Groove Lecture notes

Elements of a Technical Kinetic Groove

Groove, often an elusive concept in dance, can be deconstructed and mechanically reproduced by focusing on specific, objective elements. By removing subjective components such as “feeling,” we can analyze and recreate the technical aspects that contribute to what is commonly perceived as groove. These elements include:

  1. Down: This involves the bending of the knees in a “bounce,” shifting the body’s altitude. This vertical movement is a fundamental component, providing a rhythmic foundation and visual anchor in many dance styles.
  2. Reference: This is a body part that remains relatively still while the rest of the body moves, highlighting the range of motion. For example, in hip hop, the shoulders may maintain the same altitude as the body lowers. In various Caribbean dances, the chest or buttocks might stay level as the body drops, creating a movement known as “jacking.” This concept is also present in House Dance, albeit with a stiffer execution.
  3. Inn/Contraction: There is typically a contraction or “pulling in” motion, such as the chest drawing inward. This element accentuates the movement visually and introduces a rhythmic elongation that contrasts with the bounce and reference, engaging the viewer’s attention through its slower pace.
  4. Curve: Movements often follow curved trajectories, creating a kinetic “journey” that adds to the complexity and fluidity of the dance. This curvilinear motion enhances the visual appeal and dynamic quality of the groove.

By analyzing these four elements—down, reference, inn/contraction, and curve—we can reconstruct and understand most Africanist dance grooves at the level of body mechanics. The interplay of these elements, including their length, strength, quality, direction, accent, and layering, forms the foundation of a kinetic groove.

The Africana Aesthetic: Reciprocity in Performance

In the Africana aesthetic, the principle “to give is to have” underpins a performative philosophy that challenges conventional norms. Groove, as an exemplar, is not an isolated possession but a shared experience that deeply engages both performer and audience. This exploration aims to elucidate the intricate dance between performer and observer, examining how groove, rhythm, and emotion act as conduits for a reciprocal exchange that transcends the “visceral wall.”

The Reciprocity of Groove

In the Africana aesthetic, groove is not confined to the performer but extends into the collective sensory experience. When we assert that someone “has groove,” we acknowledge a felt experience, an intimate connection where the observer’s body becomes an extension of the performer’s movements. The performer induces a sensation of groove in the audience’s own bodies, transforming visual appreciation into a visceral encounter that challenges traditional boundaries of spectatorship.

Rhythmic Bestowal

Departing from conventional notions of possession, rhythm in the Africana aesthetic is a shared currency, not something to be held but to be given. The performer acts as a conduit, bestowing beats that resonate within the audience’s perceptual realm. This dynamic interplay repositions rhythm as a reciprocal offering rather than a solitary possession, fostering a communal rhythmic experience.

Emotional Resonance

Emotion in performance is not a private domain but a shared landscape where the audience co-creates the emotional narrative. The performer’s emotions are felt and mirrored by the audience, engaging in a symbiotic relationship where emotional resonance transcends traditional concepts of emotional possession. The audience becomes an active participant, feeling the emotional cadence within their own bodies.


The Africana aesthetic, with its emphasis on reciprocity, redefines performance as a shared journey rather than a unilateral display. Groove, rhythm, and emotion are not possessions but gifts freely given and received. This perspective challenges conventional notions of performance, highlighting the interconnectedness of performer and audience and the shared nature of artistic expression. By understanding and applying these principles, we can deepen our appreciation of the technical and philosophical dimensions of groove in Africana dance and performance.