An interview with Trishita Sengupta
- Listen to a lot of music
..and also to a variety of music. As artists, when we like a genre, we tend to stick to it. To really understand music, it is necessary to listen to all kinds. This will help you become familiar with the different genres and also add variety to your repertoire.
- Researching the different genres
Considering how important music is to dance, it’s equally necessary to atleast have a basic understanding of the different genres, even if it doesn’t seem directly related to dance. For example, if you’re working with jazz music, it might be useful to understand where it came from in terms of place, community, influences, what instruments are typically used and other technical aspects. The same goes for other genres.
- Really learn to listen to music
And by that, I mean that you need to learn to listen to one piece of music in a hundred different ways. Most often, when we hear a catchy song for the first time, we’re not really listening to it. We go back to it because it was catchy, because we liked it. To choreograph the same song, however, you need to pick up on the subtleties of music. I like to play around with the music and sometimes people in my class ask why they can’t hear the things that I hear while teaching a piece of choreography. I think a lot of it has to do with training your ears. I don’t think it comes naturally to everybody, but practicing listening to music really helps. They say that hearing different sounds creates different impacts in our brains, which means taht the same piece of music can make you feel very differently a month later. Just being aware and noticing these things can help you form your own musicality.
- Listen to the music of your piece over and over again.
This is especially when you don’t have a clear intention before starting choreography. Intention should be the first thing to think about while dancing or choreographing. For me, music tells me my intention and until I find it, I don’t choreograph. Listening over and over again before choreographing helps you become familiar with the music and really understand it. When I do this, I also create a graph of the choreography. Otherwise I find that I can become monotonous or repetitive. Creating a mental map of where I want to go slow or fast or vary the intensity helps bring life into the choreography.
- While choreographing…
To break it down and as a way to start getting creative with how you listen, I’d suggest listening to one aspect at a time – one instrument or just the lyrics or melody and see how it goes. Basically, pick one thing to focus on with every listen or every two to three listens. This can help you pick up the subtleties in the music and also provide you with more options in your choreography.
Do also try and freestyle without doing the same thing each time. Movement comes out differently each time even to the same song as a result of your mind picking up on different things in the music each time or even hearing it differently. This will allow you to figure out the best variation for your choreography. This is also where listening to the music and familiarising yourself with it beforehand will help.
- Manipulating the music
As a choreographer, this is something I enjoy. As an audience, I think we want to be surprised when we watch a dance performance and it’s exciting when we see the performer show us parts of the music that we didn’t hear ourselves. So playing with the music creates an impact on the audience, and brings in that element of surprise; like if the music is slow, but the movements are fast or vice-versa.
- Manipulating speed
In the same vein, something I use a lot while teaching is manipulating speed. What makes counts interesting is how you execute each piece of music. Maybe a better word than speed is the texture of the counts – you could take 1,2,3,4 and execute it as 1…2,3,4 or 1,2…..3,4. There are endless things you can do to play around with it.
- Keep your audience/students in mind
What you want to showcase or teach in terms of musicality will differ based on your audience, depending on whether they are children, adults or dancers. It would be a good idea to keep that in mind while listening to or selecting a piece of music and how you want to play with it.
- Learning music separately can help
As was common for most kids in Calcutta, I was put into classical music classes, which really helped a lot. A year ago, I felt the need to learn music separately. It does play a role in creativity. To differentiate musicality and to find something new and to understand the base. I don’t personally do this, but I know people who teach musicality as a topic. How I listen to music is very different from how someone else listens to music. So everybody’s musicality should be different if you are true to it. When I listen to the bass for example,, it seems like a big ball of weight vs a snare that sounds like a sharp knife. Someone else may interpret it differently, which is why understanding music and instruments can help.