Tired of the go-to dark and emotionally charged songs popular within contemporary dance, Marinda Davis has recently been choreographing to Broadway musicals and Frank Sinatra classics. "I'm afraid contemporary could easily become a fad, not a long-lasting genre, if we're not careful," she says. "We have to explore other types of music, versus doing what everyone else keeps doing."
Davis, who teaches at Broadway Dance Center, WILD Dance Intensive and studios throughout the country, has always used music as a tool to test dancers—a lesson she was taught. "I've always heard music in a unique way," says Davis. "My mentor Sheila Barker noticed this and taught me to interpret the song in my own way, while staying true to her intent, finding the pocket of the song."
Another influence is Pat Catterson, whom Davis studied with at Marymount Manhattan College. Catterson encouraged tempo changes within a single piece. "Kids are used to staying with the same monotonous rhythm," says Davis. For a healthy challenge, she likes to speed up, slow down or even just stop the music to find stillness, something she finds is the hardest for young dancers.
As inclined as Davis is to experiment with new music genres, she keeps her warm-up and across-the-floor music consistent for about a year in her class. "I do this so the students can really concentrate on the technique," she says, "and not have to worry about what comes next, including changes in the music."
Artist: Various Artists, Original Broadcast Recording
"I love that you can literally hear the work Lin-Manuel put into it. The cadences, the melodies, the harmonies, the rhymes, the multisyllabic words and the use of motifs. Hamilton's hyperawareness of time and legacy is something I connect to. I can't stop creating to it."
Hamilton: An American Musical FULL SOUNDTRACK www.youtube.com
Song: "Before My Time"
Artist: J. Ralph featuring Scarlett Johansson and Joshua Bell
Album: Chasing Ice
"The first time I heard this song, I cried my eyes out. No matter how often I use it in class, I still feel a lump in my throat when it ends. The violin is hauntingly beautiful. There's a specific irony to it, but also a vagueness that allows the listener to interpret on their own. I had originally wanted to use this song on 'Dancing with the Stars,' but it came back unapproved due to licensing."
"Before My Time" by J. Ralph Feat. Scarlett Johansson & Joshua Bell - OSCAR NOMINEE - CHASING ICE www.youtube.com
Song: "A Song For You"
Artist: Donny Hathaway
Album: Donny Hathaway
"There will never be a song written that's more beautiful. Unlike much of the music today, it is timeless and transcendent. The glissando of the piano sounds like tears falling. The lyrics are so pure and stripped down. The love truly lies in his melody."
Donny Hathaway - A Song For You www.youtube.com
Song: "Uneven Odds"
Artist: Sleeping At Last
Album: Atlas: Darkness
"I play this song in my warm-up. I love that its last line is 'darkness exists to make light truly count.' I think everyone needs to hear that sentence and be reminded of its power. It puts things into perspective."
Sleeping At Last - Uneven Odds www.youtube.com
Song: "Run Like the River"
Artist: Vintage Trouble
Album: 1 Hopeful Rd.
"No matter how exhausted, this song always gets me smiling and grooving. It's about loving and believing in someone so much that you're willing to set them free. It reminds me of Sheila Barker. One day, I'll create something to this for her."
Vintage Trouble - Run Like The River (Audio) www.youtube.com