Dancing to Layers of Music Intro

West Coast Swing Online Musicality

Want to improve your ability to hear and dance to all the elements of a song? In this series, we’re going to look at a practical example of how to identify layers in a song that you can dance to.

For this series of exercises, we are not going to think about breaks, and we’re not going to talk about pattern selection. Those are important elements of musicality, but sometimes you won’t be able to manipulate those elements. Followers, if your leader is ignoring the musical phrasing, you still need to be able to show your musical interpretation. Leaders, you might dance with a less experienced follower and be limited to basic moves; you still should be able to demonstrate musicality in your dance.

Likewise, we’re going to set aside playing for this series. Play is a huge skill within WCS, but there will be situations in which you can’t play because of what you are getting from your partner’s connection, or because you are in a competition and need to show fundamentally sound WCS, or for any number of other reasons. That limitation doesn’t mean you can’t be musical—and this series will prove it.

For this series, we’re going to work with Maps by Maroon 5. Start by listening through the song a couple of times. During these initial listens, try to build a mental sense of the overall arc of the song. Note the verse-chorus structure, the energy of the song at various points, and the instruments that stand out in the song.

We’ll dig into how to start dancing to the layers of the song in the next part of this series. For now, keep listening, and see how many more elements you can identify each time through the song. Great dancers spend a lot of time listening to music because they want to find aspects that no one else has heard so they can bring those out in their dancing and literally show the audience something they hadn’t heard before.

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