General Dance Discussion > What comes first for you, the music or the dance?

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by toothlesstiger, Dec 6, 2012.

  1. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    In thinking about what I learned in a WCS workshop, I found myself thinking about the relationship between music and dance for specific people. For me, it was the music that brought me to dance, salsa, specifically. In the workshop I went to, there was a very strong emphasis on allowing the music to dictate the dance.

    It makes me think of freestyle dancing. When I was in college, you danced because the music was danceable, and the music dictated the style of the dance. That's what salsa feels like to me now, and that's what I see when I see westies dancing.

    Yet, when I watch a lot of ballroom dancers, it often feels like the music is a prop. As long as it has the right tempo and rhythm, the rest is just decoration.

    I also find that is more the case where I dance now, dancing international style, than when I was dancing american style in california. Don't get me wrong, I love dancing international style to good standard music (except maybe tango, someday we need to learn AT).

    I really am not trying to say there's a right or wrong here. I don't expect everyone to enjoy their dancing in the same way that I do, I'm just curious as to how others here experience it.
  2. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    I agree. The better ballroom dancers do incorporate musicality and dance TO the music, although at least in competition they have a routine that's fairly set and is going to be what it's going to be regardless of the music. WCS dancers have to learn it, too, so at first they just dance the steps they know, then they start incorporating hitting the breaks, then more little styling bits here and there, and work their way up to truly dancing to the music all the way through. In competition, they might have some rehearsed bits, but they wait to see what the music is and dance accordingly. Not only do they choose their patterns based on what they hear, but they change the way they dance. The timing might change, the triple steps might change, and the styling definitely changes. If you see the same couple (assuming they are experienced and skilled) dance a slow song, an upbeat blues song, and a fast contemporary song, they'll all look very different. You don't see that same variety within one dance style in ballroom, but then in ballroom we have different dance styles to accomplish a similar idea...we dance waltz to one song, cha cha to another, etc.
  3. Mr 4 styles

    Mr 4 styles Well-Known Member

    i exercise both sides of my brain the technical and innovative by doing both

    compete 4 styles in ballroom

    study and occasionally compete J and J in WCS and Hustle and salsa at IHSC and other events
    twnkltoz likes this.
  4. tancos

    tancos Active Member

    For me, comming from a folkdance background, it's the music. I see a lot of choreographed dances where someone has pasted together a bunch of figures, and these have the asthetic appeal of jazzercise. On the other hand, dances that have evolved alongside the music for decades or even centuries fit the music wonderfully.
  5. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    For me (tango, salsa, swing and balfolk) the music comes first and I like improvising pieces with changing rhythms and tempi.

    I feel the same but I know this is due to the prevalent orientation towards competitions. If social or show dancing had a higher reputation among ballroomies the significance of true interpreting music also was higher.
  6. dbk

    dbk Well-Known Member

    Gonna be honest here: for me, yeah, unless the song is one that I really like, it's just something with the right beat to dance to. (Then again, I don't have the most typical tastes in music, so ballroom music is on the fringes of what I like, anyway.)

    Plus, there's not a whole lot of GOOD music out there that's to ballroom tempo. I think other, more socially oriented dances have more good music that fits the dances (although personally I like that music even less). The strict (yet varied among the 19 dances!) tempos of ballroom dances makes it unlikely that you'll find new modern music to dance to; salsa and west coast, OTOH, have entire bands dedicated to producing new music.

    There's also the matter of who you see dancing. If you see people who are primarily competitive, which is more likely among ballroom dancers, they will be working on technique and consistency: on the one hand, that will often distract them from the music, and prevent them from improvising; on the other, it may allow them to surpass the skill of less trained social dancers, harnessing their technical skills to connect them even more to the music and to their partner.
    danceronice likes this.
  7. GGinrhinestones

    GGinrhinestones Well-Known Member

    For me, it has always been the music first. I didn't start dancing until much later in life, but I spent most of my life as a vocalist and (bad) piano player, and music has been involved in nearly everything in my life. Dancing was a natural evolution of my interest in music. That said, they have built from each other ever since - dance opened my ears to musical styles I never really appreciated before I started putting steps to it, and the pure joy of the music has influenced my dancing, to the point I'm not sure if I can separate them any longer. I have seen ballroom dances performed without music that brought tears to my eyes because the dance itself became the music, and I have seen dances that completely disregard the music and fall unbelievably flat.
  8. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    For myself, I find I have to spend a lot of time with the dance before I can just dance. And some dances click into place easier than others. And until I can just dance, there won't be any musicality in my dancing.

    I also find that there is plenty of good new music being created that is suitable for ballroom. One just has to make the effort to find it. (Except for Paso :p )

    Sometimes the music draws me to the dance. That's what happened with Salsa, and it took years of dancing before I could just dance and enjoy the music. Sometimes I love how the dance looks and feels, and after dancing it for a while, I come to really enjoy the music that goes with it. That's what happened with Foxtrot. Sometimes I love the music, but the dance is just "meh" for me. (Merengue)

    To opendoor's comments, around here they are mostly social dancers. Both here and in California, there was always much more of an emphasis on the part of social dancers on learning figures, and pasting them together in a dance. In another thread under Salsa I complained about about the emphasis on what one teacher calls "origami patterns".
  9. danceronice

    danceronice Well-Known Member

    I originally just started to help with ice dance and switched because I could compete more in ballroom, so neither, really, it was just another thing to do to help with a sport.

    I prefer to dance to music I like, but as long as there's a beat I can follow it's fine. Unless it's a showcase, in which case I work better with a song I really like. (At the moment, I've gotten on a kick with Frenchy & the Punk, and it's probably bad but I now have a feeling I can guess which song NP's going to pick of the ones I'd want to dance to...)
  10. jjs914

    jjs914 Active Member

    Toothless, I also find what you've said here true. I've heard a lot about musicality and adjusting my competitive routines to reflect the music played. But quite frankly I was never really able to fully understand that concept until recently. In the last several months...after dancing competitively for about 10 years, my teacher has been really driving home the idea of musicality...and that even with a routine the dancing should never really be the same twice...and after all that time it is only now starting to make sense to me.
  11. juwest333

    juwest333 Active Member

    The music. No matter how good a dance may look to me, if I can't get into or feel the music, then I am simply not interested.
    Nikita Sunshine likes this.
  12. DerekWeb

    DerekWeb Well-Known Member

    Dance without connection to music is gymnastics
    Rose likes this.
  13. DizzyDancer

    DizzyDancer New Member

    I had no use for Frank Sinatra until I learned foxtrot. I always said I didn't like jazz until I discovered lindy hop. So in some cases, when I learned the dance, it was, "Oh, that's what this music is for." Of course, once that connection is made, then the music should lead.
  14. debmc

    debmc Well-Known Member

    One of the unusual things for me about ballroom dance training has been very little dancing to actual music in either lessons, coachings or group classes. It is kind of surreal sometimes to walk into a ballroom studio and see all the various groupings of couples dancing completely different dances while music is being played. In some ways it teaches students to ignore music completely... at a busy studio you have to learn to not dance to the music being played, if it is not the style you are working on at that time.
  15. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    I found it distracting at first, and it can be hard to focus on Waltz when there is a Salsa playing, but in such circumstances I dance to the music in my head, or, more commonly, to my teacher's spoken counts.
  16. Zyrai

    Zyrai New Member

    The music always comes first for me, it is what drives me to dance
    Nikita Sunshine and opendoor like this.
  17. flashdance

    flashdance Active Member

    Yes, the music always comes first for me too!

    Since beginning to learn the piano you get to 'know' music on a totally different level.
    Rose likes this.
  18. tanya_the_dancer

    tanya_the_dancer Well-Known Member

    Shouldn't it depend on whether you're a follower or a leader? As a follower, I think I should be following my partner first and foremost, so the dancing is primary and the music is secondary. When I practice something by myself, I prefer to hear appealing music, though.
  19. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    Well, the original question was whether the music got you to dance, or you were interested in the dance first...
  20. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Not quite: when you (follower) practice with your common dance partner you actually can use your mouth. And when you dance with someone unknown socially you can refuse the next dance.

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