I have been thinking about music lately.
Thinking about it because I don’t think about it that much when I am planning a dance class.
I plan the dance class.
Then I make a random play list that consists of songs that are atmospheric or minimalist or atonal or just plan weird.
Then I mix those up with songs that have a strong rhythm or beat or cadence.
Then I mix all of that up with silence.
I do this because I am interested in seeing what kind of movement emerges depending on what sound is happening in the room.
My sense of rhythm has always been a bit askew.
And counting……………………can we change the subject?
When I was living in NYC I was asked to substitute a ballet class one Saturday morning.
I won’t go into the details, but basically the class started out at 10am with a robust group of about 20 students.
By 11am the class had dropped down to half of that.
By 11:30am, there were a just a few stragglers left.
The stragglers stayed purely out of pity.
I love dancing to music. And I love dancing to the beat.
But I also love dancing when there is no music or when there isn’t a clear beat.
I don’t think one is better or more “pure” than the other.
For me, the dancing is just different and it comes from a different place depending on the sound happening around me.
I saw this incredible dance when I was living in NYC in the late 90’s.
It was one of those dances that changes you in a profound and acute way.
It was one of those dances that sets you on a path you didn’t know you were interested in taking because you didn’t know it existed.
The dance was a solo created by Ann Carlson and was called Grass/Bird/Rodeo.
Ann had three different costumes that she kept changing in and out of: Her grass suit, her bird costume, and her rodeo outfit.
When she was in her grass suit, she could only move when she heard a sound.
There was no music, so that meant if someone coughed she moved. Or if someone shifted in their seat, she shifted in her grass suit.
And in all honesty, the grass section wasn’t so interesting to watch,
(the bird/rodeo sections were phenomenal, but the grass section…meh)
but I was intrigued by her commitment to this inherently random and arbitrary task that had to do with sound.
I push up against my relationship to sound and music all the time when I am teaching.
Yesterday I had to turn a piece of music off.
I just could not bear to hear Julia Wolf of Bang on a Can recite all 52 states in her song “The States” in that looping, atonal, dirge like manner of Bang on a Can.
So I put on an old favorite, Sæglópur by Sigur Rós.
But since I am the teacher, I get to do that.
What happens when you are not the teacher and you are hearing music that makes it impossible to drop in?
What happens if a piece of music is playing that you love dancing to, and then it gets turned off?
What happens if someone in the class is growling like a lion and you have been doing a dance that is quiet and soft and transcendent?
What do you do if the growling lion wants to join you and yet you do not want to join the growling lion?
Here is your dance mission for the week:
Click on these songs, and dance to them.
Dance to these 4 songs in anyway you want.
Maybe you dance to these songs while sitting in a chair, or lying on the ground, or bounding through your backyard, or doing a little gig in the grocery store.
Notice how you feel.
Notice if you don’t know what to do when a certain song comes on. Notice if you feel stuck.
Notice if is easy and enjoyable to dance when a certain song comes on. Notice if you feel free. Notice if you don't.
One is not better than the other.
If you can, stay curious about how your dancing changes, or doesn't change depending on what song you are listening too.
And if you have any songs that you love to dance too, you can share them here:
With so much warmth and jivey vibes (thank you Jordan!)
Joanna and the Agitators