Pet peeve time! You know you love it!
I am continually baffled by the fact that many dancers can’t count music to save their lives. Do we need to start instituting mandatory Music Theory for Dancers? ‘Cause I’ll teach it! (Along with Anatomy for Dancers… I am a full-on liberal arts dance fan.)
I’ve always had a fondness for music and I’m pretty sure I learned to read music around the same time that I learned to read words. I would sit by my grandmother’s side as she tried to teach me to play the piano. Never did turn into a pianist, but I had a good run with the horn (that would be a “French” horn for those of you who are not orchestrally inclined). I was in band throughout 5th-12th grade, including a loathed stint with marching band in high school (had to march if you wanted to do concert band; I picked my college based on the fact that they had no marching band… well, that’s not true, but it was an added bonus.) College gave me orchestra, brass choir, woodwind ensemble (always amused me to be the only brass player in the woodwind ensemble, but apparently there’s no woodwind that plays in that range, so they use horns as filler or something). Even briefly flirted with double-majoring in music until I got to my first music history course which did not go well and led to me deciding that perhaps music was best kept as a hobby.
So, yeah, lots of musical background. And, as boring as band music was for a horn player, I learned a lot about downbeats and upbeats playing all those Sousa marches (horns are terribly shortchanged when it comes to marches and I hated them… which makes the fact that I won the John Phillip Sousa Band Award my senior year rather ironic). And, as much as I detested marching, I learned a lot about moving in time to the music. And with all the other playing experiences and music theory classes and whatnot, I’m uber-aware of musical phrasing and counts and such.
Which leads me to ballet. And the fact that my recent experience leads me to believe that no one knows how to count music. Exercises are pretty much always given on an 8-count. And usually they start out alright. But then I start looking around and realize that everyone is doing her own thing, no one at the same time! Argh!!! This drives me batty. As much as I try to insist on following the music, it’s really awkward being the one person in class marching to the beat of her own drummer, as it were. Sometimes I just give up and try to keep pace with whatever the overwhelming majority is attempting, meanwhile seething inside that we’re off the music. When I was teaching (oh, how I miss teaching) I turned into Ms. Snappy-Pants in an effort to get my students to hear the music and match their movements to it. Music is not just some pretty background noise to accompany you… you gots to work together, yo! Therein lies the magic! Dance is a physical expression of music!
I rather wish these things didn’t take up so much of my mental energy. I know it’s probably not worth getting all wrapped up in it, but seriously. It’s just counting to eight, people!