Musicality

Understanding Musicality in Dance

“Phrasing” – how to give different interpretations to a particular dance pattern within the same
musical segment.

Let’s start with the basic zigzag in Foxtrot (the forward and back basic with quarter turns). The basic rhythm is slow, slow, quick, quick – a total of six beats of music. We’ll describe the man’s part (lady’s will be the natural opposite)

• Forward basic with normal count (start facing diagonal wall): • Man left foot forward – count slow (two beats) • Man right foot forward – count slow (two beats) • Man left foot side – count quick (one beat) – commence 1/4 turn to right • Man right foot together transferring weight – count quick (one beat) – completing 1/4 turn to right • Backward basic with normal count (start backing diagonal center) • Man left foot backward – count slow (two beats) • Man right foot backward – count slow (two beats) • Man left foot side – count quick (one beat) – commence 1/4 turn to left • Man right foot together transferring weight – count quick (one beat) – completing 1/4 turn to left

At this point we are going to suggest a very small change in the way we dance this pattern.  Everything will be the same with the exception of the side together at the end of the forward and back basics.

Instead of taking one beat for the “side step” and one beat for the “together step”, we are going to break those beats in half. We
are going to give the “side step” one beat and a half, and the “together step” only half of a beat. Instead of “quick, quick, the rhythm is now “slow, &.”

You are going to dance this pattern like this:

• Forward basic with modified count: • Man left foot forward – count slow (two beats) • Man right foot forward – count slow (two beats) • Man left foot side – count “slow” (beat and a half) – commence 1/4 turn to right • Man right foot together transferring weight – count “&” (half of a beat) – completing 1/4 turn to right • Backward basic with modified count: • Man left foot backward – count slow (two beats) • Man right foot backward – count slow (two beats) • Man left foot side – count “slow “(beat and a half) – commence 1/4 turn to left • Man right foot together transferring weight – count “&” (half of a beat) – completing 1/4 turn to left

You will need more control using this type of timing; use the floor to drag the free foot (“together step”), as you will be spending more time on the supporting one (“side step”)

As you become more comfortable with this exercise, you can introduce these same changes anytime you have two or more
consecutive quick actions (box steps and grapevines).

You can also adapt this expression or phrasing to the Waltz.  Instead of dancing “1, 2, 3” evenly, you can make count “two”
longer by borrowing a portion of beat number “three”.  Your count will be “1, 2.., &” (beat 3 is replaced by “&”.)  Remember, you will need more control using this type of timing. Use the floor to drag the free foot (“&”) as you will be spending more time on the supporting one (“2..”)

This small change may seem insignificant; however, it will transform the look and feel of your Foxtrot and your Waltz. That’s the beauty of musicality.

Introducing the Hitch-kick. This fun rhythm change action is very popular in the swing dances. We are going to use the triple step basic in the East Coast Swing as an example.

Regular triple basic in the East Coast Swing (man’s part – ladies will be the natural opposite)

  • Left foot side – count “1” (3/4 of a beat)
  • Right foot together – count “&” (1/4 of a beat)
  • Left foot to side – count “2” (1 beat)
  • Right foot to side – count “3” (3/4 of a beat)
  • Left foot together – count “&” (1/4 of a beat)
  • Right foot to side – count “4” (1 beat)
  • Left foot back (rock step on ball of foot) – count “5” (1 beat)
  • Right foot replace forward – count “6” (1 beat)

Now, you are going to keep everything the same except the rock step, counts 5 and 6. Instead of a rock step, you are going to do a hitch-kick or kick-ball change.

Triple basic in the East Coast Swing with Hitch-kick (man’s part – ladies will be the natural opposite)

  • Left foot side – count “1” (3/4 beat)
  • Right foot together – count “&” (1/4 beat)
  • Left foot to side – count “2” (1 beat)
  • Right foot to side – count “3” (3/4 beat)
  • Left foot together – count & (1/4 beat)
  • Right foot to side – count “4” (1 beat)
  • Left foot point forward – count “5” (3/4 beat)
  • Left foot back (rock step on ball of foot) – count “& “(1/4 beat)
  • Right foot replace forward–count “6” (1 beat)

This fun action will allow you to change the musical
interpretation of the Triple Swing basic.  It can replace any rock step without affecting your partner since it takes the same amount of time as a regular rock step.

This action can also be lead (continuing to hold your partner’s hand down) – which allows you to dance repeated hitch-kicks for several measures for a playful and fun musical interpretation.