Life was busy when I was a kid. I was always running around to different activities – the most prominent were dance and piano lessons. These two activities became more entwined than I would have ever expected.
To learn my piano pieces, I needed to learn how to read music. To learn how to read music, I needed to learn music theory.
Music theory ended up helping me in so many ways at my dance lessons. I was a smarter dancer, quicker to pick things up, and more confident in being able to understand what was asked of me by my teachers and choreographers.
To make things a littler clearer, here are 6 ways music theory has made me a better dancer.
It’s easier for me to count complex rhythms.
Understanding different rhythms was extremely helpful to me, particularly in my tap classes. Every tapper needs to learn how to count out their tapping and having music theory under my belt gave me a short cut for figuring that out. I was able to apply my ability to count rhythms to other dance styles as well, which came in handy the more complicated our dances became.
I can dance to music that’s not in 4/4 time.
For those of you who aren’t trained in music theory, pretty much every song you hear on the radio is in 4/4 time. This is easy enough to dance to without music theory training, but when our modern instructor gave us a song in an obscure time signature (7/8), I was able to figure it out and confidently count out the phrases in the song. Without my knowledge of music theory, I would have felt very lost trying to dance to that piece of music.
I have a better understanding of how stylization affects music, and how I can translate those styles with my body.
Staccato. Legato. Allegro. Adagio. Crescendo. Sforzando. In music theory, I learned terminology that covered music stylization. Having learned this terminology, I had an easier time recognizing when they appeared in different pieces of music and was able to apply it to the quality of my dancing.
I can maintain my own beat.
This skill may also have come from playing the piano and being my own musician, but in dance classes, I was able to maintain a steady rhythm without speeding up or slowing down. Many dancers have trouble with pushing their speed because they don’t have the experience counting a beat without the assistance of music. Being able to hold your own beat is a great skill for dancing in a group and dancing a capella – without music.
I can understand my choreographers.
Sometimes choreographers can’t find the words to translate what they’re hearing to a group of dancers. When I’m given nonsense words instead of counts to dance to, I’m still able to understand the rhythm the choreographer is trying to explain. When I’m given counts to dance to, it is even easier for me to understand the choreography. When I’m given lyrics instead of counts, I can translate that into counts if I need to.
My choreography is more interesting.
Because I have such a firm understanding of music theory, I can use my knowledge to make my choreography more interesting, whether it’s by incorporating complex rhythms or playing with stylization. I understand more about what makes a song different from another and can pull out those qualities if I want.
I truly believe that music theory made my dance life easier. I was able to pick up choreography quicker, understand rhythms, and apply different qualities of dance according to the style of the music. Having a basic understanding of music theory is beneficial to all dancers.
Agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments!
That’s it for today’s PSA! Have a good one!