Lyrical Dance: A Complex Fusion of Ballet and Jazz

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By Jill Swenby

With only a few decades of life, lyrical dance is a relatively young form of dance. Quite literally, it is a form of dance that depends on a piece of music to create movements that express a certain emotion or idea. Because of it’s malleability, lyrical is a dance form that is difficult to define. At times loving, at times mournful or even exuberant, lyrical can be interpreted differently by both choreographers and dancers.

Having performed lyrical dance for the past 20 years, Scott Drikakis, a teacher for Legacy Dance Studio in Oakdale,Minnesota, calls lyrical a “hybrid-cross mix of ballet and jazz.” He sees lyrical as having “the best of both worlds.” In dance terms, “the best of both worlds” means lyrical not only requires a lot of stamina and strength like ballet, but also requires dancers to use their bodies to display emotion.

Teaching students of all ages, Scott stresses that it is important to choose music that correlates to the students performing the dance. Younger children often perform lyrical dances to songs focused on love and caring about their family, since those are the main life experiences they’ve been exposed to. Conversely, older children perform to songs about relationships and trials and tribulations. “When you talk about words and lyrics,” says Scott, “they can relate to it.”

As far as form goes, lyrical dance requires much of the technique and strength needed for ballet. Pirouettes are turned out, grand jetes are leaped gracefully, passé is held taut at the knee.

Unlike ballet, lyrical dance embodies a more fluid movement style. While ballet is rigid to the beat of the music, lyrical movement often does not correlate exactly with the music. Some poses may be held longer than the beat, and others are cut short. This contradiction between rigidity and fluidity make lyrical dance a great insight into how good a dancer really is.

“It is the most diverse form of dance,” according to Scott. He has observed in recent years, that lyrical has become prevalent at dance competitions. In fact, because of its dynamic mix of technique and artistry, Scott has noticed that lyrical performances win competitions time and time again. The dancers that really stand apart are lyrical dancers who are clearly talented technically and exuding a lot of feeling with their performance.

When choreographing, he does not always interpret the song literally from the words. More often than not, he takes the idea in the song and choreographs to it, always keeping in mind the students he’s choreographing for. Having danced lyrical for so long, Scott has trouble remembering each specific piece he’s choreographed or danced. In lyrical dance, according to Scott, you build on your own life experiences. Looking back on lyrical choreography he’s done, he notes, “I can see what was going on in my life at that time.”

Photos courtesy of Legacy Dance Studio

1) Ashley Downs, Elizabeth VonSchmidt-Pauli, Samantha Falde, Renee LaViolette and Bre Fuss in Angela Barrette and Kelly Nichols’s piece Hide and Seek. 2) Lauren Vasilakos in Angela Barrette’s piece Somewhere Over the Rainbow. 3) Bobby Johnson in Scott Drikakis’s piece Zero.

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