It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted to this blog. A lot has happened in my life and in my work, but that can wait for another time. For now, there’s something else that’s been simmering on the back burner for a while.
When I was a teen, there was more to popular music than just the music. Whether performed live on stage or recorded for the movies or television, our rocking music was about stage presence, about lively presentation. While many artists in country music or cool crooners like Dean Martin and Perry Como stood in one place while performing, the artists of rhythm and blues line-danced across the stage. Chuck Berry played his rocking tunes while crouched in a duck walk across the stage. Marshall Lytl, Bill Haley’s bassist, rode his double-bass across the stage like a horse as he played.
For a while during the Fifties and Sixties of the last century, many R&B and Rock n Roll groups included sometimes complex choreography in their live stage presentations. As they sang and played their hits, they performed coordinated dance moves across the stage and executed high kicks and dips worthy of a Broadway musical. For us as teens, these bits of theatre made the music that much more interesting.
When we were fifteen or sixteen, my friends and I would discuss what would be the ideal combinations of instruments for a rock and roll band, talk about harmonies and vocal technique, explore guitar pickups and sound technology, and learn lyrics word by word by playing 45 rpm discs over and over again. Much of the time, we would also discuss the importance of choreography and how we would develop onstage dance moves of our own.
What is choreography really? Merriam-Webster (merriam-webster.com) defines choreography as: “‘the art or job of deciding how dancers will move in a performance, also the movements that are done by dancers in a performance’ or 1. the art of symbolically representing dancing; 2a. the composition and arrangement of dances especially for ballet and 2b. a composition created by this art; and 3. something resembling choreography.”
Although I’m no longer a teen, as a multi-disciplinary artist who sometimes if not always works in a musical context, I still see the merit of incorporating the idea of dance into one’s art. While in music performance choreography seems an obvious match, it or something resembling choreography can also prove a powerful technique to improve effective presentation across all disciplines of the arts.
After all, isn’t art in any discipline to some degree bound up in rhythm, flow, and movement?