Layers of musicality

When I explain the abstract term “musicality” to my students, I usually break it down into three nested layers:

  • General feeling of the song. Is this a slow, drippy song, or a fast, sharp song, or a groovy, mid-tempo song? This level of musicality will determine the overall shape and styling of the dance.
  • Phrasing. What is the structure of the song and how does your dance reflect that? This manifests itself in the way we distinguish one phrase from the next, and how we note the change to a new phrase.
  • Texture. Where are the accents? Where are the drawn out notes? What are the lyrics doing? What’s happening with the rhythm and where are the riffs? This is the detailed level of musicality.

I find a lot of dancers get good at the texture dancing – using syncopations and patterns to texture their movements – but many don’t learn to mix that into a broader framework of structure and feeling.

How do you think about musicality? How do you capture as much of what you’re hearing into your dancing? And if you teach, how do you approach the subject? What exercises do you use to help your students to hear the music and be musical?

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