Sound Memoir: The Sounds of a Dance Studio

Sound Memoir:

Reflection Essay Sound Memoir

When the class received this sound memoir assignment, I knew exactly what I was going to do: go through the life of a dance teacher and the different classes, sounds, and interactions I deal with as a dance instructor. I teach dance at the studio where I grew up dancing. These are sounds I hear daily, but many do not have anything similar to this encounter, so sharing these sounds, I thought, would be something unique. The three settings I choose are three different classes I teach: ballet, jazz and lyrical/contemporary. For this project, I wanted to go through what music I use, and different things I teach and do in each of those disciplines. The sounds from these classes mean a lot to me and I am very fortunate that I can continue having dance in my life now that I am a teacher. For many, I believe the dance world is alien and introducing the practices would open people’s eyes to what really happens in a studio. From class, I have learned that music and sounds can help to teach others about a different time period and places. In The Sonic Color Line introduction, it explains how sounds create an experience and this is what I hope to do with introducing dance classes.
The first step that I did for this project was to record the sounds in each of the 3 classes. I used “Voice Memos” on my phone to record. I recorded a ballet class first; I recorded myself teaching combinations to my students and then, them practicing. Then I recorded a jazz class and a lyrical/contemporary class in the same manner. I had to make sure the music, my voice in the combinations, and even the movement sounds were clear for the recording. I recorded multiple classes in each genre to ensure I had a good variety of sounds and everything was audible.
The second step was gathering sources and information relating to this sound memoir. As I stated in my work, when someone does something for a while, such as myself with dance, jargon becomes an issue. I am very familiar with the terms of dance and what they mean. But someone who is unfamiliar to dance it may be difficult to follow the terms and what I mean. So in my recording, I wanted to make sure the audience understood what I meant. Using the American Ballet Theatre dictionary as well as my knowledge from past experiences, I made sure my script and project explained some possibly confusing terms.
The third step was finishing my script and preparing for recording. In this section, I listened to all of my recordings and chose which ones I thought sounded best and wanted to use. I also organized what I was going to say and explain in my project. I recorded the verbal section of my speech using “Voice Memos” on my phone. I used the “Whisper Room” in the A.O.K. library at UMBC to record myself. I did this to make sure there were no unwanted sounds in my recording.
The fourth step for me was uploading all of the “Voice Memos,” both the sounds at the dance studio and my speaking. I uploaded them to “Garage Band” on my computer. I have used “Garage Band” before and am very familiar with how it works, so that is why I decided to use it. I combined the sounds and my voice and organized them in a way that made sense chronologically. I started with movement sounds without music and without my voice, just so the audience could start to feel the dancing in their bodies. I then talked about dance and it’s history. I described some commonalities in a ballet class, and then played an excerpt from one of my ballet classes. I did the same for my jazz and lyrical/contemporary classes. I hope that this will help people to understand dance from the explanation and also from feeling like they are walking into a studio.
The last steps were editing and making sure everything went smoothly. Making sure my voice was clear and I did not sound boring was important. Also, making sure the sound quality of each recording was thoroughly developed and appropriate for each section was something I focused on. I re-recorded some parts during this section because there were parts that were not running smoothly and I also wanted to add extra information for some clarification. Adding the finishing touches included changing the range of sounds to make my voice sound even and level.
One thing that I struggled with was uploading it to my blog. I tried uploading it straight to the blog, but that required me to pay and I did not want to do that since I knew there was a way around it. I also tried uploading it to YouTube and that was also a failure. I do not understand why it was not uploading, maybe because it is not a video, just audio. But I tried different ways of uploading it to YouTube and none of them worked. I am not familiar with all aspects of YouTube especially uploading things so I gave up on that. The one thing that I finally got to work was Sound Cloud through Google Docs. Once I uploaded my work and made the project public I was able to copy the link to my blog and from there anyone should be able to open and listen to my sound memoir.
I really enjoyed this project. It helped me to expand my knowledge of music while also doing something I really enjoy. Teaching dance is a big part of my life and being able to share that with people is truly a wonderful experience. I have grown up with dance and the music and sounds related to it so I have become accustomed to the way things work. This project really opened my eyes (and ears) to really depict and decipher what really goes on musically in a dance studio. Taking in the opinions of my classmates, really helped me to take a step back and make sure I was being clear with what I was trying to explain. This project challenged me with using electronics in a way I have never used for a class before. I hope the audience learned about music and sounds from a different place than what they have ever heard before.


– Start with the sound of dance movements without music
– Play “Ballet Jumps”
– The sounds of a dance studio. These are the sounds I have grown up with and have learned to love. From taking classes to teaching students, dance has been an important factor in my life. Growing up as a dancer, I have learned a lot and now I am happy to share my experiences with my students and now you. I teach students the movements and vocabulary and give them feedback and corrections to improve.
– I believe ballet is the backbone of dance and most other styles branch out from ballet. One thing that is universal in dance is how we count. We count in 8s, so if you hear me saying 5, 6, 7, 8 that is an introduction to start counting and dancing. It also sets the tempo for the music and dancers. The first class I teach at my studio is a ballet class and usually in a ballet class instrumental music is played. Ballet class starts at the barre, which is a horizontal pole or rail that dancers use for support during exercises. Ballet terms are in French since ballet originally developed in France. There are many terms in ballet and when someone does it for a long time, jargon becomes an issue. So I will try my best to explain and I’ve used the American Ballet Theater dictionary for reference. Some of these exercises at the barre include plies, which means to bend the knees, tendus, which means to stretch the legs and feet, fondus which means to melt or bend, frappes which means to strike or be sharp, and more. Here I am teaching a tendu combination and my students practicing.
– Play “Ballet with barre tendu combination”
– Ballet also includes exercises in the center of the floor and across the floor. These exercises are sautés or jumps, pirouettes or turns, grand allegro or leaps and more. Here the students are practicing a pirouette combination across the floor.
– Play “pirouettes with corrections”
– As I said earlier, ballet branches out into other genres. One of these genres and the 2nd class I teach at my studio is called jazz. Jazz is more upbeat and fun than the serious ballet class. Usually, in a jazz class, I play pop songs. For teaching jazz, I start with a warm-up because I always want my students’ muscles to be warm before doing any movement to avoid injury. Some exercises are jumping jacks, burpees, crunches, and pushups, and then we stretch. Here I give instructions to my students for crunches and pushups.
– Play “*Jazz warm up middle” “*Jazz warm up push-ups Lights down low”
– Similar to a ballet class, we go across the floor and work in the center in jazz class. Some of the exercises include kicks, leaps, turns, etc. Here the students are practicing kicks across the floor.
– Play “Jazz 5,6,7,8 Across the floor”
– The last genre and 3rd class I teach at my studio is lyrical or also known as contemporary. This style is slower paced and the movement relates to the words being sung. But before the movement, I also start lyrical with a warm-up of the same jazz elements. And we also go across the floor and work in the center. Here I instruct my students to start stretching with a right lunge.
– Play “Lyrical”
– One element of lyrical is improvisation or improv. Which means a student creates movements on the spot to follow the song that is playing, just like this:
– Play “Improv”
– Dance has been a gift in my life and sharing the experiences have given my job and life purpose.
– Play “Ballet jumps”

There are many examples on that I used as models. My favorites were:
3 Top Ballet Companies Convene For The Golden Anniversary Of ‘Jewels’
‘The Nutcracker’ With An Alaskan Twist
The Folk Music Festival That Started With A Spider Bite

I liked these because they explain how everything works with whatever dance topic they were talking about and this is what I did for a dance studio. They incorporated music that relates to whichever topic they are discussing which I did for each of the classes I describe. Lastly, I also liked how some of them include history to help explain information about dance, which I did as well.