Operation Just-For-Nice: A little dancing

Today in Operation Just For Nice, my on-again-off-again project that attempts to make at least one little bit of one little day in at least our little house a little bit better instead of worse, we have been putting on dance music in the evenings.

Not dance music like club music, but music that the five-year-old and the two-year-old want to dance to, which I am happy to have them hear. We usually start evening chores at 7 p.m, but the little guys don’t have regular jobs yet, so they dance in the living room while the bigger kids work around them. Or sometimes I just put music on, and that’s pleasant, too.

One of the great disappointments of the last few decades is that I’ve never managed to get more than one or two of my kids listening to classical music. I wanted them to be able to say “Ah, Chopin!” or “Whoa, Mahler” while listening to the radio, and I wanted them to be able to identify whether they were hearing baroque, classical, romantic, or modern music. I wanted them to hum themes from Die schöne Müllerin while washing the dishes. This was how I grew up, and it may not have made me a better person, but I’m sure glad to have all that music in my head.

Anyway, that’s not how it worked out. We don’t get to concerts, and while my kids don’t resist classical music and are even kinda into opera, they never turn it on by themselves. Well, so I turn it on, in the car, and now in the evenings. I haven’t been pushy about naming composers or styles or form (although I recommend the delightful and accessible Exploring Music with Bill McGlaughlin, if you’re looking for that). Instead, I ask the five-year-old what kind of music she wants to dance to, and then I pick something good and readily interesting that fits that description.

(That’s an invaluable parenting secret: Kids are 9,000% more receptive to things when they get to pick.)

If she says she wants ballet music, I feel like they will definitely come across The Nutcracker and probably Swan Lake on their own without help, so here instead is Debussy’s “Clair de Lune”:

Princess-at-a-ball music? You could do worse than “Wiener Blut” by Strauss, or just about anything by Strauss:

She asked for tap dancing music, so I did a search for tap dance music, and she danced along (not bad for her first time!)

but just about anything big band would do. Try Cab Calloway, unless you’re allergic to corn.

She requests fighting music? Here’s Aram Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance:

or you could go with some Hungarian Dances by Brahms. Here’s #5, which has a lot of back-and-forth for two dancers:

Jazzy dancing music, you say? Here’s Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt being delicious with “Minor Swing”:

Maybe someone wants to be a lonely butterfly. Here is a little Chopin for that:

Forgive me, Bach, but I told my children you wrote vampire music:

We’ll get the Well Tempered Clavier later.

The other day she requested Ninja music, and I was at kind of a loss. What can you suggest?

7 thoughts on “Operation Just-For-Nice: A little dancing”

  1. For ninja music I have no specific suggestions, but getting multicultural and playing some traditional Japanese koto music would be good if she was feeling a slower dance, and taiko drums for something more upbeat.

  2. I grew up that way, too! I have a mental blog post for my hypothetical blog, in which I explain how meaningful it is to me that I can turn on the radio and go, “Oh hi Vaughan Williams! How’s it going, Herr Brahms?” Even when I’m not familiar with the piece of music, because I know those guys’ voices as well as the actual members of my family. I wish my kids could be that way, but I’ve learned that in order for it to happen, a) both parents have to be on board with only ever having classical music played in the house and the car, and b) music has to be basically the family’s whole life, in terms of community involvement, parent hobbies, kid extracurriculars, etc. That’s certainly how it was for me growing up, anyway. Now, though, we have neither a nor b, and we’re a happy, loving, well-adjusted family nonetheless, to the infinite surprise of my younger, unmarried self. The things you learn to be okay with… 🙂

  3. I heard someone in an interview suggest that for most people today the only exposure to classical music is movie soundtracks. Along those lines, perhaps Joe Hisaishi’s Tatari Gami from the Princess Mononoke soundtrack. If your daughter isn’t concerned about whether her ninja music has any eastern influences, I think Gustav Holst’ Uranus from his Planets Suite has a ninja feel to it.

  4. I like how Pandora curates music for you based upon favorites. Clair de Lune (one of my all time favorites because my father played it at least once a week) is one of my stations. I also have “Top Hits”, Indie Singer-Songwriter radio, Al Green, Fleet Foxes, classic Latin, Daddy Yankee –watch how Latin their hips get w/ “Mi Gente”. Scandalous. I-cannot-tell-a-lie: Drake station. Yep.

    I have them all on shuffle mode. Hehheh. I sort of like the musical whiplash, and it seems like Pandora knows what kind of mood I’m in based on who I skip, or turn up that day.

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