I AM CURIOUS! Songwriters/musicians compose and produce songs from the heart. Choreographers create their routines from these songs – and dance – from the soul. The origins are in the same location, but why is the interpretation of song and storytelling SO different for everyone?
My interpretation of song and storytelling is that the choreographer gives you a black & white sketch, which is their interpretation of the song. Once you have an understanding, you colour this sketch in with your own emotions. There is no right or wrong way; however, I have found that there is a big difference in interpreting choreography when you are in a classroom setting and when you are learning it for performance purposes. When in a classroom setting, your task is to learn to pick up choreography and experiment with your dancing – you are in competition with yourself between who you were as a dancer yesterday, who you are today and who you can be tomorrow. Therefore, when you hear different pieces of music in the class, you interpret the music the way you FEEL it but keeping it within the choreography. If you are learning a piece of choreography in a performance setting, then it is your job as a dancer to bring the choreographer’s vision to life as the choreographer wants to see it.
Songs usually have clear cut lyrics that let you know what the message of the song is and it’s easy to place yourself within the story! Some songs have no lyrics at all – these are tougher to decipher as its all instrumental. Coming from a musical background, I am always amazed when I see someone dance to sounds, and even more intrigued when they dance to a silent interval in a piece of music. To watch someone dance in the silence and communicate to the audience through body movements and expression without any words…it’s…just…WOW! It’s almost spiritual!
My curiosity always questions why a movement is there, or what emotions are linked to that movement at certain points within the music. It’s important to know and think what you are dancing about as you don’t want to disrespect the choreography, the choreographer nor perform the dance with the wrong emotions. It all comes back to the joys of learning and developing your skills on how to execute movements.
A great way to learn about interpretation and expressions is by watching dance class videos. Some videos show great routines of dancing and then there are other videos in which you see the dancer not grasping the emotion the choreography holds – it’s obvious when people dance with a question mark on top of their heads – “Should I dance my own interpretation, or the teacher’s interpretation of the story?” I sympathize with class members who struggle to juggle – remembering choreography, timing, adapting to music etc – it’s not easy! But the camera captures everything and you can’t hide! The class videos that I love to watch are those that show separate clips of individual groups of the same routine. You can see the contrast in movements and expressions – 40 different stories being told in 2 shots….now that’s a beautiful thing to watch.
I think it’s important to connect every single dance you do to something. It makes you perform better and it gives the audience a richer picture to watch. If you don’t understand the interpretation of the music and story, then you can’t deliver your emotions 100% – dancing with a mask on and not dancing from within, does not do justice to your soul.
I have written this blog to share my perception of interpretation, and I would like to welcome your thoughts on this topic – whether you are a choreographer or a dancer – feed my curiosity!
By Sheba Haider

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