How to Improve Musicality

If you watch dancers or listen to commentary about dancers, you may have heard the term “musicality” thrown around a few times.  Instructors or coaches may say that certain dancers have good musicality or that it’s something they need to work on, but what exactly is musicality?

Musicality is defined as “sensitivity to, knowledge of, or talent for music”.  In the context of dancing, it means that a dancer is aware of the music and the unique elements within that music.  If they have good musicality, their movements will match the quality and elements of the music.  Some might even say that musicality is “the ability of a dancer to become one with the music”.  This description sounds poetic, but good musicality often adds a nice layer of beauty to dancers’ movements.

If a person is already musically inclined, it might be easier for them develop good musicality, but it might be harder for the rest of us without prior music knowledge or experience.  Luckily, musicality isn’t a magical ability that people are born with; it certainly can be taught and learned.  With these tips, you’ll be able to “become one with the music” in no time!   


Listen to Music

The best way to start working on musicality is to get familiar with music and start listening to a bunch of it.  If you are preparing for a performance, take a moment to repeatedly listen to the song that you’re dancing to.  Pay attention to specific accents and major hits in the music.  If you already have choreography, think of ways you can enhance your movement during certain musical accents.  For instance, if there is a dramatic pause in the music, freezing dramatically or slowing down your movement will complement the music nicely.  You should also pay attention to the tone and speed of the music.  Is it sad or happy?  Does it make you feel excited or sluggish?  These elements are important in figuring out how your movement should look.  If you aren’t working on a performance and just want to work on general musicality, you can still practice these techniques with various pieces of music.


Work on Timing

Timing is defined as “the judgement or control of when something should be done”.  Therefore, in dance, timing is how well you are able to have your steps match a certain rhythm.  For instance, if your instructor is counting out or clapping a certain rhythm for you to follow and your steps match that rhythm, you have pretty good timing.  If you find that you typically dance faster or slower than a given rhythm, then timing is something that would be beneficial for you to practice.

To work on timing, practice tapping your foot or clapping along with the beat of a song.  Drums or other prominent instruments will usually indicate the rhythm of the song, so see if you can keep up with that.  If you can’t practice with music, try tapping along to something that has a steady rhythm such as a metronome, your heartbeat, or even the turn signal in your car.


Watch Other People Dance

Another great way you can learn is by watching others.  If you are still unsure about your musicality, you can observe other dancers and take note of how they move to music.  If you’re working on a performance piece and find videos of other people dancing to the same music as you, it may help to pay attention to how they move during certain hits in the music.  Another thing you can do is ask your instructor to demonstrate how they would move to a certain piece of music.  After their demonstration, you can try matching them, but the goal isn’t to make your movement identical to theirs.  What you should be looking out for is examples of flair and accented moves that you can incorporate into your natural movement.  Your instructor can also coach you on how to achieve this, which brings us to our next point…


Ask for Help

When in doubt, it’s always best to ask a professional for tips when it comes to musicality.  If you are prepping for a performance, your instructor will certainly give you choreography that compliments your music, which is a great way to naturally work on musicality.  While you are training, you can also ask your instructor to help you and give you tips and exercises that will improve your musicality.  Good musicality is what often distinguishes a dancer who is just going through the steps from a dancer who is really in sync with their music, so it’s certainly a valuable skill to develop!


Happy Dancing!  ^_^