Thoughts on swing dancing and Lindy Hop, one word at a time…

Musicality Teaching Experiment

About a week and a half ago Rebecca Brightly on her weekly newsletter “The Pulse” wrote about musicality. One idea she touched in particular is listening to a song a couple of times (only listening to the song and doing nothing else) and then utilizing what you recognized from the song for dancing.

After reading this newletter I thought, “This is a great idea, I think it would also make a great class.” So a few days before I had to teach my weekly Lindy Hop class I instructed my students to listen several times to the song Black Coffee by The Careless Lovers featured below.

How The Class Worked

I started off by first playing the song to refresh the song in their minds (also to cover anyone who decided to skip the homework). I followed that by asking the class, “What did you recognize from listening to the song multiple times?” To encourage responses I also mentioned there were no really wrong answers to this question. Some answers I received were:

  • Contrast between different parts of the song.
  • Song had energy to it versus being a relaxed/chill song.

After collecting responses I took a few of those answers and to the song Black Coffee asked them to represent those ideas in their dancing as leads and follows.  Once that was done I gave a few answers I had to the same question and showed examples of how as a lead or follow I would touch on elements I recognized within in the music. I repeated the same exercise as before except with them using my suggestions.

At this point in my class is where I added my own personal twist to this class using one of Bobby White’s blog posts titled “The Old Timer (Part 4: “The Only Count I Know is Basie”)“.  I asked my students using the ideas they learned from dancing to Black Coffee by the Carless Lovers to the version of Black Coffee by Nat Gonnella and his Georgians. Which while sharing a lot of similarities also had some differences as well.  To quote Bobby’s article,

Imagine you’re a dancer in the 1930s. Dancing for you means going out at several nights a week, and every night to a different big band, each one using different arrangements. When the leader announces he’s going to play “Flying Home,” you don’t know anything about how the song is going to sound except that the melody will roughly go “Bad-da-daaa, da-da-dadadum…Bad-da-daaa, da-da-dadadum…etc.

For my class I wanted to bring to the table of the macro-musical concept of knowing a melody of a song and being able to use that to be musical. After a few rotations of the class we brought up similarities of both versions of the songs, then again I had them dance to the second version of the song with those ideas in mind.

After this we wrapped up the class by listing the ideas that we went over during the course of the class and I encouraged my students to keep listening to music and explore other ideas of how to express musicality on their own.

In Retrospect

It was a fun and different class for myself that I think my students enjoyed and learned valuable skills from.  If you try this class format yourself or have any fun musicality class ideas you use in your classes, please feel free to post them below.

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4 responses

  1. Murf

    I loved that post from Bobby White and feel like it made a genuine difference to my leading. I think we can get a little too focused on micro-musicality and it came as a revelation to just relax a bit and think about the broader structure of the music.

    Andy Reid taught a similar class to yours in Herrang where he got us to listen closely to a song, identify the two major riffs running through the track, and dance specifically to those. It had an amazing impact on the class and people were coming up with all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff – such a refreshing change from the normal “here’s a pattern, now you do it” format!

    October 16, 2012 at 8:57 am

    • 2experts Icons Set These icons are created from scratch using Adobe Fiowkrres. The zipped pack contains 48×48 PNG images, which you can use for free.

      May 9, 2017 at 4:28 am

  2. I like your twist of dancing to another version of the same song. I’m gonna steal that. 😉

    October 17, 2012 at 8:23 pm

  3. Cool ideas Rebecca & Apache. I’m gonna steal them as well 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    October 17, 2012 at 10:10 pm

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