Co-creative Dance & Kizomba Blog – Musicality vs. Hitting Beats
Welcome to the second edition of my monthly dance blog for March 2019, where I share and explore my thoughts on dance, life, social dance, co-creativity, Kizomba and teaching. (Sorry I’m a little late with it this month) The Blog also includes song and dance video recommendations for Kizomba/Tarraxa/Urban Kiz/Semba (recommendation at bottom of blog). Some people mentioned that they enjoyed last month’s blog but that it was a lot to get through. The reason I started this blog is because I feel I have an overflow of information that I want to share. My hope is that this blog can help you grow as a dancer and as a person, as the information I share has helped me greatly in my life and dance journey.
My goal as a dancer is to flow easily and gracefully across the floor, confident, strong, flexible, emotional, musical… Expressing my inner self through music in every step and every movement. I want to flow from one movement to the next like a river, where there is no end or beginning just a constant flow to the music. A flow that matches perfectly with the music and my partner, moving as one, sharing a moment in time, like a secret story we create together with every step. To me dance is a form of walking (grant it fancy walking) and every step, no matter how small, matters. I want my dancing to look so natural that it looks as easy as breathing. I want to breath the music in and exhale the movement out. One inspiring the other.
In my opinion the best dancers do not only focus on where the step or arm goes, but how it gets there and why. It’s like the silence between the notes in music or the breathing in before talking, it may not seem as important but it makes all the difference. In life there are big moments: births, graduations, marriages… but all the days in between actually make up the biggest part of our lives. How you live those small moments, not only have a great influence on your happiness, but are also the stepping stone to your bigger moments.
How do you choose to live your life in between the big moments? Are you happy? Do you do things you are passionate about? Do you have fun? Do you know who you are? Do you like who you are?
Some of my favorite dancers don’t even do any power moves or tricks, they are so good at their basics, musicality, feeling, styling, flow and grace, and being who they are, that they can just walk across the room and captivate you. That is the kind of dancer and person I strive to be. Someone who is enough in every moment, that the big moments are just a bonus, someone who remembers that every moment in life or in dance is important no matter how small.
In dance people talk about the difference between musicality and hitting beats in the music. To me this is the difference between concentrating your attention on steps and not the space between the steps, which actually make up most of the space/time of a dance. There are many aspects of musicality (for more on the subject watch my musicality videos below) from dancing to different instruments in the music, to telling the story of the song, to matching your moves to the feeling or type of flow of the song. To me musicality is about dancing in a way that matches the song. Many people think that musicality is hitting beats, don’t get me wrong that is a big part of musicality, but you can hit (a hit is when you do a sharp movement that ends as a beat is being played in the music, matching together, as if the dancer was the one playing the beat) all the beats of the song with movements that do not match the feeling/flow/groove of the song. For example, you could play a very lyrical slow and romantic song and hit all the beats in a sharp and square way. Which although marks the beats in the music, it does not match the feeling of the song. This is why people say that true musicality is more than just hitting beats. Yes, musical dancers hit beats in the music, but it is how and why they hit those beats that makes all the difference and sets them apart.
Musicality is a very individual and personal thing. There is not right or wrong really as long as you are doing something that relates to the music. That includes dancing to the main beat the whole song (even if I definitely recommend venturing outside of that box). We are all individuals with our own personalities, feelings, self expression, skills, and this translates in the way we dance. So, the real question is how do you feel the song? What is this song about to you? What beats speak to you in this song? The answer will be slightly different for everyone and every skill level. Even for the same person at different moments in time the answers and the dancing to the song will be slightly different. That is one of the most wonderful aspects of any freestyle dance, it’s unique to the person/people dancing it in that moment in time and will never again be repeated in exactly the same way. The same as a conversation between two people. (Both people start with the premise of having an understanding of a common language and strike up a conversation). Chances are these two people have never before had that exact same conversation word for word before, yet they are able to understand each other through their understanding of the language. Choosing words out of their vocabulary that match with the current conversation and how they are feeling in the moment.
The beats dancers choose to hit are as important as the ones they choose not to hit. Choices in dance as in life are important. If you try to hit all the beats, it often feels rushed and your dancing becomes chaotic. But if you choose specific notes or beats to hit it can be very powerful and can bring out your own individuality. Because you made a choice to focus on a specific part of the music that spoke to you in that moment and it gives you the time and space to express it. It’s the same in life, we don’t do everything that comes our way, but we choose either what speaks to us as a person, or we let people around us influence our choices. But the direction our life takes is built on those choices. It can be big choices like what college to attend, or it can be small ones like what to eat for breakfast or choosing to take a walk instead of watching TV. Those choices in dance, as in life, make you who you are, one step at a time, one moment at a time. Trusting yourself, knowing yourself, and standing up for who you are through your choices is a beautiful thing.
I’ve been teaching a weekly musicality/flow class for Kizomba/Urban Kiz since January this year and it’s been really interesting to see my student’s dancing change. They didn’t add very many steps to their vocabulary, but their choices of steps are now much more intentional, they look more relaxed, more comfortable and feel more what they are dancing. To my delight, a few of them have told me that now they have a hard time just dancing to the main beat or executing straight patterns, because they feel the songs and their bodies now wants to express them. It’s not that the songs have changed, but the way they listen to them has changed. Through the exercises we have practiced in class I have exposed them to the many aspects of musicality and different ways to express it. It has opened their minds to seeing and hearing things differently. I believe life is a lot like that, happiness is not about having everything you could ever wish for. But, it’s about, choosing to see your life in a positive light, being grateful for all you have, making the best of every moment, while making choices that will bring you towards more happiness. How you look at your life and all the moments in it make a huge difference on how you feel about your life and how happy you are. For example, I work for myself and overall, I love it. I get to choose my work hours, have a big say in what I do, I get to do many things that I am passionate about and I get to make a positive difference in my community and people’s lives. I focus on the positives and choose to have faith that everything will always work out and overall it makes me happy. To others, this type of life may be super stressful as there is no security, no retirement or back-up plans, I do not know each month how many projects will come in, how many students you will have, or how many people will rent the studios… If I would focus on those things, I would not be very happy because I would spend my time worrying. But I choose not to, I choose to focus on the positives and have faith that the rest will work itself out.
Don’ get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with dancing on the beat the whole song. Just like there is nothing wrong in having a “normal” office job with security. There is also nothing wrong with making mistakes or making choices that you realize are not right for you as they are an opportunity to learn and grow. The question is are you happy with your life, your choices, the quality of your dancing? Do you live your life or dance the way you think you should or the way you want to? And if you don’t, do you learn from the experience and move on? You can analyze every little aspect, try to justify it, do scientific studies about that are the best dance steps or the best direction for your life, but at the end of the day the only person who knows what is best for you is you. Everyone is the same but at the same time everyone is unique. Your uniqueness is your passions, your ideas your decisions, your feelings… and that is what makes you, you, in life as in dance and that is where your true “style” lies. Learn to stop overthinking and feel. All you have to do to stand out is to truly be yourself. In your dance journey as in your life journey if you keep taking steps towards what feels right and speaks to you, your life will bring you to more of who you are and the uniqueness that is you.
My recommendation to you. Use musicality-based exercises to deepen your understanding of music and through that process, find more or your own self expression, creativity and musicality. After all, if we all danced in the same exact way, wouldn’t that get boring? Embrace your own uniqueness.
My Monthy Video Shares – Theme Musicality
Today I am sharing two videos of mine, one where I talk about musicality in Urban Kiz which is something I have been thinking about, practicing and teaching lately. It’s a great way to improve your dancing. My hope is that this video opens your mind to new possibilities and gets you more dancing with the feeling and flow of the songs and get you more out of your head. The second video is me sharing some late-night improvisation moments with a focus on musicality to show some of the concepts I talked about in the first video.
Also, part of this blog is my musical and video inspirations for the month of March. As I always get questions on what are good songs to listen to and videos to watch. I listen to music from SoundCloud a lot, so if you like a song that I share here, I recommend that you go search that DJ or artist on SoundCloud and find more of their music.
- Lorenzo and Graziana’s Urban Kizomba Demo to Unconditional, touched me. It’s musicality at it’s best. Dancing to the feeling and flow of the song, taking their time, milking every movement and step. Making it about the music, the connection and self expression, not about impressing people with their moves. Love this one! And it fits right in with this month’s theme. https://www.facebook.com/LorenzoAndGraziana/videos/378637699532574/?v=378637699532574
- I like this teaching video with Isabelle Crepin and Adeline because they are showing two different styling options on the same step. Students often want me to teach them steps with styling included, but I refuse because I think it’s important to first understand the foundation of the step and then to add styling, which is a very individual thing that depends on your personality, skills, the song, the moment in time and your partner, as these two wonderful ladies demonstrate in this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtSO0Dp0x_M
- Here is a video with Laurent Yishu and Giorgia, who are dancing to the lyrics of a song, one of the many exercises that I do when I teach musicality. Love seeing other teachers and dancers doing the same. It’s great to practice dancing while focussing on one thing, in this case the lyrics, as it helps grow your understanding and ability to do that one thing. So, when you go back to dancing normally you have more awareness of the lyrical aspect and have more tools to express it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIS_4ra1vZo
- Nice clean Semba dancing with a good flow and directly from Angola! With lead Crisostomo Tiago (there is no mention of the follow’s name). It’s my first time discovering these dancers and I am glad I did, I just had to share! My favorite type of Semba, clean with a good flow, musicality, creativity, peppered with tricks. So well executed that they make it look easy. https://www.facebook.com/crisostomo.tiago/videos/2172992512790018/
- Just had to share this one with Tarah (Canadian ladies representing!) and Audi (I couldn’t even wait for the blog, I shared it on my facebook as soon as I saw it) I love seeing that I’m not the only one playing with what I call Co-creativity and proving that gender roles in dance don’t need to be defined. This is one of my favorite things to do in dance when your partner is skilled and open to be either role and to share in the experience. It’s so much fun! I hope we see more of this! I even contacted Tarah directly after watching this video and we chatted about co-creativity. It was great! https://www.facebook.com/tarahstephanie.ae/videos/10218340069511485/UzpfSTEwMDAwMTM0Mjg5NzQ5OTpWSzoyMzIxNDgxNDcxMzk3MDA0/
- An Urban Kiz song with a nice flow an interesting beat that I have been dancing to a lot this month, Isleym – Eldorado DJ Levis https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxkJyiKvnEk
- Well, If you have been following my recommendations for the last couple of months, you know that I’ve been a little obsessed with Matias Damasio… and it’s still the case this month… since I’m still listening to his songs almost daily, here is another one I have truly been enjoying: Kwanza Burro, it came out 6 years and is a lot of fun to dance to. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQIJOhYI-tg
- I’ve been listening and dancing to a lot of Semba lately and have been enjoying the happy upbeat energy from the songs. (Some people might be surprised as my main focus is on Urban Kiz, but I still love all the other styles under the Kizomba umbrella and definitely have a soft spot for semba, which I love to lead) Ravellion by Paulo Flores is one of the semba songs not by Matias Damasio that has been on repeat this month. Such a fun and unique beat! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWSdjSWIXfk
- Love this song, it has some traditional elements, some French, and a funky interesting beat. I have been having so much fun to dancing to this song this month. Tayc, Palavra DJ Colts https://soundcloud.com/djey-colts/palavra-tayc-dj-colts-rework
- If you know anything about me as a dancer, you will know that I am a little obsessed with isolations, musicality, freestyle, flow, connection and I have a background in Latin dance from before I got into Kizomba. This Tarraxa song has a Latin vibe in some parts, Afro House in others as well as Tarraxa and quiet parts. It makes for interesting beat changes that make it fun to dance to, but its not for the faint of heart. Tarra’show chapter 1 (#Rebola) DJ Kayel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-Vk7A6aU-A
Hope you enjoyed the read and got inspired. See you next month for the next edition!