What Is Musicality?
Musicality in dance has two main components. Receptivity and Creativity.
Musical receptivity is ones ability to receive, comprehend, be sensitive to, and have a working knowledge of musical concepts like rhythm, tempo, phrasing, and even mood.
Musical creativity (or musical artistry) is the ability to connect with accompanying music, interpret it, or phrase and add movement dynamics that relate to music even in the absence of accompaniment, in a way that is unique or interesting.
Musicality in dance then might be considered a measure or degree to which a dancer is receptive and creative in his translation or rendering of music through movement. It is a key ingredient in a dancer’s display of artistry (more on developing artistry can be found here).
Can Musicality Be Taught?
In a previous blog post I offered my thoughts on How To Develop Musical Awareness In Dance Students. Within the article I shared some reasons why it is important to help your students improve their musical receptivity and offered a few methods to help bridge the gap in experience and increase students’ sensitivity to music at any age.
In the comments Deb, always a thoughtful reader and responder, pondered if teaching musicality was even possible especially for those don’t seem to be born with a musical gene. I’m sure we’ve all had those students that certainly made us wonder! I had to consider what I’d witnessed, eventually weighing the effects of nature versus nurture in my own experiences. This was my answer:
I think that what we consider “natural” ability is mostly learned in a sense, albeit for some very early in life. My son at 2 already displays a very “natural” sense of rhythm and musical awareness however he also heard and felt music and movement from within my body as I taught classes, we dance around our home, music is often a part of our daily routine… Perhaps it goes back to those synapses that people form very early in life, why its best and easiest to learn languages at a very young age for example. Music is another kind of language and those neural pathways are opened through exposure and experience when we are young [sometimes very, very young]. As we get older it may be harder to carve out those pathways, just as it harder to learn a language as one gets older. But I do think it is possible to develop greater musical awareness and comprehension in students with time and exposure (and a willingness on the part of the student since learning is of course a two-way street). Will those that are not “naturals” ever catch up with those that are? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s worth a try.
Though babies show a preference for moving to a rhythm, even in this recent study [Babies are born to dance to the beat – telegraph.co.uk], it seems individuals display varying degrees of accuracy. In thinking more on this topic, I realized that there will always be degrees of potential and talent, which may be either naturally genetic or nurtured very early. Either way, as teachers we can establish greater receptivity in our students by giving them the opportunity to be receptive. We can provide plenty of practice so that they have the tools to expand their musical creativity.
How would you define musicality?
Can musicality be taught?
More thoughts and tips on teaching musicality:
Musicality in performance — 7 Secrets of Super Performers
“While counting can be important sometimes for finding moments of precision in a dance, musicality in performance is expressed through more than just counting beats. In fact, while counting, it is easy to forget that a beat includes not only the sharp “tap” of a particular rhythm but also the space between those taps, just as all movements include transitions and shifts of weight between desired “shapes” of the body. Exciting and musical performers fill these spaces in the music and movement, not letting the energy or intent drop between shapes or between counts. Enjoyable performers also utilize dynamics in their performance. Resisting “sameness,” as they dance, they incorporate…”
Musicality in jumping — Vertically Challenged: Improving Your Jumps
“Awareness of your breath will improve your height and help release excess tension. Also, listen while you’re jumping to the timing and tempo of the music or rhythm accompanying your movement. Try clapping in time with some music, making circles…”
Musicality in choreography — How To Make Choreography “Your Own”
Tools for connecting movement effort to dynamics and time — Teaching Dynamics: It’s All In The Effort
Encourage a bit of experimentation — Set Your iPod to Shuffle
Nichelle Suzanne is a writer specializing in dance and online content. She is also a dance instructor with over 20 years experience teaching in dance studios, community programs, and colleges. She began Dance Advantage in 2008, equipped with a passion for movement education and an intuitive sense that a blog could bring dancers together. As a Houston-based dance writer, Nichelle covers dance performance for Dance Source Houston, Arts+Culture Texas, and other publications. She is a leader in social media within the dance community and has presented on blogging for dance organizations, including Dance/USA. Nichelle provides web consulting and writing services for dancers, dance schools and studios, and those beyond the dance world. Read Nichelle’s posts.