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What is Lyrical Dance?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated May 23, 2024
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Lyrical dance is a modern dance form which fuses modern dance, jazz, and ballet. This form is often referred to as contemporary dance. It requires excellent technique to perform, as the moves are often difficult and precise. Moreover, the dancer should be aware of his or her facial expressions while dancing.

The origins of lyrical dance are unclear. The form is most often seen in live shows of contemporary music artists and some types of stage shows. The goal of the dancer is to convey the emotion of a song's lyrics through dance. Intense emotional expression of the face and body are necessary to tell a story that evolves along the lines of the song to which the dance is performed.

Unlike other dance forms, lyrical dance is far less concerned with a dancer's physique. Often, excellent jazz and ballet dancers are drawn to the lyrical style because they lack the traditional dancer's build. It is quite common to see dancers who are not extremely thin; however, lyrical dance demands a high degree of flexibility and complicated lifts, so dancers with a nontraditional build still need to be in excellent physical shape to perform lyrical pieces.

Lyrical dance also appeals to both those who are slightly older and slightly younger. Some dance teachers comment that it is quite difficult to teach this style of dance to younger students, as they simply lack the ability to convey emotions they have yet to experience to any great degree. There are exceptions, of course, but one frequently sees many lyrical dances performed by dancers who at the age of 25 to 30 are considered too "old" for ballet. Despite their possible lack of experience, many younger dancers are attracted to this style for its focus on emotion.

Characteristic of this dance style is flowing dance moves that connect throughout the dance. The upper body movements are generally quite different from ballet styles, and one often sees body angles unfamiliar to either jazz or ballet. In some ways, the upper body movements resemble traditional African dance forms.

Lyrical dance is often performed with toes pointed in partner lifts or in leg lifts. Common practice often demands leg lifts with toes flexed, which is much more challenging to the dancer's flexibility. Choreography frequently features partners, as interpreting ballads often means interpreting the intensity of love relationships or lost love.

As an evolving form, most practitioners and choreographers are better known for either their contributions to the jazz or ballet world. The form has received much attention from various television dance competition shows. Choreographers like Mia Michaels, who has her own successful lyrical company, have become well known for this style.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Musical Expert contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon972152 — On Oct 02, 2014

Lyrical dance is beautiful and fun to watch, but it's also extremely popular in the world of competitive dance.

By anon928848 — On Jan 29, 2014

Lyrical dance is so fun! The expressions really magnify the beauty of the dance. I agree with you.

By anon308656 — On Dec 11, 2012

Do you know what country lyrical dance originated from?

By anon21838 — On Nov 23, 2008

Facial expressions are *not* a big component of Lyrical. A key facet of lyrical dance is to convey emotions directly with the *body's* fluidity, sharpness, and *timing*. Facial expressions are less important and often discouraged because they would be tacky and replace the physical expression demanded by truly embodying the choreography and merging physically with the music. Facial expressions factor far more prominently, for example, in theater dance (i.e., Broadway musicals). The acting in Lyrical dance comes from the *body* and *timing*.

Lyrical dance is closest to ballet, not African dance. It can be best described as Ballet set to contemporary, popular, alternative music -- everything from ballads to thrashy.

By anon13188 — On May 21, 2008

Dancer-- Im A Lyrical Dancer myself and it is such a pretty dance ... especially if the dancers have a lot of emotion....if interested search Lost-By Anouk....its a beautiful lyrical song that my bffl dances to..thanks for writing such a good piece on lyrical dancing

By WGwriter — On May 20, 2008

Anon13100-

I'm totally with you. Mia is an amazing choreographer, and I'm really looking forward to another season of "So you Think You Can Dance." Plus, this year they're adding ballet! I think it starts the second to last or last weekend of May and I can't wait! I only wish there weren't soooo many commercials.

T. Ellis-Christensen

By anon13100 — On May 19, 2008

Mia's routines are amazing. My favorite routines on So You Think You Can Dance that she did were the Park Bench and the one that was with Neil and Lacey, and they resembled her and her father.

Lyrical is something I've always been interested in because it has so many awkward movements that you can't help but watch.

By cayenne — On Mar 29, 2008

Lyrical dance can also express emotions quite beautifully - I have had two friends who had people close to them perform lyrical dance at their weddings and seen others do it at church services and it is really moving.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Musical Expert contributor, Tricia...
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