Multiple Intelligence Monday 5: Bodily-Kinesthetic


This is good timing.  It’s just a coincidence, but this week I am at Omega in Rhinebeck, NY, taking a week-long Tai Chi workshop.  Because it’s important for conductors to be good at understanding and moving their bodies.

As I have said before, these intelligences do not represent fixed abilities or smartness, but rather strengths particularly relating to learning styles.  I’m sure it’s obvious to you why kinesthetic intelligence would be important for a conductor, but I’ll go ahead and spell it out.

A conductor’s job is to embody the expressive intent of the composer.  Embody, as in put it into their body.  The easier it is to coordinate movement and attend to physical sensation, the easier the job will be.  Conducting is more like dance than anything else–you make gestures that express what the music expresses.  The difference is that conducting is usually leading the music and dance is more commonly following it.

Here I’d like to talk about training and aptitude.  On So You Think You Can Dance, dancers who are really good at one style are asked to do many other styles.  As far as my understanding goes, it is kinesthetic intelligence which will allow them not only to dance well, but to learn new styles quickly and be able to alter the character of their movements as needed.  Training can make a good dancer, and has certainly proven to be an asset on the show, but adaptability takes intelligence.  Trained dancers generally do better on the show, and there is the possibility that training can actually increase intelligence, but over and over, the untrained dancers amaze us with their ability to do new things.  

Speaking of amazing ability, here’s Wade Robson when he was eight years old. 

I’ve never met an eight-year-old with that kind of coordination, balance, subtlety of movement.  It’s just extraordinary.  Magical.  And when you’re that kind of a dancer as a kid, you can grow up into this kind of choreographer:

I chose this of all the amazing videos of his choreography because he’s also performing.  Wade is the dancer with the red gloves, the man in the front as they walk down the stairs.  Can you take your eyes off him?  I have trouble.  He’s intense and sooooo specific and committed to every movement.  Seriously, I’m in awe.  Just go to YouTube and search for Wade Robson and start watching videos.  He’s dreamy.  Of course, I’m particularly impressed because he’s got musicality and creativity and expressivity to match the incredible physical skills.  

I have to talk about me, I suppose, because it’s my blog and because this is an important thing to me, though any kinesthetic intelligence I have is trite in comparison to the above.  Still, I guess I can take comfort in the idea that I’m probably a better conductor then Wade Robson would be… though he’s a better dancer than I am a conductor–oh, he’s so good!

Anyway.  Me.  I have some training.  I took ballet as a kid, which many people can say.  But I did it for ten years, along with a few years of tap and jazz.  When I got to college, I started swing dancing.  I’ve danced socially, mostly, but I’ve attended classes and workshops aplenty.  I also have taken regular yoga classes, studied Tai Chi and Alexander Technique, and–oh, yeah–I’m a conductor.  I’m not gifted.  But I like it a lot, and I have some training.

I tell people all the time that if they want to sing, they can.  My sister says that any woman who wants to have an orgasm can.  It may take some practice, but interest and application unfailingly yield results.  I think the same must be true with dance.  I have no gift, but I have always liked it, and so I’ve invested time to learn.  I think that has built up my ability, and that translates to the physical aspects of conducting.  As a result (or possibly it’s the cause?), I learn quicker when I experience things bodily.  If there is movement involved, my brain grabs onto it more quickly.  The act of conducting while I practice actually helps me learn the music more efficiently.

And now, because I’m too lazy to make an actual video montage but I feel compelled to entertain you, a photo collage of me dancing and doing goofy things demonstrating the influence of much dance training in civilian life (with apologies to the siblings who must inevitably be exposed with me):

Variously, pictures of ballet, musical theater, lindy hop, and two demonstrating my inability to stand still and just have my picture taken like a regular person.  I tend to pose.  It’s a habit.

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One Response to Multiple Intelligence Monday 5: Bodily-Kinesthetic

  1. Marg says:

    Love this. Thanks.Ottawa, Canada

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