West coast swing dancers know that music can inspire our dancing. Great songs make you want to move on the floor and can bring out movement from your body. But, too often dancers forget about the power of music when practicing; they will put on “a song” for background music without thinking about what kind of movement that song encourages.
When you practice, you should be intentional about the music that you play. Think about what kinds of movements you are trying to master, and practice to music that brings out these elements. Don’t practice your smooth arm motions to hip hop or body isolations to lyrical music: learn to draw out your movement with the smoothness of the lyrical songs and use the sharp hits of hip hop for training your isolations.
Build your practice playlist with songs that fill the following niches. Remember to have music at a variety of tempos so you can practice at different speeds!
- Straight count (for clear weight changes)
- Rolling count (for swing timing)
- 32 beat phrase (for phrasing)
- 48 beat phrase (for phrasing)
- Smooth, lyrical (for filling space)
- Sharp, staccato (for quick and hard movements)
- Changing volume levels (for changing your intensity)
- Changing effective tempo (for speed changes)
- Pulsing on upbeats (for pulsing)
- Clear beat (for beginners or pattern work)
- Implicit beat (for timing)
- Builds to the phrase change (for phrasing)
- Breaks (for phrasing)
- Music for different moods (e.g., playful, dramatic, sexy, funky)
- Piano accents (for footwork)
- Syncopated rhythms (for syncopations)
As you develop your own dance style, you will expand this list with things that you hear in music. The great thing about building a music library is that it can grow with you.[mediacredit inline=”FALSE”]