What Is a Dance Score?

A dance score is a piece of music composed especially for dance performances. Alternatively, the term “dance score” refers to notations that show the sequences of movements that dancers are supposed to use — in other words, choreography documents. Although it is possible, it is uncommon for someone to dance without the accompaniment of music, so the two types of scores are inextricably linked.

The fact that musical dance scores and choreographic dance scores are created different people is a significant distinction. Musical dance scores are written composers who are trained in aspects of composition such as harmony and orchestration. The musical staff, clefs, notes and rests of various lengths, time signatures, and other music notation elements like crescendos, tempo indications, and repeat signs make up their palette.

Choreographers, on the other hand, are more likely to create choreographic dance scores. They add symbols or other directions to at least one staff from the musical dance score to specify exactly what the dancer should do for each beat of the music. To do this, they need to know how to read music, but their primary experience and training is in dance and body movement. Those who write choreographic dance scores are frequently professional dancers who are well-versed in how to execute specific dance techniques.

The difference in senses is another way to look at dance scores. Musical dance scores are received the audience through their ears; the score is auditory in nature. As they watch the dancers, the audience receives choreographic dance scores through their eyes; the score is visual.

There is no standard format for musical dance scores. Composers are free to write whatever music they think fits the choreographer’s vision for the dance. However, if the choreographer requests a specific dance, the composer can use the dance’s form as a guideline for the composition. Composers frequently composed music for specific dances such as the gavotte, gigue, sarabande, or waltz during the Baroque and Classical periods.

For choreographic dance scores, several types of notation are used; the most common are Labanotation and Benesh Movement Notation. Choreographers are often familiar with a variety of systems, much like musicians are familiar with a variety of musical genres.

Choreographic dance scores are important for the preservation of dance technique. They demonstrate not only individual movements, but also how they can naturally flow from one to the next. The scores can be used for dance analysis as well as recreating dances with great precision.

A choreographic dance score and a musical dance score have one thing in common: they can take months to create. Because both composers and choreographers must be meticulous in each type of score, the simple act of notating the ideas can take a long time. However, thanks to technological advancements, both composers and choreographers can now use computer programs for notation, greatly simplifying the process and allowing for neater, faster, more accurate, and easily replicable scores.