“Dance is music made visible” – George Balanchine
Dancers & instructors often reference the importance of musicality in our dance but what is it REALLY? And why is it important? Do we really need it in dance? How do you define musicality?
Read on to find out…
What is musicality? Musicality is the translation of the music with your body- essentially your body becomes the tongue of the music. It captures all the elements of the music- from the rhythm, to the instruments, the voice and of course any lyrics & combines them into a melange if you will. What is beautiful about musicality is that we all have different ears & ranges of experience. We all hear & perceive music differently and this is how we all make unique art! But musicality is a skill to learn & continuously practice. It is not something we intrinsically know (unless you are a trained musician) and so it is very important to learn how to listen and then work with musicality.
Why is it important? First off music makes us FEEL. Musicality is SO VITAL to our dance because we are the physical representation of the music. We become storytellers through our dance & music is our soundtrack.
If we don’t understand the concept of musicality or try to integrate into the song, we are totally out of compas or our dance looks forced, feels off and we are essentially stuck in our heads. Music helps us MOVE. Music gives us direction and adds to our dance vocabulary.
How to improve your musicality? Listen, listen, listen to the song many, many times. Listen to it on headphones, on a stereo, on a loudspeaker. Learn all the accents & the changes in tempo. Determine where the music grows & shrinks. Understand what is being sung & make it your story. How do the different sections make you feel? What do you want to express in this?
Ask yourself these questions: What style is this music? Do you know what the rhythmic sections are? Do you know how to translate the changes?
If you are unsure about the style or origin of the song, ask someone you trust who can help identify it. This is very important!! (Don’t forget to understand the general context of the song & get lyrics!!!)
I like to mark out the rhythmic sections & any big accents on paper so that I can reference technique. If I am unfamiliar with a rhythm, I ask someone to listen & help me identify.
I also like to reference feelings & emotions here on this paper too – it can help keep me in line and keep all my emotions in check 😛
I try my best not to turn to Youtube to study what other people do in the song unless I am super stuck. If I am stuck on something, I like to leave it and pick it up again at a later time. Quite often I will listen to the song while driving and therefore focused on something else which strangely allows me to listen deeper & often find choreo automatically pops up.
Don’t forget to understand that if you are not truly feeling a song – like inside out goosebumps or a need to dance it, then its ok to walk away from it & find something else! Dance is supposed to feel (somewhat) effortless and inspired, no matter how hard the transitions or the changes are. You can tackle them bit by bit. But if you are really struggling with a piece of music, you can shelve it for another time. I have a very large playlist of songs that are categorized as “Later Choreos”. Sometimes you need to grow your technique a bit more to tackle it. Sometimes you need to grow as a human a bit more. Sometimes its developing your ear a bit. This is all great growth in dance and don’t punish yourself for making changes to what you are working on. If it doesn’t flow now, it will later. Have faith in that 🙂
How do you define musicality? Comment below to let me know!
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