Are All Drummers Good Dancers?

When observing a drummer’s skill of extreme limb coordination while playing, the question came to my mind whether drummers would make better dancers than non-drummers. Personally, I am terrible at dancing although I play drums for a long time!

Not all drummers are good dancers, but drumming provides the basis for solid rhythm and coordination required for good dancing, making it easy for drummers to learn it quickly if they like it. But drumming differs from dancing in many other aspects; some drummers don’t enjoy dancing at all.

In this article, I took a deeper look at the reasons and also did some research on the other way around, how drummers can benefit from dancing.

Can All Drummers Dance?

The question can very quickly be answered with a “no”; not all drummers can dance. When scrolling all the forums, there are so many drummers who either can’t dance or don’t like it. But there certainly is a high amount of drummers who can dance – and do it very well!

I think it comes down to different factors that influence if you’re going to be a good dancer (as a drummer). It can be viewed as another art form that seems to be split among drummers. It is definitely a different mindset than drumming for me. To start the investigation, let’s first talk about the basics of dancing.

What Makes a Good Dancer?

To be a dancer, you just have to check off the boxes:

  • Sense of rhythm.
  • Ability to do the actual dance steps.
  • Body control.

Sense of rhythm. This is a must for drummers. I literally cannot imagine any good drummer who has no sense of rhythm.

Ability to do the actual dance steps. This is rooted in the body coordination that you learn and practice as a drummer. Generally, drummers have a very well developed skill of limb independence, which helps here. I put together some research on how drummers multitask, read more about it here!

Body control. This is one in a broader topic. Body control first involves limb coordination that should already be very well developed. On the other hand, it includes the rotating and circling parts that we are not using for drumming and, thus, often end up looking “stiff” while dancing. Those are our hip and flexors, turning our shoulders and rotating our upper body. If you manage to do all this in time and learn a few basic steps of where and when to put your feet, you have the basic recipe for being a good dancer.

So technically, the first two boxes are checked, the third is kind of checked in matters of “drumming provides the basics, but this needs to be developed further for good dancing performance”.

To judge whether someone is a good dancer in general, it’s essential to define the kind of dancing we mean. I think there is a big difference between dancing a particular style with a partner, like a disco fox or waltz to the music and just wildly improvising on the dance floor.

As concluded in the above subheading, the overall requirements are met, and drummers have good prerequisites for good dancing. For dancing certain styles with a partner, e.g., disco fox, you will, additionally to the three requirements listed above, might not need anything more to be okay. But just as there is more than just having good rhythm, so too is dancing. In both cases, you have to work, learn, and exercise on the different licks, patterns, and movements if you want to be good.

One small step upwards, the skill ladder would be dance as a single person on the dance floor. The additional required skill is a bit of improvising or a kind of feeling what the next appropriate movement would be. For some people, this is very hard – like me. Thus, they will be bad at it!

But I would claim it only takes a few lessons or even practice for a few hours until most drummers would dance much better and easier compared to their non-drummer buddies.

Why Can’t Every Drummer Dance?

I think it all eventually comes down to the general interest that a person has for one thing. Just because someone likes to hit the drums, he might not want to hit the dance floor (without drums, of course) because drumming and dancing are still very different activities from one another. This gets even harder when the music that you want to dance to doesn’t meet your taste.

As long as you don’t like what you do, you won’t be good at it. If you like doing something, you want to do it often, and of course, you want to practice so that you don’t look silly doing it.

Also, what influences your interest very much is the culture that you grow up in. If you grow up with people that don’t really give a care about dancing and show no interest at all, you probably won’t either. But, on the other hand, if your surrounding people love to dance and always transmit positive feelings with it, you’ll probably start to pick up that interest, which leads to an increase in those skill levels.

Besides that factor of interest, others complicate the situation as well, which are socialization and aspiration that come to mind. The typically domineering role of drums may not appeal to one, or the raw human expression of dancing may not appeal to the other.

When people ask me why I don’t dance, I say to them, “I’d rather be the one who creates these special moments for you to dance to.” You know, being a drummer is a pretty powerful thing.

How to Develop “the Grace of a Dancer”

For myself, I can say that I can keep the beat, but I lack the elegance to dance appropriately. Elegance in dance is not something you would learn from drumming.

Does dancing have rudiments you can practice? lol

In order to not just “be okay at dancing,” but even to become a great dancer, you have to up your game a little. You have to express yourself, not just dance.

  1. Learn the music you dance to. Basically, you know your game. You should understand the song and know the emotions involved.
  2. Emotions. Feel the song and express it through body language and facial expressions without compromising your physical perfection.
  3. Dedication. No matter what happens, make sure that you dance every day because quality does not always work before quantity. Quantity is essential as well.
  4. Inspiration. Keep your eyes open. If you are a person who likes to compose your own pieces, you need a lot of inspiration. While you may get inspiration from a senior dancer on stage, you can also get inspiration from the insect on the wall of your room.
  5. Music. Listen to plenty of music. Soothing music, dance music, all kinds. It helps to enrich you.

Note that these five tips can just as well be applied to playing drums. Have fun experimenting with these!

Does Dancing Make Me a Better Drummer?

It’s time to take a look at the question the other way around, whether or not dancing would boost your skill and performance level as a drummer. In drumming forums, I read a lot about how dancing helped the learning of different things:

  • separating the left from the right side of the body
  • performing in front of a crowd
  • feeling and keeping a good rhythm
  • basic pulses of varying dance styles
  • the feeling of how to swing

I think it never hurts if you can take certain skills from other hobbies and profit from them in another hobby. I guess it must be fun to make some heads turn to you when some people don’t expect certain skills, like an outstanding groovy feeling to a beat.

I saved up this nugget as a golden tip for the end of this post: 

This is just an observation after having seen some videos of Steve Gadd and Marco Minnemann. I noticed that when the two guys start to “sit” on the kit, it seems that they channel a kind of energy between their hips and shoulders, which gives them an incredible groove. Nearly as if they were dancing the samba in their seats throughout their performance.

I attempted it myself by making just a little bouncing motion from the hips while turning the shoulders, and amazingly, while keeping the beat with my hips, shoulders, and head, it was incorporated into everything I did on the kit. It felt natural rather than remaining rigid and thinking about where my next fill was going to come from, and what kind of stickwork I was going to get out of my trick box.

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