This Week's Playlist
Having just come back from beautiful Andalusia, Southern Spain, exploring the delights of Flamenco dance, I found myself drawn to the centuries-old rhythms of the gypsies and Safardi Jews. The London skies were grey and wet, but my ears were still ringing with the beat of ancient people, and the flomotion playlist was dancing blissfully in that direction.
But before I could get to the excitable Iberian beats, something slower was called for. Flomotion, like most dance practices, starts mellow, builds to a crescendo, and slows down again. There will then be another musical cycle: building slowly, speeding up, crashing with the high beats, and then coming down again, mellow rhythms leading to a final and restful full stop. It’s a bit like climbing a mountain, enjoying the views at each stage; reaching the top, descending, and then climbing another mountain, and coming back down.
Different dance movement practices observe this kind of pattern: In 5 Rhythms dance, the cycle is expressed through the different sounds of music and beat: Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness. Open Floor dance uses a cycle of experience/awareness model: Open attention, Enter, Explore and Settle. Ecstatic Dance has a Warm up, Awakening life force, the Let go, Stillness and Grounding.
The Flomotion cycle this week opened with a track from an artist whose work is described as ‘bass-heavy experimental techno’ with ‘intricate yet insistent rhythmic patterns’. Really! People arrive at the beginning of the session with all sorts of preoccupations: the stress of the journey, the busy brain of 21st Century life, family and other preoccupations, shyness, uncertainty etc. The first few tracks are slower; an easing into presence. I am talking over the microphone intermittently, inviting people to bring movement and breath to thoughts, feelings, sensations; noticing where in our bodies we feel stuck or tight and bringing more breath to these places.
The second track is described as bridging ‘trip-hop ,dub, acid jazz and post rock’. Hmm. The pace has increased a bit with this track, and I would expect to see the crowd grow more confidence to move in diverse ways: stretching, possibly moving around on the floor, taking more space in the room with their movement. At this stage, it may not be dancing that you would see but bodies in movement.
I pause for a minute to consider whether I want to include a track with lyrics. Most dance practices use music that is instrumental, partly so that people can hear the facilitator’s instructions more easily over the music and perhaps to encourage a more embodied rather than cognitive response to the sounds. On this occasion, I end up going for a soulful tune with a repetitive beat; there are some simple lyrics but the emphasis is on the sound effects of the words rather than the meaning.
As I look for another track to finish the arriving section, I come across some great music that isn’t quite right for the slot I am trying to fill and I can’t see where it will fit in this week’s playlist. I don’t want to forget this track so I add it to the skeletal framework of next week’s playlist or perhaps the one after that.
Found it! A moody number; very eclectic. A building instrumental, with a repeating insistent beat intermittently overlaid with hip hop inspired scratching (the sound of a record stylus going backwards in fast rhythmic patterns) and an emotional Arabic chant. Sounds a bit over-complicated? Actually it works; and provides variety and interest to provoke a new mood and feeling for movement.
So, we have come to the second stage in the flomotion session. The Warm Up. Musically this is straightforward in many ways: one track, about 8 minutes long, no lyrics, not too fast, plenty of beat. The spec has been tried and tested on many occasions. It works. I’m sticking to it. I enter my Spotify library once again, heading for a big and beefy beat in which I will invite people to lead their dance with different body parts, starting with the feet, knees etc.
We’re only a fraction of the way through the playlist. See next week’s blog as we head into the Shake (to release stress in the body) and some funky tunes. See you there!