I went to The Rocky Mountain Song School last week. I sat in Darrell Scott’s class for four days as he listened to, and talked about song. Mary Gauthier taught in the neighboring tent. She was on fire about writing singable choruses. The word “chorus” got me thinking because it has Greek roots, and I’ve been learning Greek.
How does “chorus” translate into Greek? I put the words “song” and “chorus” together into the Google Beast’s translator. Out the other end came: Χορωδία τραγουδιού. (Hor-oh-THEE-ah Tra-goo-thee-OO).
In certain plays, which include Oedipus Rex and Antigone, a χορωδία, (a chorus), is a group of people who comment on the action. Imagine ten or twelve Statler and Waldorfs from the Muppets talking together on stage. Or, if the NFL is your thing, try a gaggle of John Maddens and Booger McFarlands* calling the action.
The chorus as a peanut gallery is well noted, but what was news to me–and I maybe should have known–is that χορωδία is rooted in the word χορός (hor-OS), which means dance. Choreography is dance-writing. The chorus might also be the dance-y bit, the part of the song where people could come together and dance. I have some resistant to the idea of a danceable songs. It makes me think of people sweating in a club to Kesha. It’s not my scene. (That’s also, a little judgy on my part).
But there are lots of ways to come together and dance. You could ballroom dance, Big Apple, Bardo Chham and Belly. You could Cakewalk, Cat Daddy and Capoeira. You could Cha-cha, Charleston and do the Chicken. Circle, Square, Country or Western–what you need, dance has got it. You might even tango, two step, or tarantella while you watch yourself Gavotte.
Can you dance the fandango?
Trust me, you can!
Whether you come old flat top or groove it up slowly, the point of a chorus is coming together. It’s to sing together. It’s to dance together.
*Yep, Booger McFarland is some poor, benighted soul’s actual name