What exactly is dance? Dance is an art form which expresses ideas, emotions, spiritualism and stories through graceful, rhythmic and coordinated body motions consisting of steps, turns, shakes and other movements. What music and dance share in common is actually rhythm, one of the core components of music, along with pitch. In fact, there can be dance with rhythm alone, usually performed on percussion instruments, such as is common in some West African and Middle Eastern countries. However, most dances are also based on melody. This, of course, is very natural. You will even notice a baby eagerly bounce up and down upon hearing a song. He is, essentially, dancing to rhythm and melody.
Dance is actually very important for a musician to know. It is an auxiliary subject. Just as an actor does not study acting alone but studies the whole range of performing arts, including dance, a musician should also know the broader scope of his subject. In fact, some of the most world-class composers even composed whole sets of music based on dance, usually known as suites or independent movements. This was especially valuable after the Renaissance and during the Baroque periods, though it is continued on, even to this day. Examples of such dances include the bourrée, minuet, jig, courante, sarabande, barcarole, mazurka, tarantella, bolera and waltz, to name a few.
Some forms of dance emphasize a control of a certain body part, such as Irish stepdancing (legs), the Tahitian tamure (hips) and the Balinese Kecak (arms). Dance in general will help a musician learn to gain better control over his body, which is something to master while also playing an instrument. Stiffness will tend to go away and one will become more relaxed and flexible so as to move with ease while performing his instrument. Some Persian and Armenian dances, for instance, simulate energy being released from certain gestures with the arms, wrists and hands. For a pianist, say, this would be invaluable to master. The musician, knowing dance, plays the music that inspires dance, which, in turn, motivates him to motion. This, in turn, becomes momentum for more expressive playing. In this way, dance and music compliment each other.
This interrelationship between music and dance is so profound that it is even one of the most sacred of all expressions, being ritualistic in many religions and even considered one of the highest forms of connecting with a deity.
by Evelyn Simonian
© 2011. Evelyn Simonian