What is Musicality?

Musicality is sensitivity to the artistic quality of dance. It also means listening to the music that you’re dancing to, and taking cues from the sounds and song structure to inform your movement. After all, we rarely dance in silence! It’s the “Wow Factor” of a dance, and you can start building it even on your first day dancing. Yes, you heard me right!

Beginner Musicality Tips

  • The first thing a dancer can do to help their musicality is to move to the beat of the music.
    • If the beat feels too fast, try counting it half as fast. You might be surprised to find there’s a slower, bigger beat to the music (called a macro-beat).
    • On the other hand, if it feels too slow, try counting it twice as fast. That’s half-time or double time.
  • Another big element of musicality is anticipating the end of the song. The end is a great place to do a dip and finish the song with style. It helps to be familiar with the song, or to listen for these elements that could signal an end or other big moment coming up:
    • Lots of repetitive words
    • Loud, emphatic notes from any or all of the instruments
    • A pause in the music (many songs include a coda or ending tacked on to the end after that pause).
    • The beat gets slower and slower–this is called a ritardando
  • Bouncing with your knees makes the dancing look choppier. Many beginning and even experienced dancers learned to feel the beat by bouncing. Smooth out your steps. It will not only look better, but conserve your energy. Make that one of your goals as you are nearing the intermediate level.

Intermediate & Advanced Musicality Tips

  • Use slower songs to practice the musicality of your body movement. The slower the beat, the more time you have to take through the move. This makes some dancers uncomfortable, so they sit out from slower songs (or ignore the slower beat and dance quickly to it), but I suggest using that discomfort as an opportunity to explore the full range of motion and control. Knowing how it feels slowly will help you do it in a fast song too.

    Examples of slow, controlled musical body movement:

    • On the rock back to open position, either partner can do a body roll.
    • On the Spin Out, the follow can pop her hip out.
  • Once you are comfortable with keeping the beat, congrats–You get to bend the rules now! Specifically, bend the timing of the rhythmRubato is the musical term for when you “steal” time from one beat and give it to another beat. Take time with one part of the dance move, and speed up through the next part to maintain the overall beat integrity. Try it with the Double Lasso, slowing down behind the back and speeding up through the turn in front.
  • If you’re familiar with the song, listen for a single emphatic note in the music for a sharp, fast movement, such as a Princess Dip lift.
  • Again, listening to the song, in places where the drum beat fades and the instrumentation of the song is minimal (just a guitar and voice, for example), use slower movement; close, intimate movement; or a circular movement like the Window.