Dancing… Have you ever stopped to ponder on what a strange activity it is? I can’t think of any other art form (assuming you believe it to be one) which relies upon another art form (music, in this case) for its existence. Dance is something which happens to the accompaniment of music – it’s difficult to imagine any other form of artistic expression which is so dependant upon the pre-existence of another. This is precisely why I can’t help thinking of dance as a “secondary” art form… it is by it’s nature reactive, not pro-active.
A dancer would be hard pressed to express angst & frustration if he/she were given a lullaby as an accompaniment, for example. Likewise, try to picture someone attempting to convey tenderness & intimacy if they were moving around the dance floor to the strains of Motorhead… you can’t can you? The music is already doing the job of telling the story, of expressing the emotion, and all the dancer does, or can ever do, is to visually interpret the point that composer or musician has already made.
Then there’s the outright weirdness of feeling the urge to gesticulate with your limbs as a way of showing your appreciation for a particular tune. Music has played a hugely important role in my life – it’s provided me with a livelihood for the past twenty or so years, for one thing. But I can honestly say that, aside from some hormone driven excursions to the dance floor as a teenager, I have never felt the necessity to express my love of any piece of music by chucking my carcass around in a stylised way. Never.
Music moves me in all kinds of ways: Chuck Berry’s famous “Johnny B. Goode” intro makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end; Frank Zappa’s “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow” still makes me laugh out loud; Elgar’s “Nimrod” makes me all misty-eyed & patriotic in quite a ridiculous way; Miles Davis’ “So What” is the musical equivalent of an ice-cold pint on a hot sunny afternoon – soothing, refreshing and yet, intoxicating. I could go on to describe the effect that any of my favourite tracks has on me, but I know for a fact that I’d never find myself saying “…and I just can’t sit still when this one comes on.” The only sense in which music doesn’t move me, it seems, is the physical one.
Imagine if the crowds of people in the Louvre, admiring the Mona Lisa, were unable to stand still whist doing so. Imagine if they simply couldn’t contain their emotional response to the work of art before them, and felt compelled to express this with outlandish physical movements. Imagine the same response to the plays of Shakespeare, the novels of Jane Austen or poetry of Byron… it would seem downright weird, wouldn’t it? Well, why is music so different? Because it has rhythm? Well so does poetry, and I’ve yet to see anyone “busting moves” (as I believe is the current vernacular) at the recitation of “I wandered lonely as a cloud…”
Also, we are now at the point where the cart is being put before the horse, metaphorically speaking. There is a plethora of dance related “talent” contests on TV at the moment, and amongst those aimed at the “yoof” end of the market it is not uncommon to see a single dance routine with three or four songs cut together. Or should I say “hacked” together, as there is absolutely no regard paid to how the transition from one song to the next is handled: dissonant key changes and brutal shifts in tonality that would have made even Karlheinz Stockhausen wince, are all allowed to batter the listener around the ears, in much the same way that putting fish sauce on ice cream would offend the taste buds. Nothing matters except that the beat must remain “danceable”, and sod any other musical considerations. The dance routine has become more important than the music it accompanies. As a musician, guess how I feel about that.
Another example of the same degradation of the importance of music is the phenomenon of pop stars who openly, and without any shame, admit to miming, or “lip-syncing” on stage. Why do they do it? Because, apparently, it’s difficult to sing and get the dance moves right at the same time. The fact that it’s more important for these phoneys to perfect the choreography rather than the music, speaks volumes about the contempt they have for music as an art form, and the lack of respect they have for the people who pay good money to come and hear them perform… erm… LIVE! (Yes, Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley, that includes YOU!)
Sorry for the rant, but it had to be said. Until next time… Have fun 🙂