Musicality 101

29th June 2010

Musicality 101 | Musicality 102 | Musicality 103 | Musicality 104


"Here's ways in which the music you're dancing to can be structured and here's things you can do within these structures. So when you're listening to a piece of music, see what's actually there and consider what it allows you to do when you dance it in freestyle." ~ Me, 2005

"Watch the intro sequences to tv programmes. They've actually got to fit the footage to the theme tune, especially if they change it season by season.
One thing I have noticed from doing this is there will often be several possibilities of things to pick up in the music."
~ Me, 2006

Looking back at these ideas I'm happy they still stand up.

An example of the latter is Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The title credits on this show change each season, and the theme music is dramatic and furious - except for the end bars. And the producers did a fine job, each year, of matching the music, especially the last notes, to relevant "coming soon" scenes from the series.

Three videos

Below are three music videos. I've chosen Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out For A Hero" because there's a lot going on all the time in it.

This is a classic problem for tango dancers and can lead to thinking that musicality is hitting everything that's in the music. The Star Wars video is a good example of this. The battle sequences lend themselves well to a fast and furious approach. The problem in tango is that this is physically exhausting!

The second and third video take a different approach. They look at different ways to express the music.

The Serenity video favours a more dramatic approach. It's makes more use of pauses and marking specific beats rather than trying to keep time or do everything. The Footloose video is somewhere in between the two and is more balanced.


Star Wars


Video analysis

Serenity Footloose
Sometimes it also does everything 2.22
43.44 (the snow)
Sometimes it hits several but not all the beats / accents 48
50 -52
2.23 -2.26
3.25 -3.32
Sometimes it stresses one beat / accent 10 -24 (lots of examples) 2.27 - 2.29
Sometimes it marks the beat 3.20
1.18 - 1.21
3.16 - 3.17
Sometimes it does a long flowing movement through the beats 25 - 26
1.42 - 1.44
3.38 -3.40
Sometimes it does a dramatic pause with camera panning 39-41
2.03 - 2.11
2.27 - 2.31

The obvious point is there's no "right" way to do it. Although it's the same song, they've taken three very different approaches. And if you search Youtube you'll find other interpretations.

The aim here is to open your mind to the possibilities. Look through the videos and see the other ways they've marked the beat, or stressed an accent etc. Then look at videos for other pieces of music (I recommend using tv shows and music you actually enjoy)

But it not exactly traditional tango music is it?

No. And there's a good reason for that.

I've heard the advice to watch videos of professional dancers performing tango. There's a really big problem with this if you're trying to learn musicality. They're using tango movements. Doesn't sound like a problem does it? But the thing is, they're using them in a way that's appropriate to Show dancing, but not for social dancing.

It would be like trying to learn how to improve your conversational skills by watching actors perform Shakespeare and then projecting loudly to people at Dinner Parties. Not a great idea.

By watching music videos, there's nothing there to confuse you. Once you begin to understand how musicality can be used, then you want to look at your tango repertoire and ask yourself "How would I actually do this in social tango?". But that's another article ;o)

In the meantime, try exploring different ways of interpreting the music just using your hand to mark in the air what you'd do to the music eg hit a single accents, a few double-times etc. You may find tapping your leg is easier (or not).

Next: Musicality 102.

~ Christopher O'Shea, 29th June 2010

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