Music has the ability to awaken feelings in people in various ways, experiencing certain reactions such as joy, melancholy, tension, etc.. The dancer uses these circumstances to produce an emotional action in a series of movements. The music allows the dancer to communicate. But in order for it to flow, it is necessary to previously analyse the music that will accompany the movement, in order to identify those structures that will allow the dancer’s expression and interpretation to develop to the maximum.
Influence of dance music
Dance needs music to set the mood, release the rhythm and create the necessary motivation to start moving. Music has the ability to make us feel a certain way, which is why it plays such an immense role in dance. Different styles of music create various types of rhythms, which correspond to a specific dance style. While in some dances any type of music can be performed, there is always a typical genre with which it is combined. For example, slow melodies would be used when interpreting dance styles such as waltz, lyric or ballet, while fast and optimistic songs would be used for hip-hop, claque or salsa. Although the opposite can be argued, the traditional version of each of the dance styles corresponds respectively to slow or fast music.
- Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake.
- Delibes: Copellia.
- Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker.
- Chopin: The sylph.
- Tchaikovsky: Sleeping Beauty.
- Adam: Giselle.
- Stravinsky: Petrushka.
- Stravinsky: The consecration of spring.
- Debussy: L’apres midi d’un faune.
- Stravinsky: The Firebird.
- Khachaturiam: Gayaneh.
- Bejart: Bolero by Ravel.
- Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet.
- Prokofiev: Cinderella.
- Verdi: The corsair.
- Minkus: Don Quixote.
- Fail: Witch love.
- Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue.
Characteristics of ballet music
There are a number of elements of music that influence the development of the artistic expression of dance. These are: melody, harmony, style and character.
It is the heterogeneous combination of musical sounds, or also the succession of sounds from different heights with which the composer expresses a feeling. Through rhythm the different sounds are grouped with each other. The melody provides a natural support for the expression and helps the use of the breath during the interpretation.
One way of grouping the melody is through the musical phrase. This is a conceptual unit, which usually consists of eight measures, although they may have less.
These phrases of movements have a beginning, a development and an end and are made respecting the musical phrases. The continuity in the chaining of each phrase is fundamental for both musicians and dancers and in the case of dance, will give rise to a choreography.
The arms are looser than the legs when it comes to linking the movements and giving continuity to the phrases, which is why they are entrusted with the mission of underlining this continuity.
It is additional to the texture of the melody, or as the science that studies chords. A chord is a set of three or more sounds that are heard simultaneously.
Harmony unites melody and rhythm, enriching the melody and giving it variety and character. It helps the dancer to be more aware of the breathing in the movements, thus improving the quality of the performances.
Breathing allows the preparation, development and completion of movements, the nuance of gestures and feelings and the chaining of steps. Harmony therefore plays an important role.
In this section we find two concepts: tonality and modality.
The tonality is the product obtained after organizing the sounds of a scale, where the most important is called tonic and gives name to the tonality.
The modality is a way of constructing a scale, and it will depend on the place occupied by the tones and feelings. It can be greater or lesser.
The tonality and modality give the piece of music a certain character.
The changes of modality or the transposition in the tonality, help the dancer to get renewed forces to continue making the variation of movements. It gives them an extra contribution of very useful energy to develop the choreography.
Style and character
It is the expressive element that will tell us how the musical composition is. It indicates what quality it has: if it is happy or sad, if it has strength or is sensitive, etc. The terms used to express it are among others: passionate kind, brilliant, delicate, furious, calm, etc..
Each instrument has a particular character, and just as music chooses a specific one to compose, because it is the one it needs to develop the feeling it wants to express, the same thing happens in dance.
The dancer or choreographer looks for the music that best adapts to the feeling he wants to transmit. This way he chooses a piano or a cello or an orchestrated piece or whatever he needs, choosing also if what is convenient for him is that this piece is adagio, allegro, etc.
This is because the music awakens in the dancer a series of emotions that allow him/her to transmit a feeling.
The styles of the musical pieces are diverse and it is important that the dancer knows them, in order to be able to decide what kind of music is suitable for the assembly of his choreography.
The dance on the other hand includes diverse styles that are specific. Each of them has a specific character and indicates the rhythm, dynamics and speed with which a movement is executed.
It is important to match the style of the music and its character with the style and character of the dance to be developed, in order to merge both disciplines in a rich interpretation that reaches the viewer as a whole of expression of feelings.
Small reflection: music and dance are two disciplines that need to have something to communicate in order to be able to create or perform, and the dancer uses music as a means to make his feelings flow and communicate.