General Dance Discussion > Musicality

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by lynn, Oct 5, 2005.

  1. lynn

    lynn New Member

    What does musicality in the world of dance? Being on the beat, being able to interpret music? Being able to "feel" the music?

    On a side note, yesterday in group class, one of the instructor mentioned somethign about phrasing. He said that there's 8 beats per phrase which unfortunately i disagree with. But would differences like this have any affect on how a dance is well...danced?
  2. wcsjon

    wcsjon New Member

    IMO, having musicallity (yeah I can't spell hehe) is what changes moves into dancing. You can know all of the moves in the world and not understand music and your dancing will look great, but just seem a bit lackluster.
    To me, musicallity means all of the things you mentioned.

    As for the 8 counts really depends on the song. Is it a swing? A waltz, a cha, a rumba, etc?

    Phrasing is a hard thing to learn for some people, and others (usually tends to be people that have played some sort of instrument) seem to pick it up easily. Waltz phrasing seems to be the hardest for some people to pick up, and for some reason I hear it and think nothing of I really can't even teach waltz phrasing, other than you hear the big down beat, ok, you hear 2 big down beats in a row, that's a phrase change, lol. :)
  3. musicchica86

    musicchica86 Active Member

    I guess the best way I can describe it, being a singer myself, is to be sensitive to the music and the movement. Knowing when it's calling for a dramatic rise or a quiet, understated move, things like that. Being able to "hear" when to syncopate a move/step, either speeding it up or slowing it down, based on what the music tells you to do.

    That said, musicality isn't something you can develop or learn--it's innate. Just a feel you have to have for it.

    Sorry I couldn't be more help. :(
  4. lynn

    lynn New Member

    interesting concept....

    i only brought up phrasing b/c to me it dictates the flow and connectivity of a piece of music - just wondering whether or not having different interpretation would have any effect on how it's danced.
  5. skwiggy

    skwiggy Well-Known Member

    I think musicality is something that can absolutely be learned and developed. As with anything else, if you have a natural sense of it, it will be much easier for you. But with the right focus, good instruction, a lot of observation and practice, it can absolutely be developed by one who does not automatically feel it.
  6. Big10

    Big10 Member

    I disagree, perhaps because I might have a different definition of musicality. To me, "musicality" is another word for music interpretation. Being able to interpret music properly includes having at least (1) a sense of timing, (2) a decent-sized repetoire of moves, and (3) an artistic sense. Timing might be innate, and artistry can be innate, but moves/steps for any partner dance have to be learned.

    I think I'm one of those people who was lucky enough to be born with an innate sense of timing but, even so, I think timing for the purpose of dance can be learned. Everything else that contributes to my "musicality" had to be learned. Using my favorite dance, Salsa, as an example -- I had to learn the basic step, the musical structure, and how the steps fit into that musical structure. To then interpret the music at the most basic level, I had to learn some way of making my current step change whenever the music changed. To interpret the music even better, I had to learn other steps to coincide with different types of musical changes (tempo, instrumentation, vocals, etc.). I also had to learn ways of making the change artistically pleasing to my partner or a third-party observer.

    Particularly in the context of a partner dance, I think that musicality is almost entirely "learned," even if not entirely by formal classes. Sometimes it's by trial-and-error or watching others. There's even an unconcious cultural learning that happens as well, like certain flairs that "everybody knows" come from Swing (or Tango or whatever), or recognizing the impact of a dip at a certain point in the music.

    I've never encountered anybody who has the musicality aspect of any partner dance entirely in his/her genes. Some great dancers might make dancing look beautiful and easy, but that's almost always after untold hours of practice behind closed doors.
  7. HM

    HM New Member

    My Salsa instructor told me to improve my musicality.
    How? - just by listening to music a lot and keep on dancing.

    Any other suggestions?
    I listen to music everday and also dance almost everyday. I don't play an instrument (when I was a kid I had to play the piano) and never ask me to sing unless you need to scare the birds in your garden :shock: .
    Is it just a question of time (as almost everything) or are there any helpful hints?
  8. africana

    africana New Member

    yes listen to music a lot, not just salsa, anything that has good beats (reggaetton, samba, hip-hop, west african highlife, zouk, etc)

    More things to try:
    - percussion classes helps some people
    - timing is part of musicality, get timing CDs if you struggle with that
    - take dance classes that are accompanied by drumming. Most African dance, or Afro-latin (afro-brazillian, afro-cuban, afro-pervian, bomba) or carribean dance classes have this. Since salsa is very driven by percussion, learning how to feel and move to these intruments is a good idea. It will also help with timing and body movement (see body isolation thread). I especially recommend any afro-cuban rumba training since you can actually use the same exact moves for salsa shines, and in your basic or styling
    - Once your timing is solid on the basic, and while following, play around with the basic by varying different portions of it to mirror the dominant instrument you hear
    - try dancing without any footwork, only upper body movement. Again pick your favorite instrument and play with it, moving the torso, and maybe arms to try some matching arm styling. Knowing how to dance, and be expressive without moving the feet is a good skill to acquire.
    For followers it allows to you to be musical while waiting on the lead, or in the middle of hand-held patterns

    - study weight shifting. there are lots of ways to be expressive with simple shift of the body/hips while following turn patterns. I'm not sure how this can be learned except to watch good dancers (like video clips?). it makes a big difference when moving from the balls of the feet, pushing off the ground as opposed to the heels (one of the reasons i wish I didn't wear jazz shoes so much ;))

    - take styling classes. notice this is last IMO. They don't teach musicality as such, but you get ideas on what to try to create the artistic effect others have talked about. The disadvantage of dancers who take a lot of styling classes is that most have not gotten solid on timing, and most classes are taught by counts rather than music so it's a bit takes a while to get beyond that

    For any experiment while social dancing, start really simple, like moving from side to side. Don't move too much, or try to "fake" body movement. I see this a lot. it's better to do little and look 'timely' than to be so busy. Practice more on familiar leads. Practice at home, practice in class

    good luck!
  9. africana

    africana New Member

    I have met people like this ;)

    but that's life. some have it, some have to work at it
  10. MacMoto

    MacMoto Active Member

    To me, musicality in dance is made up of two parts: being able to feel the music, be in tune with it and get into it; and being able to translate that feeling into body motion (be it styling, footwork or move/pattern). Musical sensitivity and physical expression. Input and output. You may have a natural talent for one or the other, or neither or (for some lucky people) both. You do need both aspects in you to be a musical dancer. I believe both abilities can be learned. Listening to and immersing yourself in music help you in the first aspect. Taking dance classes, styling classes, practising, watching others dance, etc., work on the second aspect.

    Oh, one more thing. You need to work to connect the two aspects. Don't keep the two separate -- think in terms of listen -> feel -> express. I've met people who have a very good ear for music but somehow always stick to patterns when dancing.
  11. wcsjon

    wcsjon New Member

    Robert Royston and Laureen Baldovi's video (or class) called Choreography on the Fly.
    (you can find it for 29.something at under specialty)
    It's a great class, I wish I had the video myself!
  12. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    Hmm. Let me see if I can point up a few things. I come at it from the musician's perspective, so I tend to point towards certain characteristics or features of the music, and try to match up with them.

    A point: Nearly all popular songs are built around some kind of verse/chorus structure. For example, many songs go something like this:

    break (a verse/chorus sung in a different key, or perhaps an instrument solo)

    The first verse is probably a bit more subtle, less detailed than the other verses, because it serves as a lead-in to the song. The choruses are going to be more prominent, and they are going to be pretty similar to one another. The last verse and chorus may be extended in some fashioin. The break might involve something tricky -- a change of tempo, or a couple of extra bars thrown in to break up the phrasing.

    I'll try to do a little example: a bit of quasi-choreography for bronze American foxtrot, a dance I think a lot of beginner dancers are familiar with. (I make no promises that this could actually be danced the way I'm writing it; I'm just making this up.) The song will be the moderate-tempo Bobby Darin classic "Beyond the Sea" (115-120 BPM, I'd guess). The first verse is:

    Somewhere beyond the sea
          Somewhere waitin’ for me
          My lover stands on golden sands
          And watches the ships that go sailin’.

    At the line "My lover stands on golden sands" (doesn't that line sound elegant?), you might want to lead her to promenade to complement that musical and lyrical phrase. The first syllable of word "sailin'" in the last line takes up four beats, so that might be a good place for an underarm turn.
          Somewhere beyond the sea
          She's there watchin’ for me
          If I could fly like birds on high

    The word "high" stretches over five beats, and elides into the next word on the next beat. This would be a good place for a six-beat grapevine, hitting each beat with a quick.

          Then straight to her arms I’d go sailin’.

    Go to promenade and finish it with a pivot turn for the "sailin'".

    It's far beyond the stars
          It's near beyond the moon
          I know beyond a doubt
          My heart will lead me there soon.

    This verse is a break of sorts; it's in a different key from the rest of the song. It would be a good place to do something different and extended. For instance, alternating 3/8 turns from box rhythm. The "beyond the moon" phrase might be good for a step that emphasizes an orbiting or circular motion, such as a promenade walk-around.

    We'll meet beyond the shore
          We'll kiss just as before

    This part of the song is a reunion of lovers who have been kept apart by some circumstance (some obligation that the singer had to fulfill?). It calls for something that is both close and showy, like maybe progressive twinkles.

          Happy we'll be beyond the sea

    They are back together. The word "sea" is stretched across five beats. The line is a good place for a "happy" step, like maybe some sway steps. (Oddly, I see that sway steps don't seem to be in the NDCA bronze foxtrot syllabus...)

          And never again I'll go sailin'.

    In this context, "sailin'" seems to be a metaphor for "dating around". It could also represent the singer's retirement from an occupation that is dangerous or requires the lovers to be apart. There is just a tinge of melancholy in the song here; the singer seems to be leaving a piece of his youth behind. Nonetheless, he is pledging to make a change in his life and commit to his lover. That last "sailin'" calls for a a move that really drives the point home -- maybe a double pivot.

    Hope that made some sense. I realize that, if you haven't heard the song, it can only be read in the context of the lyrics I quoted, which really don't tell the whole story.
  13. lynn

    lynn New Member

    cornutt, that's an interesting way of "interpreting" the music - partially through the lyrics, partially through the rhythmic strucutre. I wonder whether or not people would find it easier or harder to interpret absolute music....
  14. tacad

    tacad New Member

    Reflecting what I said in the other musicality thread, even how you move on the basic of whatever dance is musicality. How I move on that basic changes from song to song. Sometimes smoothly, sometimes snappy, sometimes sharp,...
  15. MacMoto

    MacMoto Active Member

    Yup, exactly. Musicality can be large or small scale, from how to match your moves to the overall structure of the entire song, to how you take each step to reflect the style of the music.
  16. Joe

    Joe Well-Known Member

    The real trick is doing that on the fly, and with a song you've never heard before...
  17. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    Well, the medium by which we are communicating now is rather limited when it comes to being able to reproduce features of melody or harmony. There's no easy way to compose and post sheet music, and even if there was, it wouldn't do any good for those who don't read sheet music. (Actually, I'm barely literate at reading sheet myself. That's an unintended consequence of having a good ear -- one gets too comfortable with the idea that one can just pick up anything by ear, and there is no motivation to get fluent at reading or writing music on the staff.) There are melodic and harmonic features in the song I described which I would try to play off of if I were actually dancing it, but I couldn't come up with a good way to describe them in text. If we were talking about it in person, what I'd actually want to do is play the song, a bit at a time, pointing these things out.

    And a note to Joe: What you say is true, but it's also true that, for a given dance, most of the music used with that dance is going to have some features in common. After a while, you start to get a feel for when the music is going to take some kind of turn, even if you haven't heard the song before. However, I will admit that I've been caught off guard, more than once. I recall a comp a couple of years ago where, for a cha-cha heat, they played some song (which I haven't heard since) in which the singer was comparing his partner to various farm animals. :shock: The song itself was definitely in a cha-cha style, but the lyrics were so not-cha-cha that I barely managed to restrain myself from breaking out into a giggling fit. My last recollection, as the music faded out and I was uselessly trying to put a point onto an incomplete shoulder check, was hearing the line "Maybe you'd rather be a pig!". My partner had to drag me off of the floor because I had tears in my eyes from laughing so hard...
  18. lynn

    lynn New Member

    :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

    Actually, the only reason why i wondered about the vocal vs. instrumental bit was because i noticed that people tend to relate to voices better than instruments (usually what happens is that the more instruments a song has, the more complicated things get). Maybe it's simply because we find human voices to be more familiar and add that to lyrics, the whole song becomes easier to interpret?? I'm just speculating here obviously....
  19. wzrds3

    wzrds3 New Member

    Being a big fan of the electronica and techno genres (and since I have composed several tracks myself), I rarely come upon lyrics. Lyrics, I feel, can be distracting from the song's progression. I'm not sure what type of music you are dancing to, but I will try to be broad.

    Most songs are made up of verses with similar melodies and rhythms (as cornutt pointed out). This you can count on for more than 95% of songs you might possibly dance to. Listening to the first verse of a song will give you an idea of it's timing. For swing music (being a novice), I would do a basic 6-step during the verses and maybe go into a Charleston during the chorus (if it's a faster song)(I'm not very creative at swing dancing, I'm more of a raver).

    As a raver, I mainly listen for changes in rhythm, but many people listen to the music, as the melodies change slightly just before a new verse or the chorus. However, if you're dancing to rap/hip-hop, you must learn to listen to rhythms. Hope this helps. :D
  20. I have a question. How important is the understanding of the lyrics to musicality. I don't speak spanish, as a lot of the salsa music is in spanish. does that mean I won't be able to effectively interpret the music in my dancing?

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