Friday, July 23, 2010

Baby by Justin Bieber

It’s rare that I experience I piece of music without any preconceptions. Most of the time when I listen to new music I know the artist and/or know something about the song.  Also most of the time I listen to the song, but I don’t really experience it.

Don’t get me wrong, listening to a song is an active and vital way to interact with music but it’s a different when you perform a song or dance to it. This is why dancing to “Baby” this week was one of the of the greatest musical experiences I’ve had in recent memory.

Let me explain.

For the past two weeks I’ve taken an Orff level 1 class at Vadercook College of Music in Chicago. Carl Orff was a composer who helped develop an approach to teaching music to children that revolutionized music education bringing the natural way children play, create and interact with music into the classroom.

Motion is a big part of Orff’s approach which I'm not great at.  During the movement part of the Orff class I felt self-conscious, insecure and a little silly dancing around the room creating different shapes and waving scarves around (this is a sarcastic analysis of the role of movement if Orff curriculum, there's a lot more going on here).

Part way through the our motion session last Wednesday when we were learning folk dances something started happening. I noticed that I was picking up the dance steps quickly and that I was pretty good at this. Then I started having fun and not caring about the way I looked to the people around.

As we neared the end of the session, the instructor told us we were going to do the same folk dance we had just practiced to traditional music to some different music. As the music started, I heard gentle guitar plucks and the vocalization of a young singer and before I knew it we started dancing. The folk dance started with the group in a large circle so when the group started going you had to dance or get run over.

I didn't have time to think about the song, all I could do was dance to it staying completely in the moment.   Before I knew it an uncontrollable smile came upon my face and as I lost myself moving to the music.

After the dance was over, someone identified the song as “Baby” by Justin Bieber.  No, I haven’t been under a rock, I know who Justin Bieber is, I just haven’t listened to any of his music. I’ve heard plenty about him and I’m really glad that I didn’t know it was him before I started dancing or else I wouldn’t have enjoyed the music filled with the negativity I've heard about his music.

I don't know what the fuss is all about.  “Baby” is a perfectly fine pop song. It’s nicely crafted. There’s not a lot of frills or anything musically revolutionary but it’s fun and my experience dancing to it was unforgettable. Sometimes it's more than the music that makes a song important to us.  Sometimes it's the way we experience it that makes it meaningful and dancing to "Baby" made this song unforgettable for me.

Driving home from class I was so excited about the idea of teaching movement and dancing to my students next year. There are many reasons to teach dancing. I could write a dissertation on the educational benefits of movement activities but it wasn’t until last Wednesday I realized how much fun folk dancing could be and how much I want to help my students attain the feeling pure joy that came from experiencing music through dance.

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