Musicality in ballroom

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by LordBallroom, Feb 5, 2013.

  1. LordBallroom

    LordBallroom Member

    I feel like musicality (ie. dancing to the music) has been ignored in my ballroom education. I've had trouble finding resources which teach musicality in smooth dancing. I feel like when the music starts I just start stringing together patterns that I've memorized while trying to keep the rhythm. I don't feel like my patterns are being dictated by the feel of the music. I learned on the salsa floors that when a couple understands how the music is put togther, they can dance impromtu and look like their dance was choreographed. Are there tools which can help me dance to the music better beyond just keeping rhythm?
  2. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    I browsed the informations about these degrees and only found amalgamation instead of musicality http://dancevision.com/prodvida/info-exams

    First step would be to learn to "dance to the melody" instead of "dancing to the rhythm".
  3. ajiboyet

    ajiboyet Well-Known Member

    This is a very, err...deep issue. I think I can say on the surface, that you may try listening to dance music, without dancing. Maybe when doing chores, or driving, or something else. And let the music provoke emotion. Try to get used to that. Every piece of music, no matter what genre, or even language, should evoke an emotional response. If you understand the words, great. But for someone like me who dances Latin predominantly, and has to work with a lot of Spanish language music (which I understand only a teensy weensy bit), every song still evokes an emotion. Then, you use that emotion to dance.

    That way, dancing the same cha cha routine to Lady Gaga or Tito Puente would produce different results. Because they just CAN NOT create the same kind of response on my insides. And that affects the way my body moves, tremendously. And the looks on my face. And my arm styling. And everything else. And people can see (hopefully) that I'm using the music, not just dancing a routine.

    I hope I made sense.
  4. Terpsichorean Clod

    Terpsichorean Clod Moderator

    IMO, tango is the best place to start. Just with walks. Plus *maybe* a rocking step and a checking step. Note that the latter two are really just variations of the walk. Just a bare handful of basic steps. But see how much you can vary these simple elements to fit the music. Even with just the walk - you can move, you can stop (to take a breath with the music), you can move bigger, move smaller, staccato, legato. With the checking step, you can express highlights in the music - hit an accent, or draw out a tenuto or fermata.

    I have to give a lot of credit to a class I took from Argentine tango dancers, Sean Dockery and Charity Lebron.
    Miss Silly likes this.
  5. smidra86

    smidra86 Active Member

    We had a coach on the college team I was on once do a lesson on musicality towards the end of the semester. She would basically play music and have us "dance" to it whatever we felt but we were not allowed to do any ballroom, so if the music sounded happy we should skip etc. It was rather helpful and it could be something you could try. This way you will learn to feel the music rather than just dancing steps to it.
  6. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    it is a difficult subject to articulate, because it is about the essence of the place from where where art begins...it is a space of sensing and responding and interplay that is so unique to each person and their capacity to be present to it
    ajiboyet and Mr 4 styles like this.
  7. Mr 4 styles

    Mr 4 styles Well-Known Member

    agree with fasc

    personally i can read music and have written a few songs

    my understanding of composition and structure allows me at times to" predict" moments in the music where musicality can be emphasized knowing those spots are coming helps


    WCS is the best dance to work on musicality but it is a long endeavor fun tho
  8. Miss Silly

    Miss Silly Active Member

    Same (my background is in music). Harmonic structures and phrasing----especially in most dance music we use for ballroom---are usually very predictable once you have an understanding of theory/harmony. I know this doesn't capture the ethereal magic of music & feeling, but on a more technical level, this 'mathematical' understanding of music can sometimes help for those who aren't quite as natural at picking up on musicality.

    My partner has "no ears" really. Getting him to understand basic rhythm (and dancing to it LOL) has been an interesting adventure for us both (me trying to be patient LOL him learning stuff that is not natural for him). I can't build on his musicality if he can't even find the beat yet. We started with a lot of metronome exercises and clapping very simple rhythms (or even the basic beat) of a song and trying to teach his ear to recognize when he was on or off beat. But over the last four months he's understanding better how harmonic progressions work underneath a phrase (even though he doesn't know what they are specifically) so at least he can recognize a musical cadence.

    We also do Argentine (dancing mostly each with an instructor) which helps too since there seems to be a particular attention to musicality in this genre.

    I also get him to do exercises (which he probably hates, but he's a trooper LOL) where i play a song and ask him to describe how it makes him feel. When he connects a feeling to a piece of music, he does better at capturing the "mood". Eventually i hope he can combine elements. Right now he doesn't have the technique in his body enough to shut off that part of his brain (it's either sloppy and 'expressive', or danced properly but off time and no expression). Often times while we are driving around i'll get him to do more listening/clapping exercises to help him practice connecting to the music without the complications of dance.

    Musicality is very complex and will take time and practice. And is also subjective. Sometimes when he describes how a piece of music makes him feel, i think, woa, that's not what i feel at all....but it actually does work as well (ahhh, and this is one of the mysterious beauties of art). What also helps is watching a lot of youtube videos of dancers who are expressive. It helps him understand in a clearer way by watching someone else do it (and then we talk about what nuances they did to make it "musical").
    Gorme likes this.
  9. Mr 4 styles

    Mr 4 styles Well-Known Member

    *wants to dance with miss silly even more now*:D
  10. Miss Silly

    Miss Silly Active Member

    Hahah it would be my pleasure!! :D
    Mr 4 styles likes this.
  11. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Favor AT over WCS for musicality because of the complexity of the concept of "swing," and the fact that you can do single, double, or triple rhythm pretty much whenever you want in AT, rather than having that WCS "pattern" of steps to keep in your head.

    Thing is with AT it takes a while to be able to hear the beat since there are no "drums."

    I always say that the first component of "musicality" is dancing to "the beat."

    And here's one of those sort of irrelevant things I love to discover. Back in the day, "musicality" was known as "musical interpretation."

    As far as tools...

    Two things to do would be to really learn the songs that you dance to frequently, and also learn about phrasing. If you want to pursue the phrasing thing, say so, and I'll see if I can find some stuff aimed at dancers, and post links.
  12. Mr 4 styles

    Mr 4 styles Well-Known Member

    agree for people working on musicality early in their dancing but WCS is much better for advanced musicality as you can address musical and vocal cues AT is more the musical cues
  13. Mr 4 styles

    Mr 4 styles Well-Known Member

    done deal !! next time im in vancouver!!!:)
    Miss Silly likes this.
  14. TwoRightFeet

    TwoRightFeet Active Member

    I agree with those suggesting West Coast Swing to help with musicality. Once I started doing WCS more seriously, my musicality in my Smooth dancing improved significantly. With WCS, it's not so much about stringing a bunch of patterns together, as it is about connecting with the music.
    Mr 4 styles likes this.

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