Though I have occasionally had a specific movement or feeling in my head around which I wanted to create a piece of choreography, I typically choose the music for my dance classes before I plan the rest of the class. The music is my foundation, my core, my bass. This is because I believe that the music used in a dance class lays the foundation for the energy, atmosphere, and overall experience of each class.
I’ve always been a lover of music, though. As I child, I used to visualize movements to songs while riding shotgun in the car with my mom, coming back from Pier 39 on a Friday night. I remember that it was almost as if I could envision my future through music and movement. I wasn’t exactly choreographing in my head, but I would see movements that matched the songs we used to sing at the top of our lungs. And I felt safe and comforted. I felt hope and joy.
I also studied music as a child–piano lessons for several years, a youth vocal ensemble (which I think caused me to realize that singing was not a particular talent of mine) . . . . We sang a lot in my private elementary schools as well. I’ve said before that when I picture my childhood, I think of sunshine and music. [Insert your eye roll here.] (Sorry, not sorry. My childhood was awesome.)
In college, I completed about 5 courses in music (including Physics of Music, Psychology of Music, and Ethnomusicology while studying abroad in Marburg, Germany).
With that for my background in music, I think I always assumed that most people were the same way. I thought that most people who grew up dancing would feel a similar connection to music and its power to define a dance class or to make or break a movement experience. After working with many dance teachers over the years now, I have come to realize that this is simply not common. Some beginning dance teachers simply don’t seem to have the same connection to music that I’d always previously assumed was innate for those of us who call ourselves dancers. (Side note: The topic of identifying as a dancer vs. as a dance educator will be a future blog post. It’s a thing.)
With that said, I want to make it clear that I believe that dance is still dance, even if we are moving in silence. I understand and respect the rhythm of life and the melodies and beats that are still present, even when no bow brushes strings and when no stick strikes a snare.
However, I’m still all about the music! I’m sure I’ll have to write more about this later, but for now I want to stand united with those who use music as the driving force for their dance classes. I also want to tell you that if you’re looking for some help with choosing music for your dance classes, I’m working on a little something that you might find useful.
More to come!