Tag Archives: musicality

“Feeling” the Music

dancing to the music

Me, caught up in the music. 🙂

You know how some people scrutinize your playlist and base who you are on the type of music you like to listen to? You know how people have “guilty pleasures” they listen to when no one’s around, or bond over with other “geeks”, and eventually feel proud about listening to when they get older?

It’s funny, because I actually prefer to listen to other people’s playlists over my own. I’ve gone through three iPods now (through a mix of breaking or losing them) and enjoy going through other people’s playlists, remembering songs I used to be really into, discovering new gems, and appreciating songs I have never taken the time to really listen to before. I had the choice to delete all the songs from a used iPod I bought about a month ago and start with a blank slate of my own (which I would have filled with music to practice to), and I decided to keep the songs, even though there aren’t any house or hip hop songs or music I probably should put on, and would add if I had the option to. But I’ve discovered a handful of awesome disco and funk songs, one legit blues song and dancehall song, lots of Michael Jackson songs, songs with awesome lyrics and meanings, songs I grew up with — just so much to give a chance and listen to with new ears, now that my ears, mind, heart, and soul are so much more capable of hearing and feeling than they were before.


"Listening to" versus "feeling" the music = two very different things.

“Listening to” versus “feeling” the music = two very different things.

Don’t know where I was going with this. I think it’s valuable and worthwhile to give all music a chance. Before I started dancing, I didn’t like so many different types of music — hip hop, funk, house, disco, blues, salsa, jazz, breaking, “chill music,” etc. I’d wish they would play something else, and had no idea how anyone else could enjoy it. I spent so much time feeling stupid for practicing to music I didn’t like, but always found myself one day genuinely liking, and then loving the music. Today, I LOVE funk, blues, hip hop, house, disco, and other music. My friend wanted me to try sending happy energy to other people, and I discovered that, to get into a happy state, I only had to listen to the music being played around us (breaking, and another type that was far off in the distance), to feel a smile form on my face and get into a happy state.

There are still some types of music I don’t understand or relate to yet. In fact, I only started liking breaking music last week, when I felt the breaking groove for the first time, which kind of unlocked the music for me.

Someone told me this week that you have to get the music first to get the dance, but I think it really is the opposite case for me. As a person, I have to feel it in my body first — appreciate it in my body first, through dancing or singing — for my ears to start appreciating what they are hearing.

In high school and university where my main interests were writing and singing, the music I appreciated was in the form of songs with relatable and/or powerful lyrics, especially the songs I could belt out as a soprano. I’m so glad that these last few years, months, weeks, and days have allowed me to appreciate music at a whole new level.

Have you ever soloed to kizomba music? Leapt, soared, and gotten so lost in exhileration that you pulled your partner along for the ride with you to electronic music? Waacked to passionate Argentine tango music? I don’t know why, but tango music makes my arms and body move like nothing else, though my legs haven’t gotten it, since I haven’t acquired the footwork yet.  And the salsa music that many people complain is monotonous and boring? Try solo dancing to it — really listening and just moving your body to it — and you will come to feel, as I did, that it is far more interesting than its 1,2,3, 5,6,7 rhythm would lead you to believe.

There is always something to appreciate in the music (though a lot of the music that has been cropping up lately, I haven’t really been paying attention to and can’t speak about). One of the things I love most about partner dancing is being able to share another person’s experience of the music — and the ability to co-create a new experience. Especially with dances like fusion, WCS, and tango, where the opportunities to play with the music are almost limitless… omg, a great dance is an experience to be savoured.

As I posted on my Facebook page earlier today:

Learning to dance feels like how it felt for me to learn French — don’t get it, don’t get it, don’t get it… and BOOM — understanding! Over and over again. Every dance is a new language waiting to be unlocked. 🙂

Weird, I know, but I’m weird and I know it. 😛




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What Blues Dancers Can Learn From Hip Hop Dancing

hip hop and blues dancing

Huh? Hip hop can help blues dancing? Yep.

Whoda thunk that doing hip hop would help my blues/fusion dancing so much?

In one week, I have been able to “get” blues concepts I could never fully understand by having them broken down for me from a hip hop perspective. Through hip hop, I have discovered strategies to keep my body grounded and attuned to the music, and I finally realize how musicality and solo dancing fit in to partner dancing.

Here’s how hip hop helped my partner dancing (and can hopefully help yours as well!):

Getting grounded with grooving

Hip hop is all about the groove. Fancy moves are cool, but when you take them all away, the body still needs to be grooving for you to rightfully claim to be doing “hip hop.” Some styles work with an “up” groove (which keeps your body pulsing upward toward a happy, upbeat “up” beat), and some follow a “down” groove (which keeps your body thinking “down” and “heavy”).

I have mostly been drilling the up groove for funk, locking, waacking, and top rock, but this Monday was the first time I started taking the down groove seriously in a hip hop class. The hip hop groove is “heavy” in the same way that blues dancing is heavy and grounded.

On Tuesday, I drilled the hip hop down groove for an hour to make it feel more natural to my body. Because the hour of drilling made me conscious of the differences between the “up” and “down” (“heavy” and “light”) feelings, I was a lot more conscious of keeping my steps down and “heavy” when blues dancing, and started being able to catch myself whenever I’d start veering toward lighter steps.

Making magic with musicality

A popping session on Wednesday reinforced and let me practice concepts introduced in a series of blues workshops I attended last Saturday and Sunday. I learned to listen to different elements in the music and pick out individual ones and dance to them specifically — and then put everything together by dancing to all of the elements. By training my ear to become aware of the many intricacies in the music, I learned how to better anticipate when a lead was working up to something big, when he might pause for effect, repeat a move, and more.

It was kind of like gaining the power to tell predict the future – not enough to cause me to back lead, but enough to better prepare me for what a lead might be planning. When you know which dance elements your lead is listening and dancing to, it takes some of the guesswork out of what he might possibly do, thereby making you appear to be a follow who can magically follow and mirror complex movements. Really neat, actually.

Sensing spots for styling

The musicality and practice with solo dancing I gained through hip hop freestyling taught me how to insert grooving and styling naturally into my dancing. Because I was no longer fixated on following my lead’s every move, I learned to move my body whenever there were moments when something was not being led. Because hip hop taught me to constantly keep my body grooving, applying this to blues ensured I always felt the music in my body and danced it, even without a lead to tell me how to feel and interpret it. I was able to insert more of myself and my own style to the dance, rather than remain confined to the view of styling as a series of moves you have to learn and throw in during specific moments. Now, I can essentially turn every moment into an opportunity for styling.

So you don’t need to devote all your time to one dance to see big improvements in it. Sometimes, making connections between different dances is just what you need to make things start to make sense!

blues dancing connection

When you learn to see partner dancing as more than just connecting with your partner… the connection just gets that much stronger.

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