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History of Dance Music, How to Pick Best music for any Dance Form | Beyond the Barre

Choose the Perfect Music for your Dance Performance

Dance music is a broad term that includes many different styles of music. Explore the history of dance music and gain an understanding of its evolution from the 19th century to the present. How you can get the best dance music for your performances and where to find it.

If dance is your life, the right music is its soul.

Balanchine once said: "Dance is music made visible."

Ever since baby boomers woke up to rock and roll in the 1950s, dance music has had an important place in our lives. Music is everywhere, and from using popular music to sell products to driving social justice movements, dance music keeps evolving with times.

But sometimes, all one wants is to have dance music that makes us dance.

What is Dance Music?

dance music

Dance music is music specially composed to facilitate or accompany dancing. Any music that people can dance to is dance music.

It could either be a whole musical piece composed for the purpose, or part of a larger musical composition.

Regarding performance, dance music can be classified as

  • Live dance music
  • Recorded dance music

Ancient Greek vases have shown dancers accompanied by musicians, and even the earliest Western dance music bears a resemblance to medieval dances. The waltz, which arose in the classical era during the romantic music period-when a lot of nationalistic dance forms like Mazurka, Ecossaise, Ballade, and Polonaise was being embraced by dancers, or its predecessor Baroque dance, which was one of the court dances performed for the nobility, dance music played an important part in popularizing the performances for the dancers.

In the romantic music era, the growth of ballet exalted the composition of dance music to new heights. Frequently, dance music started becoming a crucial part of opera.

Modern popular dance music traversed from palaces and ballrooms to commoners. Western ballroom and social dance music became a rage in the late 19th century. Public dance halls were enormously popular with the bourgeois class. The 1930s brought in Swing era when America was swinging its way into Swing Music. The 1950s rolled in rock and roll music, while 60s saw the rise of soul and R & B music. The 70s was the time for disco, and also by late 70s, EDM or Electronic Dance music started swaying people.

Dance Music can also be classified based on the Genre:

dance music

Waltzes, Tango, Bolero, The can-can, Salsa, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Cha-Cha-Cha, the Merengue.

No one knows which came first, the name of the genre of the music associated with it.

Generally speaking, Ballads are commonly chosen for slow-dance routines. Ballads, which was a dance form (the origin of the word "Ballad" can be traced to ballroom or ballet) is not fashionable any more due to its slow tempo.

Disco, funk, soul-pop, and salsa are broadly categorized as the disco when it comes to dance music used for these genres. Disco dance music contains elements of these dance forms and music that has been associated with these.

Electronic Dance Music- EDM is the music made using electronics- this genre is inspired by disco, but it became more popular due to the introduction of computerization in everyday lives. Synthesized music that includes techniques like looping, sampling, and segueing is used creatively to create trance music, techno music, and house music.

EDM is most popular with dance clubs, shows, and radio stations. Although electronic dance music is composed entirely on computers and synthesizers without any musical instrument, most of the EDM produces are trained in classical music before they move into EDM.

Other most popular upbeat genres of dance music that do not belong to any category include:

  •  House
  • Techno
  • Drum & Bass
  • Jungle
  • Electronica
  • Industrial
  • Breakbeat
  • Trance
  • Psychedelic Trance
  • UK Garage
  • Electro
  • Some of the popular slower styles include:
  • Downtempo
  • Chillout Nu Jazz

All these forms have their sub genres, and they have their unique fan base who dance to the tunes composed for their favorite type of dance music.

histroy-of-dance

Favorite Dance Tracks for Ballroom dancing:

The dances covered in the Ten Dance are the five International Ballroom (Standard) dances: waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, tango, and Viennese waltz, along with the five international Latin Dances: rumba, samba, pasodoble, cha-cha-cha, and jive, as defined in ballroom dancing terms. Specific albums are covering all 10 dances, and there are also full albums dedicated to more popular dance forms like jazz.

Some of the most popular albums are:

  • Superior Dancing Series
  • TanzOrchester Klaus Hellen Series
  • Casa Musica (albums) series
  • Giants of Latin series
  • C.F.D. series by Ross Mitchell Orchestra
  • Best Selection for Ballroom Dancing by HisaoSudou and the The New Downbeats Orchestra, Japan
  • Feel The Rhythm; to name a few.

Here are some Tips on how you should select a Dance Music

tips

  • Make sure your music complements and even enhances your dance. Dance and music must complement each other. Make sure that your dance music improves your work. 
  • Evoke a sense of nostalgia so audiences can relate to it. Most professional dancers favor tunes from the 90s and before due to the spirit of nostalgia.
  • Stick with the favorite numbers because of their recall value. Dancers also find it challenging as 80s, and 90s dance music has been choreographed and performed many times, and there is scope for them to try and showcase something new.
  • Don’t be afraid of letting go and trial and error. Many times, while during practice, dancers realize that the music they picked up is not the right choice. Instead of sticking to it that it will all work, pick up another track which makes more sense.
  • Musical theatre, Hollywood musicals are the safest dance tracks to choose from. They are popular, well accepted, etched in memories, and therefore rhythm comes naturally to the dancers picking these numbers.
  • Practice on your dance moves before finalizing a dance music track. Instead of dancing to the tunes, pick up a song that suits your dance performance. That way, you can work on your intrinsic musicality. You may have a favorite artist's track you are dying to try your dance moves on, but it might not be the correct choice.
  • Keep your ears out there for the right kind of music. Check out podcasts, clubs, apps, a live performance or even a friend's home. Dance music has a way of choosing the right dancer, and make sure you are there for that to happen!
  • Don’t be afraid to break the tradition. Performing a Hip-Hop routine which has a very predictable beat- on a classical piece could be challenging, but at the same time, it showcases your inherent talent. You can connect with an audience better if you hit an accent even before you move and go against the audience's anticipation.
  • Remember the rich heritage. Some of the dance music pieces you might be performing on might be at least 100 years old. Interpreting the music into the body language of today is not only challenging but inspiring too.
  • Learn to listen and then listen some more. The more you listen, the more you will find it, and the better you dance.

How to get the Perfect Music for your Dance

genre

Balanchine once famously said:

" See the music, hear the dance."

Be it a competition, dance recital or merely for practice, as dancers, you are always surrounded by music. From Bach to hip-hop, there are so many choices today, and the advent of EDM and remixes has only doubled the options to choose.

Many apps help you select dance music, create your playlist, and even detect the song for you. Check this blog 15 Groovy apps every dancer will love to find your favorite music.

Here are some of the most popular music platform for a glance:

Apple Music:

Wide selection of dance music. Beats1 Radio is a live-streamed radio station that broadcasts music shows. Allows offline-listening for any music that you save.

Spotify:

Free subscription, but there are a lot of ads between songs. Luckily, allows at least 4-6 songs without an ad break. The free account has built-in shuffle play, that can't be stopped, meaning you can search for your dance music but can't always play your playlist. But the paid version has exciting features like custom playlist based on your listening history. Also allows offline listening.

SoundCloud:

Most diverse range of dance music available on any platform. You can even post your content. Therefore a lot of experimental and varied genres available. The subscription is free. However, a free account doesn't allow offline listening.

Dancers are bound to be obsessed with music, and most of them have favorite artists, favorite genres and even default playlists they love to play on the loop.

But to grow as a dancer, you have to let go of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to find music for dance. You will not only expand your music taste, but your dance skills will improve, too!

John

Danielle Hernandez

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About the Author

Danielle Hernandez has been in the dance industry for over 30 years. She landed her first professional dance job at the age of 11.

Danielle received her acting and musical theater training at the prestigious Musical Theater Works Conservatory, and she graduated from Rutgers University with a major in dance and minor in music.

In addition to training and competing with a dance company in NJ, Danielle also trained at Steps on Broadway, as well as Broadway Dance Center. At the young age of 15, Danielle fell in love with teaching dance and coaching competitive cheer squads and dance teams, bringing them to success with state, regional, and national championship titles

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