¡Escucha a la música!

As a follower, there is nothing I appreciate quite like a sense of musicality that includes pauses. You know, those moments where you are going and going and then ahhhhhhhh, you suspend for a moment before continuing. Consider this scene:

I step onto the floor with a friend of mine, a leader with whom I have practiced and who has made remarkable improvement lately. He has a very solid (but not rigid!) embrace, a clear presence, comfortable leads. He no longer has trouble finding the beat, but I notice as we begin dancing that his walk has a kind of relentless pace. Step, step, step, step, step, step, step … Even though each step falls on the beat, I find myself feeling rushed. I want to luxuriate in the music, but there is no time! I ease on the brakes as I step backward, asking for an extra beat. He waits! I love it! But then it’s back to the grind …

I don’t blame my friend, or other leaders like him, for dancing like this. I mean, I would love for them to slow down from time to time, but given their level of experience I am happy. They have rhythm, now they just need some extra lessons in musicality. I don’t feel comfortable trying to talk about this even in practica settings – it seems too much like trying to teach uninvited. Musicality is something that takes both familiarity with the music (which takes time and experience), some understanding – whether explicit or not – of the musical structure, and repeated experiments or lessons or something to practice moving with the music rather than just with the beat. I don’t want to try to force my sense of musicality on all the leaders, but it’s so tempting to try to organize some kind of musicality-centered practica or workshop to play with it a bit.

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3 thoughts on “¡Escucha a la música!

  1. Hi MT, how are you?I have seen musicality workshops being advertised and while I think it’s a noble aspiration I am of the opinion that it’s just one of those things that you can’t really teach. Besides, musicality is one of the foremost qualities that makes every dancer unique and I think everybody has the right to move the way they feel the music directs them. That being said, though I try to be diplomatically minded I often watch people dance and really wonder what it is they are listening to that I’m not hearing, because I can’t see how their movements correlate with the music. Conversely, dancers with superb musicality actually make me hear the music better when I watch them.To be fair, it took me a while as a leader to get comfortable with the idea of pauses. If you aren’t used to it, it can seem very antithetical to the concept of dancing.Anyway, like you wrote already, it takes time and familiarity with the music. But I think also it takes a lot of love. You can be a dancer for years and listen to tango all the time, but if it never moves you emotionally it will never move you physically, either. At least not in a way that, in turn, moves others.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Malevito!I agree that musicality is not something that can just be taught. Perhaps there are parts that can be taught, or people can be given guidance, but each person’s sense of musicality is unique. It gives each dancer a different flavor. And it develops over time, on its own.

  3. For some reason, this is what comes to mind…Quality (as in qualitative) and character of movement, through space and time, “to” the music…It’s my musicality mantra of sorts…nebulous at best…The key is that movement through space and time also includes “not moving”…what I like to call “juicy pauses”…For whatever this might be worth to anyone…

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