Salsa > Musicality

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by borikensalsero, Oct 6, 2005.

  1. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    I was asked a few very intriguing questions in one of the threads(now locked), which I didn't directly answer, but thought I indirectly answer it through this thread.

    While dancing is about self expression, it is totally dependant on the song. If that wasn't the case, then the music need not be present. The best performances usually contain an impeccable physical representation of the song, rather than an impeccably display of skill over a song that are totally unrelated.

    When dancing, we certainly can go ahead and do whatever we want, however, the question isn't how many things we can do to a song but rather, depending totally on the song, how well do our actions blend to musicality. How well does our bodily story match that of the story being told by the song?

    I'd be willing to bet the house I don't have that the number one complain form the salsa elite is that of a lack of musicality by dancers.

    I like to think of musicality by using a singer as an example. Let’s think of someone who can sing her heart out. She has the vocal skills that parallel none, has her own incredible style, etc. So a salsa band asks her to sing for them, the band starts playing, wow what a voice, everyone agrees… After the first song, the leader of band says, you have an incredible voice. However, here are a few things that will keep you from continuing tonight. You must sing to the clave, you are off pitch and off beat. You have a great voice and unique style, but you must keep in mind that while music and singing are self expression, they are dependant on something called the song.

    What happened to her? Well, it was agreed that she had and outstanding voice and style, but when the song was put in the equation she didn't sound all that great.

    That is the point of good dancing. It doesn't matter what the dancer thinks he can do to a song. What matters is how well, that which the dancer does blends to the music.

    How good would it be for that singer to sing an at-your-face-hold-no-prisoners, when the band is playing a salsa romantica? Not very! She certainly expressed her self and interpretation of the song, but how well was her interpretation of that song?

    So, while we all interpret musicality differently there are things we do while we dance that do not interpret the song at all, but rather what we can do.

    A rather nice way to think of musical interpretation through the body is: If I were dancing to an audience that was deaf and I wanted them to know what the song was about. What would I do to stress the high, lows, syncopations, breaks, the story, etc of the song that when they got up they'd know exactly what the song was about.

    It would be more than fine to do whatever we felt like doing, and it would be more than fine since it is street dancing after. But in reality, why the need for music if we are simply going to do whatever we want to do and show that audience how great we can dance regardless of music. That is when salsa becomes egotistical and stops being selfless.

    Sadly, although dancing is about self expression that self expression is totally dependant on the song and not our skills, nor what feels great to us but out of place. ‘cuase that singer sure felt great singing her heart out, too bad she wasn’t in synch to the band.

    There is nothing wrong with doing anything we want while dancing, it is what you want to do after all. But to take the next step we must unite body to band, the closer they blend the better the dance.

    Lets not be Tasmanian devils dancing to boleros…

    More than anything in Salsa dancing, musicality says more than skill displayed during a song. the more intune with the music, the less we'll find ourselves doing whatever we want just because we can...
  2. genEus

    genEus New Member

    You deserve a standing ovation as far as I'm concerned! :applause: :applause: :applause:

    In the latest documentary on Frankie Martinez there's a scene where he's at his apartment in Queens, watching an old Mambo show. He said something that I've always believed in myself but coming from Him it made it so much better. He basically said that we've become so caught up in *new* and *flashy* that in the race to come up with crazier and crazier things to do on the dance floor we forgot to *dance.* He said that even if you only know a few basic moves but you actually *dance* and feel the music and do what the music dictates, you can be the most dangerous mambo dancer out there. Too often I see guys going through the same combinations regardless of what music is playing. But you know, sometimes I wonder if those guys don't know any better or simply don't care. A lot of the same people have been through musicality workshops, shines workshops, creativity workshops, etc, but they continue to do the same mechanical motions over and over and over with no regard to the music...

    What's funny is that in my short time dancing and being a part of this forum this issue has come up so many times in so many different variations, it feels like beating a dead horse. :eyebrow:
  3. alemana

    alemana New Member

    it's kind of ironic for frankie to say that, considering the way he dances and his choreography.

    but in general of course i agree.

    a former teacher of mine brought musicality to a BEGINNER class in a very interesting way.

    the class was definitely beginner level, but the goal was a 'beginner' studio performance 3 months later or so. so in addition to teaching us the basic, she had to start working on the choreography with us right away.

    at the end of the very first hour, she put on the song we'd be dancing to, turned down the lights, and had us freestyle.

    we danced and laughed for a couple minutes until we were comfortable and we could get inside the music a little. then she called us out one at a time to do our little moves.

    those moves, during the very first hour of our instruction, became the basis for our little solos during the performance months later. we refined them, but her message was clear as a bell - what you feel is how you should dance.
  4. dTas

    dTas New Member

    i agree totally... the dance must match the music. its more pleasureable when what the eyes are seeing matches what the ears are hearing and better yet what the body is feeling (when you are dancing)

    unfortunately for me practically all salsa music sounds the same. i hear a lot of emotion in all other types of music but i just cant find the emotion in salsa. perhaps its because i don't know spanish all that well but to me salsa comes across as a bunch of rhythmic beats. a metronome would serve the same function.

    i've seem people jump when a certain salsa song comes on but i don't share their excitement. i do jump when a certain cha cha or rumba comes on but i just don't see it in salsa. i've had to resort to loving the dance and connecting with my partner and i miss the connection with the song. :(
  5. HF

    HF New Member

    @borikensalsero :applause: :applause::applause:

    Think food again ...
  6. africana

    africana New Member

    woohoo yes this is it!! :D
    If you ever hear people refer to your dancing in this way, being able to see the story in the song interpreted through your body, being able to "see" the music when watching you dance, that's a sign :D

    You don't need to understand spanish for that to happen, and you don't need to learn a bunch of "salsa" moves either
  7. Josh

    Josh Active Member

    Have you listened to a lot of old salsa? I would think you have. I've found that classic old-school salsa has much more depth to it than newer stuff. For example, when I first joined DF several months ago, I was into this CD called "Salsa Fresca" which has some 90's salsa songs. I was so in love with it, and while I still like it, some of the songs just don't have that *something* (sorry, can't articulate). My favorite CD as of late is Ray Barretto's Indestructible. It has awesome salsa (first and last tracks are dynamite) and track 2 is such a hot cha-cha... it just has it. It's 30+ years old, and has that classic sound.

    I am with you on cha-cha (as in REAL cha-cha music, not just music that can be cha-cha'd to). In my short time dancing cha-cha, I have found it so much easier to feel the music. Maybe it's because there is not as much cha-cha as salsa being played out there? I don't know.
  8. Canadian Guy

    Canadian Guy New Member

    While I agree with this - I think what you are really saying is that we need to become choreographers or learn to choereograph on the fly.

    The ability to fit or arrange steps and sequences to music is what choreography is all about.

    Salsa dance schools rarely teach choreography in their programs.

    But I agree that this is what is required to advance to the top levels of Salsa.
  9. genEus

    genEus New Member

    1) Ray Barretto, 2) Spanish Harlem Orchestra, 3) Tito Puente. If they don't get your blood pumping, I don't think there's a cure. :tongue: Listen to the songs "Indestructible," "El hijo de obatala," "Soy dichoso" from Barretto's "Salsa Caliente De Nu York" CD (easily found on BitTorrent) and also on BT you can find Spanish Harlem Orchestra's "Across 110th Street" CD, also some great great music. I cannot believe dTas could compare salsa to a metronome. Tito Puente must have just rolled over in his grave :lol:

    On the topic of knowing Spanish - it has very little to do with it. I had all the songs from the "Salsa Caliente De Nu York" CD translated by a native Spanish speaker and trust me, nothing really overly exciting or poetic, (on the contrary), so language shouldn't be a factor.

    Oh, and tune out Marc Anthony, La India, Jennifer Lopez, Victor Manuelle (with exception of a couple of songs like Llore Llore) or Oscar D'Leon (also with exception of a couple of older songs) -- because yes, the synthesized beat makes them sound painfully similar.
  10. alemana

    alemana New Member

    you don't need to call it choreography - it's just dancing! choreography on the fly = dancing, or shining if you wanna be all salsa about it.

    josh - agree with you. that 90's salsa, meh. it'll do in a pinch but it's not what gets my juices flowin.
  11. africana

    africana New Member

    geNus I'm supremely impressed with how quickly you've mastered this stuff!! it takes many a dancer years before they realize that salsa without feeling salsa is so much less than it could be

    good for you 8)
  12. alemana

    alemana New Member

    eh, it's not that useful to tell someone who doesn't have a feel for salsa music "if you just listened to X, you'd get it." y'know, to each their own. i know what works for ME, but that's only me.
  13. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    some times it is usefull to have a person pay attention to their feelings rather than listening to the songs. Feel the type of reaction, even if none, the song has on you. The more intune to your feelings the easier it will be for the person to feel the music.

    At times is innate, other times we need to work at it...

    Close your eyes, absorb the music, but consentrate on your feelings. Little by little the music will be felt more and more... For what is really felt, is not the music, but our feelings.......

    Salsa is too "complicated" and at times not very easy to pick up the overall feel, at which times it just sounds like someone falling down the stairs. But with time, evey bump generated by the fall will mean something different, eventually the overall why the fall, when, where and how will be obvious.... Until then just listen to the music, but pay attention to your emotions.
  14. genEus

    genEus New Member

    It IS most certainly useful to tell someone what to listen to, alemana! I wish someone had pointed me in the right direction earlier. All I knew about salsa was that it was a popular Latin dance, which people dance to the songs of Mark Anthony, Victor Manuelle and other Latin pop stars of today. That was all I knew and I had never any desire to dance to that music (still don't)! When I first saw my instructor dance and heard the mambo music that he was dancing to, that was THE moment when I got hooked! So, *knowing* is already a big piece of the puzzle! 8)
  15. Vin

    Vin New Member

    Everyone's path to musicallity is different. For about year when I first started listening to salsa I thought pop-salsa was awesome and I couldn't bring myself to listen to some of the older stuff in my music collection. Now some of the music I used to dislike is among my favorite music because I have learned to appreciate it.

    You can lead new salser@'s to great music but you can't force them to like it or appreciate it.

    Musicality means different things to different people, for me it is characterized by something as simple as pausing when you hear a break in the music.

    BTW no discussion of great salsa music with funk and groove can be complete without mention of El Gran Combo. There newer stuff and there older stuff has swing baby!!!!!!!!!!!

    I also like alot of the music put out by Africando.
  16. genEus

    genEus New Member

    Hehe. In my earlier post where I gave the three names I originally put "El Gran Combo de PR" and Africando right after but something made me delete those two. Yup. Great music. And, no I didn't say I don't like modern salsa - I love listening to La India and I love Victor Manuelle. But I wouldn't really *dance* dance to them - it would usually be a very close embrace (to use a tango term) with my girlfriend and very small steps of the front-back basic. :)
  17. alemana

    alemana New Member

    Vin, i didn't object to telling people what you like to listen to or to telling them what you think is good. i objected to "if you just would listen to X, you would feel Y!" i think that's facile and a little patronizing. the person who said they didn't really 'feel' salsa is a dance teacher after all - i give them the benefit of the doubt that they've heard a lot of different salsa music, first, and secondly that they have a well-developed 'musicality' already - that is, they understand how to connect with music emotionally when they are dancing.
  18. Vin

    Vin New Member

    Agree with you 100% Alemana. I am even pointing out that in my case when people were pointing me in the direction of great music I wasn't ready to listen to it.
  19. africana

    africana New Member

    no "benefit of doubt" needed ;) his experience is pretty darn clear, has little connection

    we may all disagree on how to reach musicality, or even what it is, but eventually everybody's journey involves actually paying attention the music, every component of it, until it evokes some sort of feeling that will translate into motor movements and further enrich the dance, whether aesthetically and/or internally
  20. elgrancombo

    elgrancombo New Member

    Wow dTas, no disrespect, but I disagree with you absolutely and completely. I don't speak much Spanish and I'm not a lyrics guy, but My God, Salsa/Mambo music is incredibly complex and stimulating. I am a trained musician and I've been into all kinds of music (Classical, Rock, R&B) and to me Afro-Latin music is more stimulating and infectious than anything I've gotten into before. Your thoughts are almost heresy if you're really a Salsa enthusiast. How can you spend so much time dancing if the music doesn't move you?

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