Dance to Express, Not to Impress

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The first thing I do when I enter a dance floor is to pick out my favorite dancer. Gradually it made me think: what defines a good dancer?

Undoubtedly, there are dancers who demonstrate impressive skills. They can spin at a speed of 1080 degrees per second, or spin continuously for one minute, or toss each other as if they were juggling balls. Interestingly they repeat exactly the same move for every partner and for every song. I may get caught up the first or second time they do their fancy move, but definitely not the third time.

Then my eyes will go to dancers who are interpreting the music. I can feel that if the music is on mute, I could still tell the rhythm and theme of the song, and where the transitions are. Some are so good that I can’t even tell whether the choreography was made for the music, or the music was composed for the choreography. They are good dancers; they keep my eyes fixed on them like a little girl staring at her favorite barbie doll.

Ultimately, some dancers express themselves, using both their body and the music. To them dance is a body language, and they are using the language to deliver messages, as fluent as how we use our everyday language to communicate. They are peerless dancers, even if no one is watching – they don’t necessarily need audiences; they dance for themselves.

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9 thoughts on “Dance to Express, Not to Impress

  1. Also came up with with a nerdy interpretation of my criterion:

    Is the dancer doing something that a robot can’t do?

    Mechanic moves such as spinning N degrees per second where N is a large number, or spin continuously for N hours where N is another large number, or repeat pre-recorded moves, present no challenge to a robot. The real challenge is how to understand music, and interpret music. Given the state-of-art of Artificial Intelligence, robots are able to count musical beats now, but it won’t be soon for robots to be music appreciators. How about expressing themselves? Well, it won’t happen until robots are emotionally intelligent, which is even further down the road (also what my research is about and where I am stuck at lol).

  2. Personally I am still at the level where skill in dancing is most impressive to me. Over time, as I become more comfortable and begin to appreciate the combination of music and dance, this may change.

  3. Believe it or not, watching dancers is what I do for a living. I’m a flamenco guitarist and it’s my duty to improvise musical accompaniment based on what the dancer is doing. Bear in mind that in flamenco, the dancer leads the guitarist. Of course I can be mechanical and just keep time, but when the dancer is responding to my music (i.e. interpreting my music) and I to her dancing it’s so much more satisfying and fun.

    And yeah, I’d rather perform with a less experienced dancer who makes an effort to connect with the music. I can still appreciate impressive technique but it’s the emotional content of the dancer’s movement that wins me over.

    • I think that is what makes live performance so amazing – sparkles between the musicians and the dancers, and their ability of taking the audiences to the unexpected :) (I feel sad now that I dance to recorded music so much…)

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