Friday, August 30, 2013

Dancing to Beethoven

In the 1988 film Running on Empty, which features budding musician River Phoenix, a teacher plays two tracks of music to his teenage class. The first has a Madonna-esque, pacy rhythm which propels the students to shake a leg or two, but they soon take to their seats when the teacher follows the catchy song with an orchestral piece by Beethoven. He asks his class to differentiate the two. After a round of subjective answers like "first good, second bad" and vice versa, Phoenix raises his hand and says, "You can't dance to Beethoven." The teacher is more than pleased with his answer. Well, they were wrong!

One can certainly dance to Beethoven, or for that matter, his brethren Mozart, Bach et al. I do. But there is a catch. Dancing to classical music is miles away from the conventional sense of dancing. It is, more often than not, a singular activity (unless you are dancing to Strauss's Blue Danube with your other half). It's a dance you often don't realise how and when to begin - then end up surprising yourself by finding your arms rising into the air, almost of their own accord, due to the blissful music.

In fact, dancing to classical music is often transcendental. Unlike its better-known counterpart, it does not entail shaking your torso or gravity-defying somersaults. Sometimes, the dancing can happen without twitching a muscle. It happens when you lose yourself in the bars of pure musical magnificence and your mind becomes the dancing stage. The only things that dance are your heart and soul and at the end of it you can find yourself spiritually elevated.

The major difference between dancing to, say, Madonna and Beethoven is that in the former you don't need to listen; the feet automatically begin to tap. But in Beethoven, you listen before you dance. Only when one can appreciate the powerful hammering of the kettledrums or bask in the playful, child-like progression of the violins and cellos, does one begin to dance to the orchestral splendour. In order to dance to Beethoven, one needs to understand, appreciate and listen to classical music.

So, yes, it's an acquired taste - or rather acquired dance - but a dance nonetheless. So how does one appreciate classical music, you may ask. I have a solution for the uninitiated. You need only look around. Today, we hear classical music everywhere, but not many realise this fact. From television advertisements to our home doorbells, it has quietly seeped in everywhere.

On TV, the ad for Titan watches has been using a playful passage from Mozart's Symphony No. 25 in G-minor for more years than i care to remember. What makes Raymond's 'A Complete Man' ad extra special is Schumann's piano piece Traumerei (German for 'dreaming'). In many films and cartoons the scare factor is often introduced by the first four haunting bars of the famous Symphony No. 5 in C-minor by Beethoven.

But the most exploited piece in my opinion is Beethoven's wonderful bagatelle Fur Elise. It can be heard in the form of doorbells, car reverse-sirens, water purifiers, mobile ringtones and was even recklessly ripped off by Anu Malik for a song in 1995 Bollywood film Baazi. What's irritating is that it almost always stops after the first well-known part, or goes back to the beginning, thus playing in loops. The better, catchy and certainly more danceable part comes after the often-heard melody which sadly no one gets to hear.

So you've been enjoying classical music in various guises without having any knowledge of it. It's time you started dancing to it. Let no one tell you what music to dance to. It will be in those precious moments when your eyes are shut, heart pounding to the soaring bars of Beethoven's Fifth that you will come to realise the true meaning of bliss.


I simply loved this article and knew instantly that I had to share it with you guys. Certain pieces of music, especially the Classical genre, and here I include the Hindustani Classical music too, it moves you from deep within. The chords connect with your soul, something deep in you sways with the rhythm, and you Dance. 

Have you seen the movie, August Rush. It is as simple as the quote goes in the movie, "The music is all around us, all you have to do is listen". So just sit back and close your eyes and enjoy the brilliance of Beethoven.


  1. This was such a nice repost of an awesome article. As someone who has an acquired taste for classical music and did know about these ads and film songs being inspired, it was good reading for me :)

    1. I never gave much thought as to why I love that Raymond tune in the ad...never made the connection!! :) so what all do u listen to?
      Glad you liked this! Very few people hv such taste in music!

  2. To some extent I love classical music and When I listen to them my Heart is filled with peace,I become calm and as you said my heart start dancing.. :-)
    Nice Read..

    1. Thanks Harsha...glad u liked this! :) the beauty of classical music as u said is that it makes your heart dance!

  3. Hey Aditi! It's so true and love this beautiful post. I appreciate your comments on my blog:)

    1. Thanks Vishal!! :)

      N you write beautifully, with a flow...straight from the heart! Especially love your poetic verses!

  4. what a great quote. sums it up perfectly. :)