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Dancing and Music

Question: Your site is fascinating in that it defines what is very much ‘the elephant in the room’ when it comes to modern dance.

Most – approximately 90 percent of dancers, even those competing at the top level have no musical improvisation skills at all, and worse, can’t see them in others.

I’ve done this test with lots of dancers and 90 percent can’t spot the ‘odd one out’ – which absolutely blew me away when I first posed the test. (I’m not a musician – but everyone else in my family is, and ‘learning to listen’ was part of my childhood.)

Anyone with an ear for music instantly spots the couple dancing to the music – it’s black and white.

Most dancers and most people can’t.

Astonishing huh?

The crazy bit is that the dancers concerned are trying to do something audience and judges can’t see!!!

Dancing for many people is about trying to find the 1 in 10 dancer who can hear what is going on. I found it particularly difficult as a beginner dancer as dance teachers would insist you would dance ‘right through’ the music. In order to dance well (for the teacher) you had to stop listening to the music (which is not easy!!).

– Andrew Stone (Scotland)

Albert’s reply: Thanks very much for sharing your fascinating observations. I watched the videos and indeed spotted the couple dancing to the music right away! I don’t have too much to add, save for a couple of anecdotes. I have to confess that I seem to have been cursed with two left feet, and until recently the only dancing I ever did was with my hands on the piano keyboard.

Eventually I noticed that I may be needlessly limiting myself. One opportune night some friends dragged me into a dance club, and after the initial “I can’t dance” dialog in my head and with my friends (accompanied by other stories like “This isn’t my music” and “The DJ sucks” – any excuse to leave would have been fine by me!), I decided that as long as I’m there I might as well enjoy myself. I ended up taking center stage and letting go! I learned that it can be fun to make exhibitions of one’s inhibitions, and more importantly I destroyed the false belief that had been keeping me from reaching any potential I might have in that area and, more importantly, from enjoying dancing rather than feeling like the odd man out and shying away from opportunities. My next step is a salsa class. 😉

I mention this story because I wonder how many people tell themselves, “I can’t play piano” or “I’m tone deaf” or “I’m unmusical.” It takes exceptional talent and years of training to become a professional musician or dancer, yet that need not be our goal. I hope key-notes readers come to understand and enjoy music more and to explore their own musical potential.

I’ll leave you with one final story related to dancing and music. A conductor friend of mine was once conducting a ballet in the Vienna State Opera, whose work was very well-liked by the orchestra. During the rehearsal, the lead dancer – one of the world’s most famous ballet dancers (I won’t mention any names!) – vocally voiced his dissatisfaction with the conductor, making absurd claims about a subject he knew little about. At the performance, the conductor exacted revenge by holding a chord as the dancer, his arms shaking in front of Vienna’s discerning audience, was forced to hold a ballerina seemingly forever!

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