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5 Music Suggestions From Contemporary Teacher Marinda Davis

Photo courtesy of Davis

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."


Album: Hamilton
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


Teacher Voices
Photo courtesy Rhee Gold Company

Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, there has been a shift in our community that is so impressive that the impact could last long into our future. Although required school closures have hit the dance education field hard, what if, when looking back on this time, we see that it's been an incredible renaissance for dance educators, studio owners and the young dancers in our charge?

How could that be, you ask?

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Photo by Yvonne M. Portra, courtesy Faulkner

It's a Wednesday in May, and 14 Stanford University advanced modern ­dance students are logged on to Zoom, each practicing a socially distanced duet with an imaginary person. "Think about the quality of their personality and the type of duet you might have," says their instructor Katie Faulkner, "but also their surface area and how you'd relate to them in space." Amid dorm rooms, living rooms, dining rooms and backyards, the dancers make do with cramped quarters and dodge furniture as they twist, curve, stretch and intertwine with their imaginary partners.

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Getty Images

Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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