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 Post subject: Playing the piano for a ballet class
PostPosted: Sat Apr 15, 2006 8:29 am 
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Joined: Tue Feb 06, 2001 12:01 am
Posts: 179
Location: Paris, France(but i'm from Cyprus)
Hello everybody!

I haven't posted here in a very long time.

I did ballet for 12 years, and haven't been doing it for a year and a half for several reasons(injured and moving to a different country, too expensive in Paris etc) and I have been playing the piano for 13 years. Last year I played the piano for all the RAD examinations at my ballet school in Cyprus and I really enjoyed it. It is difficult and tiring, but I loved it because it combines two of my passions, ballet and music. I believe that you need to have studied ballet to be able to play music for it, cause that's the only way you can ''feel'' the dancers.

So, despite the fact that I'm now studying something else(linguistics, I love it too), I'd love to work as a pianist for ballet someday. I'm just wondering, how can someone become a ballet pianist? What do you have to do? Is there a course? Any recommended books? I only have the books of the RAD syllabus and that's not enough, I need some for free work.

Any advice? Any help would be appreciated. Thank you!!

Annie


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 15, 2006 9:09 am 
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Joined: Sun Oct 24, 1999 11:01 pm
Posts: 19975
Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Hi Annie - great to see you back here. Hope time allows you to post regularly about your dance related activities/enquiries/thoughts etc.

I was interested in your thoughts on this topic and I'm sure that having experience as a dancer is a good route, but my impression from watching the Royal Ballet pianists, in action and talking about working with dancers, is that there other routes as well.

Regarding how to go forward, I wonder about contacting Jonathan Still, an excellent pianist and accompanist who has played on-stage with ENB to much acclaim and is a lecturer in music studies at the RAD. Here is his personal website, which has lots of different musings:

http://www.jsmusic.org.uk

I can't see contact details there, so this link at the RAD may be better:

music@rad.org.uk
specifying in the title that it is for Jonathan Still


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 15, 2006 3:05 pm 
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Joined: Wed Mar 20, 2002 12:01 am
Posts: 3000
Location: San Francisco
Annie, although I disagree that you have to have studied ballet to be able to play music for it (there are too many good ballet accompanists who have never done a plie for that to be true), your background will certainly give you an advantage when you start. This interview with Ros Holgate, Head of Music at the Northern Ballet School doesn't provide any information about how to find work in this field (she answered an ad), but it sheds light on what it's like to be a ballet accompanist.

Quote:
I may be standing on a soap box, but I feel strongly that the profession I am in is undervalued generally. Many see a ballet pianist as little more than someone who plays for small children in a draughty church hall; there is so much more to it than that. I have heard and seen some excellent pianists flounder when confronted with a 'free' ballet class, since no music is provided and the pianist must follow the dance instructor's commmands: it is a very difficult task.


You might try A Handbook for the Ballet Accompanist, by Gerald R. Lishka. Here's a review on amazon.com. You could also look for it at alibris.com or other book sources.

Online there's a pdf of The Ballet Accompanist's Handbook by Laurence Galian.

You might also be interested in Ballet Music for the Dance Accompanist, by Adam Cole (scroll down).


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 Post subject: listserv dance musicians
PostPosted: Mon Apr 17, 2006 5:34 am 
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Joined: Tue May 31, 2005 2:34 pm
Posts: 9
Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
http://www.dancemusician.org/index-home.html

This is a group of international dance musicians who have an organisation specially for dance musicians. You can sent a message to the administrative email address and join the mailing list. I think you have to put something like: 'I want to join this group' as subject. You will receive messages from people from Europe, Canada & the US mostly. They also organise meetings.
Good luck with your plans and study!

DANCEMUSICIAN@LISTSERV.ARIZONA.EDU
A listserv to discuss issues related to music and dance

Administrative address:

DANCEMUSICIAN-request@LISTSERV.ARIZONA.EDU

Group Email Address:

Listserv.arizona.edu

greetings Jetty


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 24, 2006 3:41 pm 
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Joined: Wed Apr 12, 2000 11:01 pm
Posts: 654
Location: Seattle, WA. USA
We would be remiss if we did not mention the women whom I consider to have been the goddess of all ballet accompanists, Harriet Cavalli. She has a book out on playing for the ballet and is available from either the University's web site or hers:

http://www.upf.com/book.asp?id=CAVALS01

http://danceandmusic.net/index.html

Her CDs are quite good too and will give you a good flavor of HOW she played -- what I call a "full-orchestral sound." The energy of how she played was always lively and fully supportive of the students and dancers.

One of my personal favorites is the dotted 6/8 march ("El Capitan"/Sousa) she has on the second CD listed -- "Music for Ballet Class 2." Ditto with many of the tracks on her Perry Brunson tribute.

As a long-time (and sometimes long-suffering) ballet teacher, can I offer my short (I promise!) advice. Stuff that seems obvious but... :shock:

In priority order:

1) correct meter
2) feeling that matches exercise (sometimes, for me, this is the most important criteria!)
3) length of music and exercise come out the same
4) good intro: two or four bars with a very brief pause (about a short breath) between intro and start of tune

Less obvious:

1) lots of octaves in the left hand/bass clef
2) "lift-pause"

Personal Preferences:

1) pliés are not a weak exercise, even though the dances are relatively still -- please no tinkle-box music or stuff that's "atmospheric" give us some inspiration: lively, energetic.

2) music for the stretch part of rond de jambe par terre should speed up slightly into a bouncy 3/4 -- not slow down or be "heavy." This comes after the fourth phrase of 8 (usually).

3) play arpeggios that go UP at the end of exercises and "amens" after balances to get us down.

4) throw in a occasional show tune

While it's true that there are fabulous accompanists out there who have not ever stepped into a ballet class, it DOES help! If anything, to feel how the movement should go. A friend that went to my high school and who later played for SFB School, reported to me that when she played for ballet classes at the UW, they had her "run around the studio" when she was beginning. :shock:

_________________
Dean Speer
ballet@u.washington.edu


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PostPosted: Sat May 13, 2006 3:44 am 
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Joined: Tue Feb 06, 2001 12:01 am
Posts: 179
Location: Paris, France(but i'm from Cyprus)
Thank you for your replies everyone! I have written to Jonathan Still and he replied, he was very helpful, and he recommended a book that I have received, from the rad publications. It's pretty good! I will try the other group as well.

Djb, you're right ,I guess I didn't put it right when I said that you have to have danced to be able to play. What I meant was that you have to have some knowledge of what ballet is and how a class goes on. It's just that I have heard people who have actually studied the piano at the university etc, that didn't know how to accompany dancers...sure they had the technique etc, but you need more than that, you have to give the feel of the movement.

I'm really looking forward to finding more music etc during the summer when I will have lots of time! It would be a huge task to '' make '' my own class music.


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PostPosted: Tue May 23, 2006 11:14 am 
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Joined: Tue Dec 04, 2001 12:01 am
Posts: 1876
Location: New England
It sounds like you're probably qualified to begin working as a ballet pianist. You should update your resume (inluding recent RAD pianist experience and your long interest and participation in dance) and inquire at local ballet schools that might be looking to hire another pianist. The head pianist at the place that hires you should be able to mentor you further as to their needs, provide music, etc.


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 Post subject: Re: Playing the piano for a ballet class
PostPosted: Sun Oct 21, 2012 12:24 am 
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Joined: Sun Oct 21, 2012 12:02 am
Posts: 1
There are indeed many routes. I stumbled upon ballet accompaniment very unintentionally as a substitute for my Jazz piano teacher who had played classes for several years as a way to make a few bucks. He was a brilliant Jazz pianist/arranger as well as having deep classical roots. He showed me how to apply simple musical forms (like Jazz standards) to ballet. It was indeed challenging, having no clue about the bizarre language and movement. Fortunately the director enjoyed the American songbook and I got by trying to fit Good Morning Heartache into a Tendu for the 9 year olds at 10 in the morning! 6 years later I had taken several classes, danced a character role in one of the Nutracker's, and composed two original ballet scores! Having done a plie does make you a better ballet pianist. I've since moved to a different town and play for the local college. The best way to learn how to do it is to do it! Go to any local schools or companies in your area and simply offer your services. Try to make any music work that you possibly can. There are several modern composers (Irving Berlin, for example) whose tunes have the sense of form and motion that work brilliantly for combinations. Just dive in and do it and it will grow. Thanks folks, this is the first time I ever bothered to search for other accompanists via the internet and this is what I found!


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 Post subject: Re: Playing the piano for a ballet class
PostPosted: Tue Oct 23, 2012 1:55 pm 
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Joined: Fri Oct 25, 2002 11:01 pm
Posts: 678
Location: Petaluma, California
Hello, FreeAsana, and welcome to Critical Dance! I loved reading your post... Thank you so much for your insight and your story. :) Great advice, too!


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