Musicality: The Third Partner

#21
Can you expand on this?
I suppose what I mean, is when I started dancing, I would analyse every piece of music I heard, in a musical sense - where are the musical phrases? What are the musical emphases? The beats? and so on and so forth. I would try to put all of that on top of my dancing, and fit my dancing kind of around and according to all of these technical musical things. What I really needed to do (and have since learned to do) is to feel the music now. Not use an intellectual knowledge of 'right, this is 4/4, so the emphases go strong/weak/medium/weak', or 'this is 3/4, so it's strong/weak/weak', instead I needed, 'this is a rumba, the emphasis is on the long 4-1 count, and I need to dance through all the beats', or, particularly in waltz, I needed to almost forget the beats, or intentionally dance ever so slightly off them (eg, starting to lower at the end of the 3 count). These days, my different way of thinking about music because of dancing to it has really impacted on my playing - it hads given me an entirely new and different perspective on music, allowing me to play with a far more emotional than technical centre. If any of that made any sense I will be immensely happy :D
 
#22
Another link

Here is another link on musicality. There are so few that I figure I would pass this one along. This article is directed more toward ballroom dancers, but some of the content might be of interest to social dancers as well. Enjoy.
 

CANI

Active Member
#24
Does anyone have resources they would recommend (books, websites, DVDs, etc.) that they recommend for learning musicality for Standard? I am not taking lessons, nor dancing physically, right now, but would love to use a portion of my time to really begin to understand musicality. I have read all the posts and threads I could find on DF (a lot talk about Salsa, WCS or Latin dances). I also do understand that once dancing physically, there is a whole lot of physical development and technique development before truly incorporating musicality would be feasible. That's ok. I'm really looking to understand it at this point 'in my mind's eye' not actually physically. If anyone has found a resource they particularly recommend, that would be great. Thank you!
 
#25
Does anyone have resources they would recommend (books, websites, DVDs, etc.) that they recommend for learning musicality for Standard? I am not taking lessons, nor dancing physically, right now, but would love to use a portion of my time to really begin to understand musicality. I have read all the posts and threads I could find on DF (a lot talk about Salsa, WCS or Latin dances). I also do understand that once dancing physically, there is a whole lot of physical development and technique development before truly incorporating musicality would be feasible. That's ok. I'm really looking to understand it at this point 'in my mind's eye' not actually physically. If anyone has found a resource they particularly recommend, that would be great. Thank you!
I haven't seen too many great musicality resources out there specifically for dancers (and I can't speak specifically to ballroom/standard because I am not a ballroom dancer). But I have found some excellent books from the music world that echo and amplify my feelings about musicality and expression. Although they are mostly meant for musicians, the majority of these books are accessible and easy to apply to the dancing world. The three I would really recommend for this are The Music Lesson by Victor Wooten, The Mastery of Music by Barry Green (he also wrote The Inner Game of Music), and The Art of Practicing by Madeline Bruser. I also found much food for thought in Free Play by Stephen Nachmanovich (I quoted him quite a bit in my series of articles on flow because he explains so many wonderful thoughts so brilliantly), which addresses creativity in all art forms. I find that the perspectives offered in these books help to create the mindset necessary to be truly musical and expressive, so I would recommend them to dancers of all styles.

I am always looking for more musicality stuff, so I hope others share too!
 
#28
Thank you Joy In Motion! And thank you in advance to anyone else who has thoughts to share!
Musicality has been a major issue with my daughter. It killed her at her first am/am comp. It doesn't seem to be something that can't be taught to her. It seems more of something she has to discover/become within herself. I have made some major changes in the way I have been coaching her (i.e. stop coaching her...LOL) and I am already seeing a big difference.

Loving your dance seems more complicated than I thought. It doesn't seem that it is just the dancing that a dancer might be in love with, but the whole dance environment and everything that goes along with it.

As an example, the funniest comedians are the ones that are funny all the time. (off stage as well.) To be musical, musicality must be internal to your being. It is more than just a technique. It is a personality.
 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#29
Hmmmm.
Musicality is like empathy. Empathy is something that I believe I've developed over the years. There are ways to become more empathetic, such as losing a job and not being able to find one despite your best efforts, or having a major illness or injury.

Similarly, I think there are ways to develop musicality.
How about this article in Dance Spirit?
http://web.archive.org/web/20111014135452/http://dancespirit.com/articles/2427
 
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j_alexandra

Well-Known Member
#30
I'm gonna go against the flow here. I don't think musicality can be learned. I have never encountered someone who successfully learned to be musical, and I have been intimately involved with music, musicians, and now dancers, for most of my life.

You can teach people to recognize timing, phrasing, and such, to hit the breaks, etc., but real musicality, that expression of the ineffable within someone that recognizes and amplifies the emotion of what we hear, play, sing, or dance to, is inborn. It is also rare. I have encountered thousands of musicians and dancers who have been "taught to be musical." I'd rather read a book.

Let the flaming begin.
 
#31
I'm gonna go against the flow here. I don't think musicality can be learned. I have never encountered someone who successfully learned to be musical, and I have been intimately involved with music, musicians, and now dancers, for most of my life.

You can teach people to recognize timing, phrasing, and such, to hit the breaks, etc., but real musicality, that expression of the ineffable within someone that recognizes and amplifies the emotion of what we hear, play, sing, or dance to, is inborn. It is also rare. I have encountered thousands of musicians and dancers who have been "taught to be musical." I'd rather read a book.
1) If you define musicality in such a way that your definition excludes anything that can be learned... well, then of course your right. It's not clear to me that this advances the discussion at all.

2) I can't imagine how you would discover whether someone had the inborn ineffable talent without first managing to clear away the technical clutter.

3) If a student asked me to teach them musicality, and all I managed to successfully communicate was timing, phrasing, "and such"... that alone would be a huge win.
 

j_alexandra

Well-Known Member
#32
1) If you define musicality in such a way that your definition excludes anything that can be learned... well, then of course your right. It's not clear to me that this advances the discussion at all.
I'd be happy to learn a different definition of musicality. But you're right; if your definition and mine do not jibe, then we end up with little to discuss, and I'll just stop talking.

2) I can't imagine how you would discover whether someone had the inborn ineffable talent without first managing to clear away the technical clutter.
Neither can I, but I've seen it happen, more than once. I admire those who can discern the golden kernel within the shell of dross. Admire? I am *amazed* by them.

3) If a student asked me to teach them musicality, and all I managed to successfully communicate was timing, phrasing, "and such"... that alone would be a huge win.
Fair enough; it would be a huge win, and I've seen it happen and have been thrilled to watch dancers develop their timing, phrasing, even just their ability to feel the 1. I don't think those things are musicality. I think they're technique.

The most advanced student in my studio, who is a beautiful Standard dancer, will be the first to tell you that she had a terrible time learning timing, that she simply could not feel the 1 when she started, and still has challenges there. But her musicality was always present. The ability to feel the beat and the ability to express the ineffable are different skill sets; she did not have the one, but has learned it; she had the other innately.
 

fascination

Site Moderator
Staff member
#33
I wonder though...isn't there some middle ground?...can't one be encouraged to listen to a voice within that has been previously drowned out by other aspects of dancing and realize that it isn't an all or nothing?...that in most people there is some innate skill for it but, with further dedication to attending to it, one's capacity for it grows...I agree that there may be a very small portion of folks w/positively no capacity for it, and also a small set of folks for whom this is as easy and as primary as drawing breath....my hunch is that most folks find themselves somewhere in between on the continuum and by not only watching others with an excellent sense of it and listening more to their own internal sense of it, can move further along the spectrum of being in touch with it...or sadly, so neglect it or clog themselves with other concerns as to be unable to hear it
 
#34
I don't think musicality can be learned...You can teach people to recognize timing, phrasing, and such, to hit the breaks, etc., but real musicality, that expression of the ineffable within someone that recognizes and amplifies the emotion of what we hear, play, sing, or dance to, is inborn... Let the flaming begin.
This is an interesting question, and definitely bound to bring out some heated discussion. I do believe that some people have this "it" quality when it comes to musicality, just like there are some people who have this "it" quality when it comes to dancing, teaching, being empathetic like Steve mentioned, or doing anything else in life. I know there is a trend in recent years to debunk the idea of innate talent, but I don't think you can dismiss this entirely because we see it all the time. But at the same time, I do believe that the majority of people can learn to be more musical by learning from what the "it" people do naturally and by immersing themselves in the music.

And it is a broad spectrum too; it's not a "have" vs. "have not" kind of thing. There are varying degrees of ability, and there are also quite a few different abilities wrapped up in the overall quality that we call musicality. The majority of partners you will dance with will not have the "it" quality, but they can still be very enjoyable to dance with because they respect the music and they make an effort to bring the music into their dancing instead of just using it as background noise. I much prefer dancing with these partners than those who choose to ignore it and make the dance into a soulless physical exercise.

So I completely support the study of musicality, and I do believe improvements can be made. I have seen it myself as an instructor. To second j_alexandra, I haven't seen anyone become a musical dancer of the "it" variety through study, but I also don't think that's the point. I think it's great that everyone, regardless of their natural ability, makes the effort to explore that potential in themselves as much as they desire to, just as they do with the techniques, moves, connection, etc.

P.S. I somehow missed Fascination's contribution the first time around. Nice post. :)
 

CANI

Active Member
#35
Musicality has been a major issue with my daughter. It killed her at her first am/am comp. It doesn't seem to be something that can't be taught to her. It seems more of something she has to discover/become within herself. I have made some major changes in the way I have been coaching her (i.e. stop coaching her...LOL) and I am already seeing a big difference.

Loving your dance seems more complicated than I thought. It doesn't seem that it is just the dancing that a dancer might be in love with, but the whole dance environment and everything that goes along with it.

As an example, the funniest comedians are the ones that are funny all the time. (off stage as well.) To be musical, musicality must be internal to your being. It is more than just a technique. It is a personality.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts barrefly! I really like the thought of it being something to discover/become within oneself --very nice.
 

CANI

Active Member
#36
Hmmmm.
Musicality is like empathy. Empathy is something that I believe I've developed over the years. There are ways to become more empathetic, such as losing a job and not being able to find one despite your best efforts, or having a major illness or injury.

Similarly, I think there are ways to develop musicality.
How about this article in Dance Spirit?
http://web.archive.org/web/20111014135452/http://dancespirit.com/articles/2427
Thank you Steve!! I thoroughly enjoyed reading that article -- wow! -- lots of great points and thoughts of how to develop musicality as a dancer. I very much like the thought of musicality being like empathy -- and I agree that both can be developed. :D
 
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#38
I'm about a third of the way through this book and I adore it -- what a gorgeous book. Thank you so much for this recommendation -- I doubt I would have ever come across this book on my own. Thank you!!
I'm so glad you decided to read it, CANI, and not at all surprised that you are loving it! Enjoy the rest of your reading! :)
 

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