CDA for Dance: Quality and Relationships

tl;dr The vagueness in quality and relationships in the ending section of the piece leaves us with more questions and less clarity. 

Tada! We have made it to the second to last installment in the very long exploration of this Lord of the Dance video. Today, we’re going to look at the final ending of the piece (starting at about 3:32), particularly in terms of quality (the one things I’ve yet to mention) and a return to relationships. You can read earlier installments here.


Quality is a form of dynamics, like rhythm, but, instead of speed, it acknowledges the different ways or styles a movement can happen, regardless of speed. If you are a performer of some sort, it is likely that you have encountered Laban’s effort actions. These actions are a combination of qualities and how they interact with each other. So, a quick round up of these qualities that we are going to look at:

Time: Sustained or Sudden

Weight: Light or Strong

Space: Direct or Flexible (a movement does not take the most direct path from point A to point B)

Flow: Bound or Free (I find it helpful to think about control here. Bound flow is much easier to control and stop, free flow just keeps going and going and going)

I am not going to list all the effort actions, but I will refer to them while writing this, so I highly recommend opening up the list here and keeping it for handy reference if you get lost in my flicks, dabs, and punches.

So, what are we seeing in this final end section? Mostly, I see a lack of clarity when it comes to qualities. Nothing is quite exact. For example, as the dancers roll up, it feels like it could be a punch (sudden, strong, direct), but it never quite gets there. Same with the head turn. We see quality through contrast, so this means there is not enough contrast in the quality of individual movements for us to see distinct qualities.

It’s interesting that the one very clear quality hear is the hair flick which is most definitely a flick (sudden, light, flexible). This demonstrates the functional side of these qualities. In order to actually do that thing with hair, the dancer has to use those specific efforts. There’s a practical underpinning to these effort actions.

The other thing to note is that sustained movement does tend to be a little clearer than sudden movement. As an Irish dancer myself, I know how much sudden movement we do, so this came as a surprise. I wonder if this is because so much of Irish has a baseline of slightly-sudden so the sustained contrasts better than super-sudden. It’s also possible that this relates to body – most of the sustained movement is in the upper body as opposed to the lower body.

While I can’t come to any conclusions around this, some theories include: 1) It takes strength and control to be sudden that these dancers just haven’t trained in their bodies yet. 2) The actual training for how to use lower body and upper body differed significantly for these dancers.

The possibilities for more theories here are endless.

Relationships, part 2

In my last discussion of relationships, I talked about how the main relationship was between the soloist and the other dancers. I also discussed how the dancers are acting like soloists in a group, as opposed to members of a group dance [LINK:CDA 6]. Here, at the end, the relationships are a little more complex – the group splits into two and even faces each other. This brings the group in relationship to each other as well as in relationship with the soloist.

And yet, there is still no eye contact or way of denoting relationship. The only thing that delineates this relationship is space – the directions people are facing and going, and their formations. In the end, the dancers come together in a familiar line with the soloist in front.

It’s interesting that in the final frame of the end, none of the dancers are in the same pose. Unfortunately, the video never pulls out to show us the whole group relationship, which ends up leaving us with questions – why are the dancers facing different directions? Is this formation in relationship to each other or to others who are just not in screen? The only thing I can clearly gather from this ending is the soloist still holds a dominant relationship – her arms are lifted, while the other dancers’ arms are on their hips.


This last section of the piece opens up space for a lot of questions – how conscious are the dancers’ choices in qualities? What led to these specific qualities? What is the final relationship between dancers at the end?

The only thing we see is the growth in complexity in relationships grows in complexity throughout the piece. This compliments the piece’s overall growth in intensity.

And that’s it, we’ve gone through the whole piece and analyzed it through a CDA lense uses choreology as  a framework. There will be one more quick installment in this series (eventually) which will just look at other videos of the same piece. Mostly just for fun. Because they are ridiculous. Promise.

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