I recently saw a video where a prominent dancer in the Salsa/Mambo community commented that he no longer worried about doing fancy turn patterns as he has outgrown them.
This was fascinating to me. I feel the SAME WAY. In a weird way, I sometimes feel like I lead pretty basic things when I dance socially, but I feel like I am more in tune with the music. Even though it’s the ONE thing we are dancing TO…it seems like no one is dancing TO the music.
Does that make sense?
How does one go about becoming musical in their dancing?
This is a HUGE thing in dance. I recall when I first REALLY started learning and getting into the dance, that my good friend and teacher at the time, Sekou McMiller (you know him, right?!?!!?) was very ‘in tune’ with the music as was my other dear friend, Leah Patterson. I would sit there and watch them move so effortlessly in the music and wondered how as the music was IN THEM.
After getting to know them better, I discovered that they both had musical backgrounds and that they understood the music on a deeper level. I initially thought to myself:
“How the f@#@ am I supposed to achieve THAT level of musicality while I’m learning how to keep my basic!?!?”
I was distraught. I didn’t know how to achieve this deeper connection and I wanted desperately to know how. For those of you who don’t know, I didn’t grow up dancing, far from it. I didn’t take a first step until well into my 20’s and only did a side-to-side slide at ‘da club’ before that. I didn’t get drawn into dance until I learned from Sekou and got introduced to Mambo. I had no prior musical training and had terrible posture.
Fast forward and one of the things I hear a lot is I appear to add movements and musicality to my dancing. The thing is, I learned to dance by choreography mostly. Since the choreography was made SPECIFICALLY to the music, it made sense to accentuate the music with certain body movements and whatnot. The movements and the music are in harmony, they work in unison to create a visual sight to an audible sound.
I find myself dancing this way when I social dance as well. I no longer do ‘shines.’I don’t try and memorize patterns. I DO try and interpret the music and LISTEN. You know how you can hear, but not listen?
Exactly….LISTEN! Pay attention to all the layers and start finding new rhythms in the music. Latin music has an abundance of afro-rhythms in it and I/you/we should explore more and in turn sync up our bodies more to the music. I have noticed that with the passage of time and my comfort with the dance increases, that I now ‘find more time’ in the music.
New students tend to rush a lot when they are dancing and the feeling of rhythm in the music also finds you the more you do it. This shouldn’t discourage a young student, on the contrary, it should provide something to look forward to. It’s never a good idea to rush your progress, it’s a process.
I’ve read that some people have innate musical awareness and certain things come from inside of oneself. Unfortunately, this is all speculation and many teachers have tried to pass along the concepts of musicality to their students. I suppose the important thing to do is to have students increase their awareness after the technicalities of the dance are learned and can be performed on auto pilot.
Do you guys find that you ‘feel the music?’ Have you noticed a better connection to the music as you’ve danced longer?
It’s fun to think and talk about these ideas and feel free to add your two cents, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
To your dancing,