Archives for posts with tag: Physical exercise

Given  the underlying beat, phrasing and atmosphere have now been covered in previous blogs, the important aspect  to grasp playing for jumps and travel exercises is  Impulse.

While a clear downbeat needs to be played, very often it`s the upbeats that are the impulse for  jumps. Syncopated upbeats work well though not  played in a heavy manner.

It is very important when playing for jumps not to watch  or listen to the thuds  of the dancers ( sorry, did I say `thuds`.. I meant sounds..) otherwise keeping the tempo will be a struggle. I keep the meter buzzing in my head and in my body while playing, if  I`m still having difficulty holding on to the beat then I  sing to myself (occasionally to the entire class).

Travelling exercises (dancers moving across the floor) need to have a driving feel, not racing car style, just confident and  motivating. As in jumps, do not  play in a heavy manner but rather in a percussive style with  clear uncomplicated rhythms (what ever the instrument of choice). I do fall into the trap myself sometimes and forget that it`s not a percussion solo with unnecessary complex patterns. Getting a nice-`groove`(dance-feel) to the music makes all the difference. Do watch the dancers  in travel exercises and check that they are not `chasing the beat` or falling behind the music, keep a nice steady driving groove with nothing too decorative in the melody.


`Support` is a key word as far as  musical accompaniment goes, especially for the center exercises of a dance class. Here the dancer is building strength while working at both core stability and flexibility requiring  secure musical accompaniment.

Given that the  correct meter and underlying rhythm for the exercise is known (guidelines found in the previous blog), it is then important to gauge the amount of  lightness or heaviness that each exercise requires within the music. This may well be determined from the voice of the teacher as they show the exercise or deliver the introduction.  Here are a few rules of thumb (avoiding dance and music terminology where possible) that I generally apply when figuring out what to play for an exercise in the center.

exercises focusing on feet:  Music that is light and precise with clear rhythms. Avoid using too many notes or complicated cross-rhythms.

exercises with lunging movements:  Music that has a good strong downbeat with both lighter and driving recovery beats.

balancing exercises (legs in the air etc.):   Music with a steady and continuous  rhythmical  pattern.  A simple melody can help to `ease the dancers strain` over a full, rich harmonic progression (though not too heavy-handed).

floor rolling exercises:  Keep a clear beat to the music.  A drawn-out swing beat works well as it has both an underlying 2 and  3 within its  rhythm.  Not too loud and more harmonic than melodic in approach.

leg and body swing exercises:   Music that has both a driving upbeat feel and a strong downbeat. The upbeats can be slightly syncopated.

twist and tilt exercises:  Music that has a good clear beat and a supportive  continuous rhythmical pattern.

It is worth remembering that while music for a dance class exercise  is not a composition, it is  a piece of music that someone is both listening  and dancing to.  So, once you have figured out the underlying rhythm and tempo, the meter, the phrasing, the atmosphere and how many times the movement will repeat, enjoy it!