What “Some Nights” Taught Me About Expressive Movement to Music

What do I stand for?

Warrior II pose: “What do I stand for?”

I take an exercise class at the local Y called Body Flow. If you’re in the Parkville area or have this class offered at your local Y, I’d definitely recommend it. This class is a combination of poses and practices from Tai Chi, yoga, and Pilates, all programmed to music. Every few months, the company that produces this program releases a new set of exercises to a new set of music. We do that same series of songs in every class for several weeks in a row.

This current release has one song in particular that has been sticking in my head. The song is “Some Nights” by Fun, and for me, this song is about strength and confidence, determination even in the midst of uncertainty. As this song plays, we do warrior poses, standing balance poses, and other standing strength poses. The song starts in a strong standing pose, over the a cappella choir singing these words:

Some nights I stay up cashing in my bad luck

Some nights I call it a draw

Some nights I wish that my lips could build a castle

Some nights I wish they’d just fall off

But I still wake up, I still see your ghost

Oh, Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for oh

What do I stand for? What do I stand for?

Most nights I don’t know anymore…

My favorite section of the song comes a bit later, when we’re standing in a Warrior II position, moving our arms in a “tribal arms” pattern over the sounds of tribal drumming and the lyrics, “This is it, boys, this is war – what are we waiting for?” Then we keep moving, strong and steady, over this incredible, energizing music.

This has been a surprisingly profound experience for me, and I take two lessons away from it. I’ll write about the first one here, then I’ll write more about the second one in my next post.

Lesson #1:

Moving expressively to music feels awesome.

We move to the music in a pre-planned, patterned way, and the technical term for this is choreography. For me, “choreography” can be a scary term, because it brings back memories of dance classes and the fear that I won’t remember all the moves right and then somehow ruin the whole performance.

In this class, though, you have an instructor to demonstrate and cue all of the movements. No pressure. Then, by the time you’ve taken the class a few times, you really do know the choreography well enough to let the music move you. The music makes it feel like an easier workout, and you get this amazing feeling of being IN your body and IN the music.

Songs like “Y-M-C-A,” “The Chicken Dance,” and “Cha Cha Slide” are staples at weddings and bar mitzvahs because it feels SO GOOD to move your body in time with the music and with everyone around you. It’s always felt great to dance, but these days, it seems we don’t have as many opportunities to learn “how to dance” to the point that it feels natural and comfortable in our own skins. That’s why songs with simple, repetitive choreography – patterns that are easy to learn and repeat – give us the feeling of competence and freedom we need to let go and enjoy the feeling of music moving our bodies.

I often lead movement to music in music therapy groups at senior living communities, demonstrating movements for participants to follow. Most of the time, I improvise the movements I demonstrate, based on the needs of the group on a given day. I also try to match some movements to the music I am playing. I create a simple choreography for the chorus, for example, or I find ways to “follow the strings” or “stomp with the drumbeat.” As good as it feels to move rhythmically, it feels even better to move expressively as well.

You can do this, too.

The difficulty with finding outlets for expressive movement to music is that fear I mentioned earlier – the fear that you won’t be able to do the movements correctly. The key is finding a place to do movement to music where you can feel competent and free. Here are some possibilities:

  • Use exercise DVDs based on moving rhythmically. You can learn everything from belly dance to hip hop from DVDs these days. “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” is still a classic, too! Hint: Check out the reviews on Amazon.com or other internet sources to gauge how easy or difficult a particular DVD is for beginners.
  • Try the MUVE method. Of all the DVDs I’ve viewed, this is my favorite for moving expressively to music. This method emphasizes listening to your body and making movements as big or small, vigorous or gentle as feels right to you. Read my full review here.
  • Visit a class. Just in my local Y, there are several classes offering choreographed movement to music classes (with a fitness goal, of course). This includes Zumba, Body Flow, and Body Pump.
  • Take dance lessons. Ballroom dance is another great way to do patterned movement to music, and again, it feels GREAT. If you want to dance without a huge emphasis on getting fit, this is a great choice. My husband and I took lessons at the Allegro Ballroom in Overland Park, and we very much enjoyed the experience.

Do you have opportunities to dance? To move in time to music? Which of the suggestions listed above might you like to try?


10 thoughts on “What “Some Nights” Taught Me About Expressive Movement to Music

  1. Colleen Arnold, PhD says:

    Fun! (Get it?) I love that song.

    Great roundup of movement practices. We dance so freely as children, and then get so hung-up and lose that freedom. It can be hard to get that back, but so worth it – we’re fundamentally meant to move.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s