Evolution of a Dancer Through Music: Including my own personal experimentation with GarageBand

Most dancers find themselves guided by the music. I would go so far as to say many are dependent on music. I, however, have never been very musically inclined. I scramble to count music, I don’t use music in choreography, and I struggle to dance inside the music and rather always find myself dancing on top of the music. I also come from a background not heavily focused on counting music, and I never much immersed myself in rhythmic styles like tap dancing. On one hand, I prided myself in this characteristic, because I’m not artistically reliant on other people’s art (their music). However, especially at my time at OSU, this trait is becoming more and more of a problem. In the past, I only begrudgingly put counts to my choreography out of necessity to maintain unison amongst my dancers. At OSU, I find all of my teachers putting counts to everything, and it has truthfully been one of the largest struggles for me in my college career as a dance major. Musicality is not embedded in my brain because counts were not an integral part of my dance roots. I have had to work hard to come up with strategies to apply a teacher’s counts during class, and even then I fail more often than not.

Because values of reliance on music and dancing with counts were not instilled in my early years, I always believed that this was the best way to function as an artist. I believed that relying on counts and music for choreography was inhibited creativity. I also believed that, to utilize music to drive dancing is a catalyst to derivative movement and lack of genuineness. I recognize that I may be offending readers right now, but in just a minute you’ll realize that I see the flaws in my old ways. Here is a formal apology for any negative views I held. However, like most young adults, college forced me to open my mind. I now realize that, just because my view was less popular, does not make it anymore enlightened or correct. Any unwavering beliefs about how and what art should be narrows views and is just as restricting as relying on music to make movement. Utilizing counts is necessary to precision and unity. And to make movement based on music can be viewed as lazy or derivative, but it also can be viewed as an artistic collaboration or simply as a helpful similar to a friend’s constructive criticism. And to avoid counts in the future could cost someone their career or destroy their audition performances.

I only recently came to this epiphany-like conclusion in our sound in dance unit of Freshman Seminar. As I found myself fumbling through GarageBand and leaching onto group members to move on the half notes, I could never get the question “why” out of my mind. But it was when we were dancing and simultaneously making percussion rhythms with Janet Schroeder that my mind began to analyze an answer (and to my own misfortune struggle to pick up the movement she was teaching). You see, I realized that subconsciously I was disregarding most of these music lessons, except for GarageBand, because I couldn’t see myself ever utilizing them myself. I caught myself particularly red handed in Janet’s lesson. I gave myself a mental slap on the wrist and proceeded to contemplate my relationship to musical dancing.

How could I deny that I always do the stereotypical “dancer thing” and choreograph imaginary dances in my head whenever I listen to music? And though I may not invest my heart and soul in music like so many other teenagers do, I always feel like something’s missing if I walk to class sans headphones. On some level, I am just as much a musical dancer as anyone else. So, why should I take these lessons to heart? Because just as much as tendus and plies, musicality is one of the most important skills a dancer can have.

The timeline of my breakthrough correlates directly with my experience with GarageBand. Granted, it’s natural to get better at something the more and more you do it. However, my first piece of music was mediocre at best. My pride in that piece gradually diminished with each listen of my peers’ incredibly talented work. I felt defeated, but wrote it off to my lack of musicality. But within my epiphany I recognized that to dismiss something like that is the easy way out. In this day in age a professional dancer is self-reliant, and to know how to make my own music on at least some level is a necessary skill. I really committed myself to my next to works, including my soundscape study and my own personal do-over of my original song. I was much more proud of my next to pieces.

To ultimately conclude that just because you’re bad at something or because something is out of your comfort zone, it is acceptable to close your mind off to it, is a glass half empty life view. I’m glad I killed it while I’m still a receptive student, rather than allowing it to spread like cancer to other aspects of my life and future career. Maybe I’ll never be the best at musicality, simply because I’m not musically inclined. That doesn’t mean I can’t make a passable skill out of GarageBand and musical dancing, and I intend to commit myself for the remainder of this semester and next semester to enhancing my musicality.

See below for my amateur musical endeavors in GarageBand under the guidance of the ever talented Elijah Aaron Palnik. Also special thanks to Sophie Clemmenson for teaching me all about musicality in dancing!