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What does having musicality even mean? | Raised by the beat
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What does having musicality even mean?

As a dancer you keep evolving, or at least that’s the goal. One of the insights that helped me a lot the last few years is one about musicality. For me there are 2 main forms of musicality and I consider both of them equally important.

Dancing on the music.

This is somewhat obvious. Note that it’s not necessarily the same as dancing with the right rhythm, because that’s a minimum as a dancer. What I’m talking about here is something that combines rhythm and melody. Let’s do a test:

  1. Choose a song you know
  2. Listen to it
  3. Try to detect different layers: instruments, sounds,
    1. Example: the bass, the snare, the voice, …
  4. Now try to discover the pattern in each of the layers. This can change, but you will definitely find a reoccurring pattern somewhere.
  5. How many layers did you find? How many patterns did you find?

All these layers with their different patterns… this is what you can use to dance on the music. Let’s make 2 categories: the songs you know already, and the ones you don’t know yet.

Songs you know

If you know the song you probably know what’s coming when the music starts playing. So finding a pattern and predicting it shouldn’t be that hard. But here are some nice challenge for you:

  1. Try finding a new pattern, maybe you missed one because the ones you already know are that obvious.
  2. Try switching between different layers or patterns while you are dancing. Challenge yourselve.
  3. Try finding patters that involve multiple layers. For example it could sound something like: bass snare bass bass snare. You can also apply challenge 2 here.

Songs you don’t know.

This is what I like to call real musicality. Not that the previous one is fake, but it takes a good understanding of how music works to discover the structure of it while you’re dancing.

When you listen to a new song you will automatically find patterns, that’s just how we are programmed as humans. WE LIKE STRUCTURE. So as you’re dancing, try to predict and anticipate. You probably already know most music we dance to is organized in blocks of 4, 8, 16, 32, … beats/ counts. You can use this to your advantage, because you now know where the music can switch or repeat.

When you found some patterns and you think you know what’s coming you can apply all the previous steps: dance on these patterns and switch between them.

Dancing in the music.

For me this is not about timing, but about energy. Everything you already read is about timing. It’s good that you already know how to dance with the right timing, but also ask yourself this: What is it that I’m trying to show?

Another challenge. When you listen to the layers/ patterns try to answer the following questions:

  1. Is the music hard or soft?
  2. Is the music smooth or chopped?
  3. What do you feel?
  4. Is it building up towards something or not?
  5. Anything else about this music that makes it stick out?

Now try to use this information when you are dancing. So instead of only working on timing (WHEN) you can also work on energy (HOW).

You can start practicing this by picking a basic move/technique and try to dance this hard/soft/smooth/chopped/… Whatever you feel like. And don’t stop at basic moves, go further. How would you express yourself when you hear a certain song?

End note

In the end this is all just theory that you can use to become a versatile dancer. Eventually it all comes down to what you hear and what you feel. But you can try to express this in the best way you possibly can by training your skills. Hopefully the information in this article will help you along the way.

thank you for reading and have fun dancing guys!



Dancer/Teacher at U-nik crew, Dance Coach at Fitopia and Dancer/Teacher at The Legacy Crew. Studied at Specifieke Lerarenopleiding (SLO) CVO Provincie Antwerpen

Jonas mees

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