Musicality in Dancing

Music inspires us to dance, whether we dance in public, or dance in our thoughts.

Dancing always begins with music. To be a dancer, is like being musician who contributes to song. Dancers are ultimately judged by their ability to express the music they hear (melody, rhythm, beat) through their physical movement – known as ‘musicality’.

What makes dancing both challenging and fulfilling is how it causes us to blend our visual, kinaesthetic and auditory senses together into one interpretive physical expression. Indeed, musicality in dancing is all about learning how to effectively blend these senses together – to become physical representations of music. Scientists label the blending of senses as ‘synesthesia’.

Does this seem complex and scary?
I hope not.

In reality, we all know how to be musical in our dancing and I’m going to prove it to you 🙂

Look at the following image.






Lets pretend these shapes have names.

If I were to tell you that one shape was named “Bouba” and one was named “Kiki”, which names would you attribute to each shape?


Now scroll down, to find out how you did.







If you named the first image (the one with many sharp points) “Kiki” and the second image (the curvy one) called “Bouba”, congratulations you have synesthesia – the basis for not only being a dancer, but being a musical dancer!

What just happened, is that you interpreted the hard sounds of “Kiki” with the sharp points of the first image and the smooth sounding “Bouba” with the curves of the second image.

Dancing to music is the same as the Bouba and Kiki exercise. The difference is that, dancers listen to many more details in the music, and therefore make many more interpretive decisions in their movement.

In truth, music contains both Bouba and Kiki elements. In general, one can think of the melody of music like Bouba and the Rhythm & Beat like Kiki.

Dancers, therefore pick out certain aspects in the music and move their bodies accordingly – typically curvaceous movements will match well with melodies and sharp movements with rhythm and beat. Dancers may also produce sharp movements with sharp musical notes, and time their curvaceous movements with a sequence of percussive beats that are grouped together (like a ‘drummers roll’).

Naturally, when a dancer moves in a way that doesn’t clearly relate to melody, rhythm or beat in the music, they will appear to be moving contrary to the music.

To be a great dancer means to be a musical dancer — A dancer who can See/Feel/Hear the Bouba and Kiki aspects in the music and move accordingly.

It’s important to note that being a great dancer does not mean attempting to express every tiny melody, rhythm and beat in a song. Take this advise from this French proverb, “The wise do as much as they should, not as much as they can.” Just as important…. it has been said, “Dancing with the feet is one thing, but dancing with the heart is another.” This is also why we have so many dance styles, because each dance style carries specific movement qualities that uniquely match the particular sonic qualities in certain genres of music. “When the music changes, so does the dance.” – African Proverb.

So listen to music carefully to develop stronger dancer instincts. Listen for the different aspects of the music. Pick out and follow the melodies in your mind. See the rhythm and beat as points in physical space. Then practice making smooth and sharp movements with specific parts of your body to emphasize these qualities separately, and then together.

Remember, as a dancer, you are never alone. Music will always be your guide. The most important thing you can do, let go of your inhibitions. The music will always show/give/tell you what you can do. This is what it truly means to be a dancer, to freely become a physical extension of the music.