In the Magazine

Billy Bell

Music to inspire creativity

Billy Bell’s dance career revolves around creation—crafting new opportunities for himself, inventing new movement and inspiring new dancers. After his remarkable technique and ethereal movement quality got him to the Top 5 on “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 7, he founded his own company, Lunge Dance Collective; performed for two and a half years with the recently disbanded Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet; and, in February, joined the cast of the interactive show Sleep No More in New York City. Despite his performance schedule, Bell still finds time to teach improvisation—the ultimate incubator for creation.

As a faculty member for several popular conventions, Bell is an expert at adjusting his class to challenge whoever’s in the room. “If I see that students have a gap in their knowledge, I’ll dive more heavily into that—so I guess I sort of improv my improv class,” says Bell, who carefully selects tracks for movement, but often leaves the order of the music to chance, as well. “Sometimes I’ll just click shuffle on my iPod. That way, my students never get to adapt, since they can’t predict what’s coming next. Something completely atmospheric could lead into something like Justin Timberlake.” DT

Artist: Fleetwood Mac

Song: “Albatross”

“I use this for deep inhales and exhales at the beginning of a warm-up. It’s short, and it just makes you want to breathe for a second. It’s the perfect song to start class with positive energy.”

   

Artist: Edit

Song: “Jazz Night”

“If I do a more structured warm-up, I’ll use this for abs, arms and upper-body strength conditioning. It’s great for increasing stamina and getting blood flowing.”

   

Artist: Pixel

Album: The Drive

“This is an album of buzzing tones. I’ll use this kind of music when I choreograph, since working in a silent room feels stifling. Having an ambient buzz playing low in the background during a rehearsal opens up my headspace.”

   

Artist: Byetone

Song: “Heart”

“This song is also pretty much just buzzing. My improv classes are typically built into two sections—the ‘thought’ section, which is about making conscious choices, and the ‘drive’ section, which is about instinct. For the ‘thought’ section, I like using ambient tones like this.”

   

Artist: Murcof

Song: “Mir”

“I like this as a transitional song between sections of class. It’s somewhere between a song that’s ambient and one that pushes you. It gets students from that completely cerebral land to a more physical one.”

   

Artist: Parov Stelar

Song: “Chambermaid Swing”

“Parov Stelar is a really fun electro-swing artist who I like to use for the ‘drive’ section of class, which is more about impulses. I’ll give certain tasks, like ‘spoking,’ in which you’re not allowed to bend your elbows or knees as you travel across the floor. Limiting choices can help kids learn to improvise. This song pushes them across the floor, but it’s not so fast that they don’t have time to process.”

   

Photo (top) by Erin Baiano for Dance Spirit

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