“That which cannot be spoken can be sung, That which cannot be sung can be danced.” The words of this old French saying ring so true when referring to lyrical dance.
Recently I’ve been asked a number of times “What exactly is lyrical dance?” I have even asked myself “What exactly constitutes lyrical and makes it different from jazz or ballet?”
Having taken lyrical dance for a couple years and recently pondering and observing its characteristics during lyrical class feel I can finally explain it.
Though lyrical uses a combination of ballet and jazz technique it has a stronger emphasis on emotions and storytelling. The word lyrical refers to words that were sung with the lyre. This can be traced back to medieval poems written in Middle English. Lyrical dance, is therefore an interpretation of the words or music. It often tells a story that is based on emotion, but rather than real abstract ideas, like modern dance, lyrical reads like a paragraph. If a song has no words, which is not often the case with lyrical, the emotions of the music are shown in a very fluid way. Because the meaning of the song needs to get across in a lyrical dance, facial expression and other acting techniques are used. Tanya Attard, a lyrical dancer, says, “The dancer should respond to the music, and become an actor that can tell the story of the song through technique and emotion.” This emotional aspect is what separates lyrical from other styles. For instance a ballet or jazz dancer can get all the steps, but not have the emotion and still look good. A lyrical dancer cannot. A lyrical dancer needs to know how to “let yourself go” and “feel the music”. The more a dancer can do that and flow the more the emotion will come across and essentially move the audience.
The costume a lyrical dancer wears can also affect the emotions portrayed. Often long flowing skirts or pants are used. One of my favorite dances was called “Christmas in Sarajevo” where the dancers wore flowing, yet torn and poor looking clothes. The emotion that came across in that dance was powerful because it showed two children surviving a war. The costumes really added to the dance. The emotions and story would also not have been as obvious if it had been a strictly ballet or jazz dance.
How is lyrical is a combination of ballet and jazz technique?
It still has a strong technical base that comes from ballet, but because of the jazz influence it is not as rigid. A lyrical class entails a warm-up, center work, and combinations across the floor, like ballet or jazz.. There is a different type of artistic liberty found in lyrical that is unlike ballet and jazz. Feet can be flexed to enhance the story and legs are allowed to turn in to further creativity in choreography . The movement is more fluid than typical jazz technique. Arms can be thrown up and float down, hands may be relaxed or stretched or even in a fist. The fluidity of the arms is typically what distinguishes it from regular jazz. or even contemporary jazz. The music used in lyrical dance is often contemporary ballad-like songs that are not quite upbeat enough for jazz and not quite classical enough for ballet.
So basically, lyrical dance is a type of dance done to contemporary music with words. It combines ballet and jazz technique to get across a message, usually using lots of emotion. If you ever hear or see someone doing lyrical or talking about it you now know what it is. Maybe you have been looking for a new way to use some creative abilities. Now that you understand what lyrical is you might want to give it a try.