experience to create a new aesthetic. Each partnership has a different aesthetic, but each dance falls within this definition of fusion. (A tango dancer who dances with a blues dancer will look completely different than a blues dancer with a salsa dancer. Both are fusion dancing.) In this style of dance the important skills are a basic knowledge of multiple dance styles and how to modify your connection to match your partner. This defines not a specific dance style, but a way of dancing which incorporates multiple dance styles.
This is the second “fusion as dance” category. In this approach, fusion isn’t a philosophy or the fusing of different styles, it’s a completely new aesthetic. There is a (or multiple) fusion basic(s) and there are fusion dances events with fusion music. The exact definition of these concepts is still being decided, but they are being discussed and used. This definition is analogous to the definition of blues, lindy hop, or tango. There is a subtle difference this definition and Fusion-as-Fusion. Fusion-as-Fusion is a skill set one learns, this is an entirely new dance aesthetic based many extant dance styles, as well as other partnered disciplines such as acro-yoga and partnered improv.
So . . . Who Cares?
Definitions are important. They allow us to have a unified approach to the things we do. If you go to a “fusion” event, are people going to be dancing Fusion-as-Fusion or Fusion-as-Aesthetic? Will you feel cheated if you take a “fusion” class and the teacher focuses on Fusion-As-Philosophy? Will these different definitions coalesce or will we end up with multiple dances with the same name?
I don’t know the answers, but it’s an exciting time to be a dancer.