Lyrical dance

Lyrical dance

Lyrical dance is a dance style that blends ballet and jazz dance techniques with choreography that strives to interpret the story and emotions of the music. It is a passionate, expressive dance style in which the dancer attempts to convey strong emotions such as love, joy, despair and anger, through movement and facial expressions. Lyrical dance is so named for the meaning of the word lyrical: having a poetic, expressive quality; expressing deep personal emotions; highly rhapsodic or enthusiastic.

Lyrical dances are typically—though not always—performed to music with lyrics, with the lyrics serving as inspiration for movements and expressions. They are typically choreographed to music with emotionally charged lyrics about topics such as longing for freedom, releasing a sad emotion, overcoming obstacles, and so on. Although lyrical dances are always expressive, the style of the movements may be graceful or not, as dictated by the music and choreography.

Lyrical dance has a relatively recent history, first emerging with the rise of rock, folk, pop and alternative music. It is influenced by jazz and modern dance styles and, to a lesser extent, by punk and swing.

A solid foundation in ballet technique is essential for lyrical dancers, as well as familiarity with jazz and contemporary/modern dance. Lyrical choreography is often peppered with intentionally pedestrian moves, amid more challenging movements, to create a simultaneously organic and dramatic feel.

Musically, the choreography accentuates and/or flows in tandem with musical punctuations, but the choreography will also bring out the more nuanced aspects of a song: sometimes a silence between notes in the music, or the breath between words, will be emphasized, possibly with a simple, physical gesture. This may be followed, for example, by a more complex sequence, such as a triple pirouette en cou-de-pied (coupe), or a grand jete, or a series of chaine turns, followed by a cabriole, descending to the floor, only to rise again, and perhaps very casually to walk downstage for a few counts before changing direction once again.

Movements in lyrical dance are characterized by their fluidity and grace. Leaps are often executed high, with a soaring quality; turns are airy, flowy and continuous. However, in some cases, a de-emphasis may provide a more compelling window into a dancer's emotions: a succession of quick, small leaps may be executed low, displaying the ever-evolving traces of a dancer's internal landscape. When the music's tone is angry or frustrated, dancers use sharp, short movements. Anger is also an emotion seen in lyrical dance. In routines with a strong component of anger, it is common for the jazz portions and styles of lyrical to come out. However, a lethargic, drawn-out quality of movement may show a contemplative or hestitant feeling. When the routine is joyful or peaceful, dancers use lighter, more flowing movements.

Of paramount importance in lyrical dance is the continuation of movement, flowing quite seamlessly from one move to the next. The dancer does not simply "finish" a move and be done. A lyrical dancer holds out the move for as long as possible, and has smooth transitions between others. Employing this connectivity of movement, the dancer may periodically stop or incorporate "sharp" moves (such as an abdominal contraction, a sideways glance, or a leg flick) into a fluid routine, for emphasis. Connection to breath, and making sure to breathe, is also essential. In all, the moves are connected to one another, to the dancer's feelings, breathing, and to the music.

Some key dancer-choreographer-teacher notables within lyrical dance include: Suzi Taylor, Tracie Stanfield, Brian Friedman, Mia Michaels, Blake McGrath, and Dan Karaty.

Although lyrical is stereotypically choreographed to music that is slow or downbeat, melodic and sweet-sounding, it is a very broad form of dance including many dynamic, fast-paced and sometimes thrashy pieces. Upbeat, aggressive styles of music are used frequently. Music can be of any genre; pop, rock, and even hip hop/R&B styles, are popular for choreographing. Pop selections, including soulful, powerful songs by emerging artists, are often used in lyrical dance.

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