Dancing vs. Dancing

It took me a long time to realize that people actually liked dancing to EDM, and weren’t just doing it because there wasn’t another option. It took me even longer to realize that what people were doing when they were dancing wasn’t the same thing I was doing when I was dancing – that the two types of dancing were so different in motivation that I feel weird calling them both ‘dancing.’

Type 1 music tends to be repetitive, with low variation and high attention to texture/layers, with emphasis on beat. It’s played for the purpose of inducing trance states, and for strong social cohesion – like a crowd all jumping together. Images of dancing to this type of music typically depict groups.
This music is also submissive to the dancer. The music operates like a minimalistic framework, and the dancer invents moves to decorate that framework; the dancer dances over the music, or on top of it.

Type 2 music tends to have high variation, with higher emphasis on melody and emotion. This is the type of music often used for dance performances, for expressiveness/poetry reasons, and is much more individualistic – depictions of nonchoreographed dancing to this type of music usually are of only one or a few people. This music dominates the dancer – it informs the dancer how to move, and ‘good dancing’ is measured by how well the dancer can manifest this music into physical reality. The dancer dances under the music.

It seems like cultures tend to lean towards either Type 1 or Type 2 dance music at different times. The swing and disco eras of dance were heavily Type 2, while Burning Man which I just got back from seems to think Type 1 music is the entire universe.

I’m very curious about Type 1 dancing. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to do it – when I try to dance to Type 1 music, I find myself ‘seeking out’ instruction from the music and feeling frustrated when I don’t find any, and I have no urge to move my body (what I feel like is) independently from the music.

I’m also curious about why certain types dominate cultures at different times. What does it indicate about the culture? How did it come to be?

Examples (Mostly popular western music) (also my own opinion, yadda yadda):

Type 1
Boris Brejcha
Colin Benders

Mostly Type 1


Mostly Type 2

Type 2
She Wants Me Dead
Take Me To Church


7 thoughts on “Dancing vs. Dancing”

  1. I wrote a piece for a friend’s blog that is directly related to your curiosity. I am a dedicated raver who has a deep infatuation with “Type 1” dancing.


    It might be interesting for you to look into disco culture further, because you identified disco as Type 2 music, but it has heavily and inextricably influenced Type 1 dancing/music… disco > house > techno > etc.

    Sounds like you have been to Burning Man, but I certainly didn’t “get” techno (and all the other related genres) until I was fully immersed in it.

    I’ve been reading your blog after watching Sweet Nothing. I appreciate your style of expression… would love to collab.

  2. Deadmaus seems to me to blend these types–try “I Remember” in particular (many versions, I’m referring to one on “Random Album Title.”) I kind of agree with Psycicle–good for workouts, for example.

  3. I generally agree on the broad characterizations. I generally can’t really dance to either type as I tend to enjoy type 1 passively as a cerebral experience, enjoying the layers. Type 2 is generally too specific for someone that isn’t me and doesn’t connect with me enough to dance to.

    I find that only certain DJs have a specific style that takes me on a journey.

    – Minimal words, so that I can free myself from the emotional context that comes along with words and focus on feeling.
    – Use of interesting sounds to provide interesting cultural/emotional context. Ex: Middle eastern strings and nondescript whisper, layered with a light tinkle and whoosh effect in the background to invoke an image of night time date in the desert.
    – Internal focus to interact with the music. Drugs can help with this, but not required. The goal is 60/40 cerebral/body so that you can HEAR all the layers, but not want to retreat to headphones or become unreasonably annoyed with sober people who are talking instead of dancing.

    The end result isn’t passive like riding a boat or diving below to actively merge with the ocean, but rather surfing a musical river consisting of different textural waves. A couple suggestions:
    Geju (My personal fav right now) “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISEDmUCvtu4”
    Miyagi “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_HpIpdaR7E”
    Sabo and Goldcap “https://soundcloud.com/goldcap/sabo-goldcap-live-the-favela-bar-lightning-in-a-bottle-2015”

    I also dislike the heavy skew of type 1 music at the burn, but definitely check out the smaller camps and maybe the outer rings for different vibes, longer sets (more creative and tailored to the crowd), and less mainstream sets from big DJs. Staying a extra day past the temple burn also changes the energy a lot. Good luck out there finding your perfect wave!

  4. I was at BM in 98’ and not again until 16’ and I saw a big shift from your Type 2 to Type 1 expression. Back in 98’ there was so much diversity, from death metal chicken sacrifices to the most euphoric house music separated by big space, there was room for individual voices to get weird and be heard. Although there were far more people in 16’ the experience was in many ways far more diverse in 98’. It’s as if BM culture has evolved to protect some perceived center and become more like itself over time. Feels like a natural law at work. Something to do with speciation or simply regression to the mean.

    1. I imagine that Burning Man used to be more type II back in the day, if we consider ‘The Beatles’ for example. I think it’s just that tastes in music have changed dramatically in the United States over the decades. We are certainly more influenced by Latin American, African, and other non-European music traditions than we have ever been (it seems that traditional European and (eastern) Asian music is decidedly type II). Maybe the usage of recreational drugs has also created a preference for type I music over time.

  5. Two things that may help for type 1 music: The first is to take some task that you were going to do anyways, like cleaning or walking or… pretty much anything really, and try doing the task “with the flow” of the music. This gets you used to doing a thing on your own without much direction from the music other than approximately synching up with it. Fidgeting in time with the music is also viable. The second thing that may help is stimulants, as they tend to produce an impulse towards spontaneous movement. MDMA seems especially suited for this.

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