What Does It Mean to Be Musical

What Does it Mean to be Musical

Have you ever watched a performance and walked away thinking how musical the dancing couple was?  Have you ever been impressed by a show that has touched you so deeply you are left without any words?  Or have you ever been fascinated how one couple can look more musical and express the music more profoundly than other couples?  The real question is what does it mean to be musical?

Its easy to be musical when you are dancing to a beautiful piece of music that inspires you and brings out your natural emotions.  However, it’s more difficult to be musical when the music isn’t your favorite or you just don’t like the piece that is being played.  But, sometimes in a competition or in our practices we still need to dance to the piece of music that is being played whether we like it or not.

To be musical means to not follow the music but instead to add to the music.  As dancers we are trained to first start by listening to the rhythm and the beats.  The drummer has a strict tempo that allows all the other musicians or singers to stay on time and in harmony with each other.  And, after year’s of practice we as dancers are able to follow the music and “stay on time.”  But, this isn’t musical dancing.  Musical dancing is when a dancer adds to the music his or her own interpretation as to what the music is saying.  It’s as if the music is one artist and the dancer is another artist and together there is a communication between the two artists.  This communication or conversation becomes most profound and significant when there are different elements being added together rather than just following or mirroring each other.

For instance, if a piece of music such as a Slow Foxtrot is very lively and has an upbeat feeling to it, a dancer doesn’t necessarily have to dance in a lively or quick way to reflect the tone of the music.  Instead, a musical dancer should show different layers to the music.  What that means is that the dancer can be lively and upbeat in one figure but then can switch a very slow, rubato body action, and then change to another type of body action all the while the music is staying lively and upbeat.  This constant change and variation of body timing, speed, and feelings in a dancer is what makes them musical.

Another example is a very sharp and powerful Tango piece of music.  Most dancers will immediately just follow that piece of music by being very staccato and sharp in their actions.  And, whilst this harmonizing of a dancer’s body movements to the music is very good and important it doesn’t always make a dancer musical.  Instead the dancer can add slow, soft, and legato movements coupled with changes in speed and stark contrasting movements that are sharp and quick.  The dancer can be faster, slower, louder, softer, or ignore the music completely.  This constant changing of a dancer’s movement will only add to the feeling and emotions of the Tango piece and, therefore, be more interesting and musical.

This type of approach to music and dancing makes it much more interesting to perform to music in competitions or in practices that a dancer may not like.  By having this understanding of what makes a dancer musical it’s much easier to stay interested and engaged in the dance and also to become very musical.

Remember to be musical means to be creative.  And to be creative means to not follow the normal or status quo way to dancing.  A dancer must have the courage, strength, understanding, and skills necessary to add his or her own interpretation, feelings, and personal touches to the music thereby creating their own unique way of dancing.

Journal written By Victor Fung & Anastasia Muravyeva