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SPOTLIGHT:
DANCE AND THE CITY
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Dance and the City - Groove is in the Heart

by Rachel Levin
November 14, 2004
Los Angeles, CA

Dance and the City - Groove is in the Heart

Rachel Levin
November 14, 2004

No matter how many times I resolve to date dancers, I somehow always end up dating musicians. My ex was a guitarist and performed lead vocals in his band. My ex-ex was a bass player who sang back up. And my current heartthrob is a drummer and percussion expert.

Now that my trail of relationships has given me the building blocks of a three-piece band, I think it's time to finally acknowledge the trend and analyze its significance in my life.

It makes sense that dancers and musicians would seek out one another and find connection through a shared love of rhythm and music. My favorite jazz dance teacher spoke often of her loving, long-term marriage to a jazz bassist. He was a reluctant dancer, she said, but ultimately a perfect partner. His innate sense of rhythm was a boon, and the same hands that caressed the curve of his instrument on stage caressed her curves on the dance floor.

But are all musician-dancer partnerships created equal?

When I first met my bass player boyfriend, I thought the dancer-musician chemistry would be perfect. The throaty, twangy sound of an electric bass being plucked always reverberates straight through my soul and resonates in the cradle of my hips. It's difficult to call music "funky" unless it's got that bangin' bass line. I thought that I had met the ideal match for my soul music cravings.

But bass players are never fully integrated into the fabric of rhythm and melody of a song. They stand slightly apart, sometimes becoming too absent and other times making themselves all too present, overwhelming the sonic balance. I found that my boyfriend's musical part reflected the part he played in our relationship. He often overwhelmed me physically and psychologically, but was too absent emotionally. The bass line soured, and I had to move on.

Lead guitarists/vocalists often have the same spirit of showmanship as dancers. They're the front men, the ones whose names the audience knows above all other musicians in the band. If anyone in a rock band is going to break out and dance, it's definitely the lead guitarist.

Once again, however, my hopes of completing the perfect dancer-musician partnership were dashed. Just as guitarists are the focal point of a band's personality, they're also the ones most motivated by ego. As front men, they can set the lead and the rest of the band has to follow. Alas, dating a lead guitarist was like being a band groupie. My ex was ultimately too selfish, and I felt exhausted from always having to follow his lead and cater to his needs. Even worse, he was too full of ego to ever admit that he held the reins.

After two dancer-musician relationship failures, I was almost ready to swear off musicians as possible relationship partners. Until, of course, I met the drummer.

I don't know why I hadn't realized it before: percussionists and dancers are the most time-tested pairing of them all. In ancient cultures from Africa to the Middle East to Native America, dancers needed nothing but the beat of a drum to perform their sacred rites and reach ecstasy. Percussion is the feature that dominates my music and dance tastes; salsa, samba, and hip-hop are all derivative of the drumbeats of Afro-Caribbean musical heritage.

Drummers are the backbone of modern bands. Their task is aggressive and the driving force of the sound, and yet they have to be aware of every instrument and adjust accordingly. In their performance role, drummers just can't be selfish.

So far, I feel like all my desires are heartily fulfilled by my drummer boy. There is an attractive forcefulness he exudes that matches the energy of my own dancing drive. And yet his attentiveness demonstrates his truly giving nature. I don't feel like he is too overwhelming or too withholding. It is the perfect balance, a primordial connection between a dancer and her drummer. And possibly the most direct path to approximating the ecstasy of the ancients.

I feel like Goldilocks and the three musicians. This one's just right.

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