CriticalDance Forum

Dance students and training in music.
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Author:  Dean Speer [ Fri Dec 28, 2007 5:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Dance students and training in music.

We are expected to dance musically. There is also an unwritten expectation that dancers have familiarity with music literature. A related question -- if you don't read music, are you disadvantaged as a teacher or choreographer?

So here's this week's poll:

Author:  LMCtech [ Fri Dec 28, 2007 6:15 pm ]
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Basic understanding of musical structure is absolutely essential. Especially when new works are being created on you.

Author:  Gina Ness [ Sat Dec 29, 2007 3:34 pm ]
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I voted somewhat important. I have to admit, I studied some piano when I was very young, but I never really studied music seriously. I honestly don't feel that my piano lessons helped me one way or another as a dancer. I have a natural sense of musicality. This is difficult to describe...I was always considered by my directors to be very musical. My understanding is (and please correct me if I am wrong!) that Sir Frederick Ashton could not read a score. This certainly didn't hold him back from being one of the most brilliant choreographers of the last century. Lew Christensen (and, I believe, Balanchine) could conduct an orchestra in addition to being able to read a score!

Author:  ksneds [ Fri Jan 25, 2008 7:58 am ]
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Balanchine was very talented musically - I don't know about conducting, but he actually did some of the piano 'orchestrations' for his ballets.

I would agree that it is vital that young dancers know how to read music and have music training. They certainly don't need to be experts, but for instance, they should be able to count to the music - dancers must sometimes clap along with the music or play castanets (Napoli, Nutcracker etc.). And it really helps when doing folk dancers or specific styles in full-length ballets to have some understanding of the appropriate rhythm and style. It helps to know about 3/4 time when you are learning to waltz or to know what the tempo for a mazurka is....

Additionally, especially at the level when they are doing solos or pas de deuxs, a dancer needs to be competent enough music wise to be able to express cogently to the conductor or pianist any issues with the tempo.

Certainly, not every dancer is going to be hugely interested in learning music or want to play an instrument. But I don't think it's a coincidence that very musical dancers are also musically talented - the Royal Danish Ballet and the New York City Ballet, both companies with a musical history, have many dancers who play instruments at high levels.


Author:  salzberg [ Fri Jan 25, 2008 9:25 am ]
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They should also -- those who plan to choreograph, at least -- learn the fundamentals of lighting, costume, and set design.

Author:  David [ Mon Feb 11, 2008 2:22 am ]
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The answer is somewhat important. When choreographing I often find that a counting dancer is not a dancing dancer. That is to say if they are so hooked up on counting they tend to focus on the connection between steps and counts to the detriment of everything else such as emotion, presentation and yes, performance.

If they can count and do everything else, fabulous, but very few can. When choreographing, I always stress to dancers that they should listen to the music, hear it and understand it. They should know when the cues are coming and hear them without actually counting. Of course there are always exceptions, but that is my general rule.

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