I have had similar conversations in private lessons I was teaching with different students thru the years....Thank you Michael Kiehm for summerizing it so nicely.
"Musicality" by Michael Kiehm (Starlight Dance-San Diego, California)
Everyone wants to considered "musically gifted", but very few can claim ownership of this title.
It's as though every move they make seems choreographed to the song, even if they've never heard the song before!
Well, for those gifted in this concept, you may want to read this as "light reading" and please, please, just appreciate your skill. (also, feel free to add any ideas you may have to help others get better)
For the rest of you, try these tricks to make you more aware of the music and to take your dancing to the next level;
First of all, you need to identify the feel or genre of the music......blues, pop, funk, contemporary, lyrical, disco etc.
Then, identify what stands out to you most in the music......the guitar, the piano, the vocal...whatever you can clearly hear with consistency throughout the song.
You may want to separate all the different instruments (write each one down. you will be surprised at how many you hear. remember, vocals are considered instruments as well)
Now listen to the rhythm of one of those sounds. Find one with a repetitive rhythm, and match the rhythm with your feet while standing in place.
You can also divide the movements between your feet and your body (like adding a body wave or using a head turn)
Now dance a simple pattern, like a sugar push, and change the rhythm of you basic footwork to match the rhythm of your sound. It may not be a simple 1,2, 3&4, 5&6, It may be something like &1, &2, 3 & a 4, &5, &6. (Remember to try to cue the partner in on your rhythm change through your connection). The "&" counts can be taps, kicks, hesitations, and even quick steps.
Going back to the genre detail....if the music is slow & bluesy, keep smooth and release your hips a bit to give it a swinging from step to step feel. If the music is funky, add body pulses on the down beats (sometimes even on the up beats) You can still dance smooth through the feet, but you should show the pulse somewhere in your body or through the pattern you are leading. I think you get the idea!
Try using subtle "Hip Hop" movements for the funky music and use classic or even jazz like movements for the smoother style....I like to use lyrical movements for the slow groove songs (my absolute favorite!)
The Stretch concept is great for this. Some argue "it takes out too many triples, but I believe you can show the triple rhythm with more than your feet sometimes...Hence, body pulsing and tight and loose hand connections for light and shade movements.