What "Some Nights" Taught Me About Expressive Movement to Music

Some nights I stay up cashing in my bad luck

Some nights I call it a draw

Some nights I wish that my lips could build a castle

Some nights I wish they’d just fall off

But I still wake up, I still see your ghost

Oh, Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for oh

What do I stand for? What do I stand for?

Most nights I don’t know anymore…

My favorite section of the song comes a bit later, when we’re standing in a Warrior II position, moving our arms in a “tribal arms” pattern over the sounds of tribal drumming and the lyrics, “This is it, boys, this is war – what are we waiting for?” Then we keep moving, strong and steady, over this incredible, energizing music. This has been a surprisingly profound experience for me, and I take two lessons away from it. I’ll write about the first one here, then I’ll write more about the second one in my next post.

Lesson #1:

Moving expressively to music feels awesome.

We move to the music in a pre-planned, patterned way, and the technical term for this is choreography. For me, “choreography” can be a scary term, because it brings back memories of dance classes and the fear that I won’t remember all the moves right and then somehow ruin the whole performance. In this class, though, you have an instructor to demonstrate and cue all of the movements. No pressure. Then, by the time you’ve taken the class a few times, you really do know the choreography well enough to let the music move you. The music makes it feel like an easier workout, and you get this amazing feeling of being IN your body and IN the music. Songs like “Y-M-C-A,” “The Chicken Dance,” and “Cha Cha Slide” are staples at weddings and bar mitzvahs because it feels SO GOOD to move your body in time with the music and with everyone around you. It’s always felt great to dance, but these days, it seems we don’t have as many opportunities to learn “how to dance” to the point that it feels natural and comfortable in our own skins. That’s why songs with simple, repetitive choreography – patterns that are easy to learn and repeat – give us the feeling of competence and freedom we need to let go and enjoy the feeling of music moving our bodies. I often lead movement to music in music therapy groups at senior living communities, demonstrating movements for participants to follow. Most of the time, I improvise the movements I demonstrate, based on the needs of the group on a given day. I also try to match some movements to the music I am playing. I create a simple choreography for the chorus, for example, or I find ways to “follow the strings” or “stomp with the drumbeat.” As good as it feels to move rhythmically, it feels even better to move expressively as well.

You can do this, too.

The difficulty with finding outlets for expressive movement to music is that fear I mentioned earlier – the fear that you won’t be able to do the movements correctly. The key is finding a place to do movement to music where you can feel competent and free. Here are some possibilities:
  • Use exercise DVDs based on moving rhythmically. You can learn everything from belly dance to hip hop from DVDs these days. “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” is still a classic, too! Hint: Check out the reviews on Amazon.com or other internet sources to gauge how easy or difficult a particular DVD is for beginners.
  • Visit a class. Just in my local Y, there are several classes offering choreographed movement to music classes (with a fitness goal, of course). This includes Zumba, Body Flow, and Body Pump.
  • Take dance lessons. Ballroom dance is another great way to do patterned movement to music, and again, it feels GREAT. If you want to dance without a huge emphasis on getting fit, this is a great choice.
Do you have opportunities to dance? To move in time to music? Which of the suggestions listed above might you like to try?]]>

10 Comments

  1. JoAnn Jordan (@JordanEM) on February 11, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    If you find it scary, grab some little children and some scarves. Turn up some music. Follow them in the fun. Putting on our inner child can be a big help.

  2. Colleen Arnold, PhD on February 13, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    Fun! (Get it?) I love that song.

    Great roundup of movement practices. We dance so freely as children, and then get so hung-up and lose that freedom. It can be hard to get that back, but so worth it – we’re fundamentally meant to move.

    • soundscapemusictherapy on February 13, 2013 at 1:41 pm

      Ha! Fun, indeed.

      Yes, we are naturally meant to move. Anything to encourage that will keep us all healthier!

  3. Arlene on February 15, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    Yes, we lose some of the freedom that we have as children to move to music. Thanks for the reminder and how healthy movement is.

  4. […] Nights” by Fun during the Body Flow classes at my local Y. The first lesson had to do with how amazing it feels to move to music. Yes, it feels so empowering to warrior poses to this incredible music with words […]

  5. Ann Becker-Schutte (@DrBeckerSchutte) on February 20, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Rachelle,

    The song is fantastic, and the class sounds like a blast. I know that I have enjoyed Zumba precisely because it is so fun to move without being worried about the choreography. We like dance parties at my house too.

    Warmly,
    Ann

  6. BirthTouch.com (@KathyAMorelli) on February 25, 2013 at 5:56 am

    I’m trained in the expressive arts and this post was awesome, getting in touch with our body feelings is so important!

  7. […] talked about choosing music for emotional and physical relaxation, exercising to music as a form of self-expression and stress relief, and how to practice techniques like deep breathing and progressive muscle […]

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