Dancing off time is a common problem. Not just for beginner dancers either. Many experienced dancers still haven't mastered their ability to dance on time consistently. If so many dancers struggle with timing, can you guess how many more dancers struggle with 'feeling' the music?
Dancing on time helps you stay coordinated with your partner and the music. This is an extremely important skill when it comes to partner dancing. But to be a great dancer, you must go one step further and learn how to interpret what you hear in the music through your body and energy. This is what we call 'feeling the music'. Great dancers have mastered both timing and musical interpretation.
How can you learn to 'feel the music' so to speak?
Start by learning how to dance on time consistently. Once you are able to dance on time, you have proven that you are sufficiently in tune with the music. This is absolutely necessary because the music should be your primary dictator when it comes to dancing. The music drives what you do. Not the other way around. Once you can keep tempo with the music easily, comfortably and consistently, then it's time to work on your musical interpretation.
Feeling the music is nothing more than hearing something in the music and expressing what you hear through your body. For example, let's say you hear a strong cowbell accent in the music. What could you do with your body to express the cowbell? You probably wouldn't skitter lightly across the dance floor on that accent. While musical interpretation is subjective, and I won't say what's right and wrong, the idea is to relate to the music. A light skitter on a strong accent may end up feeling like you're not giving proper expression to the accent. A stronger-than-normal step or a heavy drop or a hit may feel more relate-able. You must interpret the music in a way that feels good to you.
Learning to feel the music requires you give your attention and awareness to the music. Practice listening to the different sound qualities of the instruments, vocals, accents and pauses. Is the sound long and suspended like a saxophone? Is it sharp and staccato? How can you express these sounds in your body? Get creative. Be fearless.
Most people hear the music, but don't listen to it. Developing your musical interpretation requires active listening. With enough practice, it will soon become second-nature. You will start to hear patterns repeat. You'll be able to predict upcoming accents. And eventually, your body will be able to react so quickly and spontaneously to elements of the music that it will seem as if you've heard the song a thousand times, when really you've never it before.
A dancer with acute musical interpretation is a great dancer. These dancers, through their expression of the music, can make you aware of nuances in the music that you wouldn't have picked up on otherwise.
From years and years of dance experience, I can tell you this...
You haven't experienced the full joy of dance until you've been able to 'feel' the music. In other words, until you've honed your musical interpretation skills, you won't have any idea how fun, satisfying and fulfilling dance can be.
Unfortunately, many dancers don't make it this far. They give up too early. They don't have the knowledge or the desire to practice. Even dancers with years of sound technique can lack keen musical interpretation. It's not easy. Otherwise, everyone would be able to do it.
If you struggle at all with timing or 'feeling' the music, then this course is right up your alley:
Dance With Feeling: Stop Counting And Start Dancing.
To your dancing success!