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Dancesounds - 'Music for Dance' by Paul A. Jackson

Volume 8: Creative Workshop

reviewed by Ana Abad-Carles

April 2006

The requirements for classes and exams of GCSEs, A/AS Levels are always a problem for teachers and students when it comes to finding the right music to accompany exercises and tasks. Produced by Dancesounds, this new CD “Volume 8: Creative Workshop”, with music devised by Paul A. Jackson is intended to help as a useful tool.

The CD has been divided into different sections that address various classroom needs. The first section includes music for warming up exercises. There are three tracks that increase in tempo, allowing for the exercises to build up in speed. Then, there are two more music sequences for travelling exercises. Next, two tracks for improvisation lead to five musical numbers for choreographic tasks. There is an extra number for cooling down and edited choreography music for examination requirements.

Anyone who has had to prepare a piece of choreography for any of the above-mentioned examinations knows how hard it is to find the right music to accompany the movement. In fact, it is not so much the difficulty of finding the right music, as much as having to comply with the exact timing that is required for the exam. The limit of 2.30 to 3 minutes makes it difficult to find suitable music with a proper beginning, development and end. My own memories of people presenting their choreography exercises in this GCSE and A- level context is one of songs and musical pieces cut off in the middle, or poorly edited to suit the timing of the exam. However, and having said this, it is important to encourage students to undertake this beneficial exercise. In a way, by having to find the right piece of music for choreographies, the student will have to get involved in a whole artistic process that will not vary greatly as his or her career progresses. A choreography exam should be not only a way of setting steps to a piece of music, but of making artistic choices, and the sooner a student learns about this, the better.

This CD helps solving some musical problems that teachers may encounter and, as such, it is useful and well devised. However, it has its own shortcomings. After listening to the tracks, I sensed a sameness in the musical compositions that does not encourage much choreographic diversity. As most of the tracks are in 4/4 timing, not much rhythmic experimentation is allowed, either.

As a tool, the CD is a welcome addition and teachers will be grateful for it. Its use for a class from beginning to end could be problematic, though. My own experience as a teacher gives me the feeling that students like to listen to music that they can expect to encounter in their lives, either in concert halls, theatres, cinemas or the radio. Properly used, the CD can provide teachers with a bank of ideas that they can use to encourage their students in movement exploration and creative workshops that could serve as points of departure for the development of their own choreographic tasks.

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