Monday, August 16, 2010

Dancing to live music

As we approach the time for the next Hafla with il Troubadore at Greek Islands, I thought that it might be a good idea to broach the topic of dancing with live music. It’s not a whole lot different than dancing with recorded music but there are some elements that you should note.

Don’t over-prepare
I’ve seen some dancers who prepare choreographies to go with live music. While it’s definitely a good idea to have the music in mind and have ideas of what you want to do at different points, if you over-prepare, you will be shooting yourself in the foot. With live music, you never know if they will speed it up (making some of your ideas impossible to execute), slow it down (now the ideas might not be interesting slow), or skip a part (in which case, your choreography is suddenly out of whack).

Work on your improv
If you can’t choreograph too much, what’s a dancer to do? Improvisation will generally work better with live music because it is so much easier to recover with anything that would be thrown at you. How to do improv is a big topic by itself so I won’t devote time to it here. What you can do, though, is practice with the music that the musicians will be playing. If you can get a hold of their rendition of the piece by said musicians, all the better. Again, it’s possible that they won’t play the music exactly as is. However, you can still use that music as a framework to practice your improvisational skills to that music. If you’re practicing for a hafla where you don’t know what the hell the musicians will be playing, just practice to some music. Improvisation is a skill that easily translates from piece to piece. :p

Flow with the music
Flowing with the music is obviously something that you can do (and should do) with recorded music too but it’s far easier with live music because you can synch with the actual musicians… right there! You’ll be more able to flow because you will have visual and audio cues from the musicians. This happens when you are relaxed and are really listening to the music as opposed to anticipating the music. It’s very helpful to notice changes in the music. ;)

If you would like the musicians to do something specific for you (for example, keep a certain tempo for a certain song), it’s perfectly fine to ask them. Making requests for specific songs is often fine… especially if we’re talking about il Troubadore. They are most accommodating. Anyway, the point is that, in general, you can ask what you want out of musicians and they are happy to help you out.

Acknowledge the musicians
It’s a nice touch to thank them for playing for you. It’s kind of a polite thing to do. They are happy to provide you with music and see you dance but let’s not forget that, without them, you’d be doing mime dancing. Not exactly the same end result. :p

1 comment:

Tempest said...

Great advice! Another aid to prepare for dancing to live music is gather several recordings of the same song by different artists, put them into a random playlist, and tackle them as they come. This is will not only expose you to different tempos and interpretations, but help you to LISTEN even more.

And along with acknowledging the musicians, be sure to visually check-in with them while performing, make contact, and be courteous!