My thoughts on Musicality

In the weekend of November 20th I will be teaching at the Leuven Salsafestival in Belgium. The central theme of this edition is Musicality. The organizer wanted to know my thoughts on musicality, and I thought I’d share them with you.

1. What is musicality in your opinion?
To me, musicality means being connected to the music when you dance, or even when you’re just listening. It means being aware or becoming aware of the different things that happen in the music, like rhythms, breaks and “feel”. After you become aware of those things, it’s up to you if and how you want to use it in your dancing. That’s a totally personal decision.

2. How important is it for your dance?
My dancing is about two things: connection with my partner and connection with the music. Those two connections control what my dance will be like. So musicalityis a big part of my dancing, but I want to share it with my partner. The beauty in sharing musicality is that you can say: this is what I hear and feel in the music. And your partner shows you what she or he feels in the music. Sometimes you’ll end up hearing things you hadn’t heard before.

3. Sometimes people say ‘you can’t teach musicality’. What’s your opinion?
You certainly can teach musicality, the way I define it. There are different ways to teach musicality and each person will have his or her own preferred way of learning. I use two methods. I have one class in which I make a choreography which uses the breaks in a specific song. People seem to like that, but honestly, to me it’s not actually teaching musicality but it’s just an example of musicality. My other method is teaching you to listen first. How does the flow of the music change, what repetitions do you hear, what breaks or specific themes do you hear in the music? Then decide what you want to do with it. I give examples, but I challenge the people to come up with their own interpretations. This to me is really teaching musicality. Listen, and make your own personal interpretation.

What does musicality mean to you? Share your ideas in the comments.

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  1. Posted January 29, 2011 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    I am inclined to agree that you can’t teach musicality.

    However, I think it can be learned and it is possible to tell people the best way to learn it.

    I think the idea of telling people that they should be aware of the music and then listen for key elements is an ideal way to start.

    Also, I think that a lot of people don’t realise that the music doesn’t give you the emotions. Instead, it draws the emotions from you. I think another way to improve your musicality to listen to the music, see what emotions it encourages in you and then dance to those emotions.

    One last thing. I have always noticed that when I go to a blues dance class they seem to talk more about musicality and the instructors give their personal insights into musicality. If you’re keen on improving your musicality, then maybe try a few blues classes.

  2. Posted August 26, 2011 at 5:14 am | Permalink

    Musicality can be taught! It was like cats saying you couldn’t teach jazz, you just had to feel it. hmmm. But as with anything, it takes practice. Each person is attuned to something at any given moment in a song. Lots of people listen to the bass, or percussion, or horns. It all depends on what you connect with as you hear it and express it through movement.

    The more you listen to the music and understand it with all the syncopation and multiple layering of textures, the more artistic you can be with your movements. And encouraging people to develop their own interpretations is certainly key.

    Great post!

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  • About Me

    I'm a salsa teacher and performer from the Netherlands. Want to learn how to dance? Check out the clips and tips. Want to know where I teach? Check out the schedule. Enjoy!