Musicality is the holy grail of lindy hop. I mean, you’re not really dancing until you’re being musical. Right?
It’s also the bane of every dancer’s existence, at some point in your dance education. Have you had these thoughts?
- How do I ‘be musical’?
- What is musicality?
- Was that thing I just did musical? Or is this more musical?
- Shit, I just figured out how to put 2 moves together, and now there’s this thing called ‘dancing to the music’?!
Let me take you down a different path for a minute. That path is called, “Screw musicality!”
I’ve got something better.
Why Musicality Sucks
Musicality is a beautiful, magical thing. But like all magical things, it has a dark side. Here’s why you shouldn’t lose sleep over learning musicality:
- It’s ambiguous. What the hell does it mean, anyways? “Expressing the music through your body”? Lindy hop, by its very design, expresses the music that we dance to. So it must be more than that. But as soon as we get particular, I start hearing arguments about what movements are and are not musical. No one agrees.
- It’s impossible to teach. It’s like trying to teach someone to ‘be artistic.’ Think your dance teachers are holding out on you? It’s because they can’t teach it. If I show you how to express music the way I hear it, you’ll just end up looking like a carbon copy of me.
- It’s hard to grasp intuitively. It sounds easy to understand, but that feeling is deceptive. If good design means a user can work the thing from the moment he picks it up, then “musicality” is poorly designed.
- The concept doesn’t go far enough. I’ve found that my own thoughts about musicality are circular and limiting. Musicality is just one part of the inner conversation you have with the music and your self.
A More Powerful Concept
This topic has been on my mind a lot lately. I’ve been bored by many performances and competitions I’ve seen in the past year. I’m also bored with my own dancing.
I need a far more powerful concept to keep my lindy hop fresh.
What is this concept? It’s creative vision.
Why ‘Creative Vision’ Kicks Musicality’s Ass
All human beings are endowed with creativity. You don’t need anyone to tell you what creative vision is. You don’t need anyone to nod their head in approval that yes, you are creative. You’ve already got the ingredients inside of you!
Every thought you have can become a part of your creative vision. Nothing needs to be thrown out for not being creative enough; it’s all fodder.
Best yet, you start being creative in dancing the moment you try. No more waiting to figure it out, hoping to get some little tidbit out of a weekend workshop.
Yes, you’ll still need to work on your dancing skills. Skills help you execute the vision you have in your head.
But you should absolutely not wait until “x” skill level to begin a practice of creativity. Like all habits, creativity requires nurturing to come into full bloom.
Are you scared of dancing creatively? Are you feeling creatively blocked?
Creative support is out there! There are oodles of books and websites at your disposal, filled with exercises to jump start your creativity. I’m currently reading a book by famous choreographer Twyla Tharp. It’s called The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life.
A Quick Exercise
If trying to ‘get’ musicality has your head running around in circles, forget about it for a minute. Instead, try this:
Next time you are about to dance with someone, listen to the song first. Then ask yourself, “What’s my creative vision for this dance?”
Or, put another way, “Where do I want to take this song?”
Try to open your brain to the possibility of creative vision for just 3 minutes. See what happens.
Your mind may answer in words or images. Perhaps a set of sensations or feelings will emerge. Allow yourself to think of something, anything, without judging it.
Once you have a vision of where the next 3 minutes are going, don’t resist the urge to make that vision come to life! If it feels awkward or scary, you’re going in the right direction. Says Twyla Tharp, “Who said [it’s] supposed to be comfortable?”
Your creative vision doesn’t need to be earth-shattering in its uniqueness. It doesn’t have to be pretty, or receive other’s approval.
All you have to do is start trying, and keep trying. To hell with everyone else’s opinions.