Corey Mwamba



An experienced musician once asked me

Why do you dance while you're playing music?

and, after thinking about it for a bit, I decided that it was a stupid and possibly insulting question for an experienced musician to ask [but I've mellowed since then]. I took it to Facebook, where I received many responses, and it was an interesting discussion that was actually focused on how I make music—and for me that's a rare occurrence, even [or rather, especially] in interviews about me. So I thought I'd share my side of that discussion here, away from Facebook. I broke down into five main points:

  1. Am I actually dancing? To be honest, for quite a while I wouldn't even accept the term—I know and have worked with actual dancers: they actually dance. I am certainly moving. But I have relaxed since then—maybe I am doing something for which "dancing" is the only sensible term. When you're inside something unseen yet tangible you have to expect mad things to happen.

  2. Although enjoyment is a factor of my making music, it is not the sole or main reason that I "dance". I want to be very, very clear about that.

  3. No one ever talks about practicality and necessity here. My old traditional position of playing vibraphone would have foreshortened the hip over time and was creating a deeper curvature of the spine. This, as well as over-playing, had an effect on my hands in the form of RSI which put me out of action for several months. The way I used to play in 199something [very fast, aiming for the centre of each key, standing bolt upright, tension in shoulders] is very different to the way I play now [ensuring that the weight is distributed from side to side, aiming for the appropriate part of the key using the appropriate part of the mallet or hand or bungie cord or cloth or bow or...] and that change in playing has meant that I have had to develop a movement to do them with any sense of fluidity. Playing the instrument with the technique I have requires the entire body, and a consideration of the weight I apply to a phrase.

  4. The factor of practicality [using the body appropriately to speak the music I need to create] is what shapes the total involvement. But that total involvement is driven by my intention to make music. And the only thing I'm bothered about in the time of creating music is creating music.

  5. If you take my intention and the factors of practicality—even before getting to enjoyment—I hope it shows that divorcing the "dance" [i.e. necessary movement] from music in my case is absurd, and that projecting thoughts of theatricality and entertainment onto my intentions is at best insulting.

My movement isn't for entertainment, or "theatricality". My body is the limit and the instrument of the complexity of my musical language. So my movements are all related to the music I make. I know some people make beautiful music and don't "dance" externally. But they will be "dancing" somewhere.

comments (1)


9th Apr 2019 | 7:43pm

After reading the book Groove: A Phenomenology of Rhythmic Nuance, I took away the idea that groove is best felt and understood by moving with the music while playing. Essentially "dancing" while playing is what will give your performance it's particular groove, and is likely a necessary part of your playing.

It is an interesting idea!

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