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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Music: Piano Accompaniment


homeschooltreasurs

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homeschooltreasurs

Hi,

 

One of my daughters has retired from her ballet performance company to spend more time on her music. Her sister is still dancing with the group and of course she misses her friends. She was delighted to find that she may have an opportunity to provide piano music for some of the classes, which would allow her to stay involved in a small way . . . So we are wondering if anyone has suggestions for music that she can work on in order to build a good repertoire for this type of playing.

 

Thanks :shhh:

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I would think that playing music from ballets would help. One has to be pretty good at improvising to play for a ballet class. Is there a nearby school or company that uses pianists? They would probably give her the best advice.

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homeschooltreasurs

Yes, you do have to be pretty good at improv, but her piano teacher thinks it would be good experience and the artistic director is willing to work with her as she learns. Of course, I think she can handle this, but I am her proud mama so my opinion doesn't carry to much weight outside the family circle. :)

 

I was just hoping to get a few pointers. For example, she has a couple of Chopin Nocturns memorized but is that level of difficulty for the music overkill or expected? Could she get away with easy versions of classic pieces? I suppose it is overly optimistic to hope that there is a book hiding somewhere called Sheet Music for the Beginning Ballet Accompanist . . .

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Chopin nocturnes would work well and also watered-down classical pieces. The only difficulty with using Chopin is that in a ballet class the pianist cannot use rubato; or rather s/he can only use it as the combination requires.

 

Also, she will have to know what goes into an introduction, how many measures &c. A simple thing to do for an introduction is to play the last measure or so of the piece (one measure if 4/4 time, 4 measures if 3/4 time, &c).

 

It is good that she is a dancer, as ballet teachers usually do not know music theory and terminology, so she will have to "translate." I wish I could count the number of times I've seen a teacher ask for a 6/8 and proceed to demonstrate a combination in 3/4 time!

 

If she can acquire a ballet class CD to listen to it may give her an idea of the type of music needed or better yet a piano version of music from ballets such as Giselle, La Bayadère, &c. Unfortunately I don't know of any ballet class sheet music, but it may exist somewhere.

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Has she ever played for class? Full Nocturnes won't work for class. I'll send you some detailed info. Can she sit in with an accompanist?

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The RAD has sheet music books, and not just their set syllabi music. They have just issued a book called A Dance Class Anthology and they also have other sheet music books. However, the set music for their vocational exams might also be useful. Their website is www.rad.org.uk. Search for their shop and you will find the sheet music under "books". If I remember rightly, they also have a guide about accompanying classes for pianists and teachers.

 

The best thing, however, would be for your daughter to sit with other pianists when they are accompanying class. She has a great advantage being a dancer herself, I'm sure she'll pick it up quickly. Remind her that she doesn't have to stick to the classics - we had a wonderful pianist for professional classes, who used to throw in "Around the World in Eighty Days" for ronde de jambe a terre at the barre! Anyway, good luck to her - :hyper:

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homeschooltreasurs

Thanks for the suggestions - they will give her a good start. I am not aware of accompanists that play regularly in our area but we could make a day trip to a nearby big city. We actaully managed to find an in print book available through the library! Now we are off to the RAD site. Excuse my ignorance but does it work out okay to order overseas?

 

 

 

I found a US site for RAD with a handy order form in US dollars - so that looks easy enough, thanks!

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Check Amazon.com for a book titled Ballet Barre and Center Combinations Volume 2 Music by Linda A. Crist and Suzanne Knosp (Paperback - Aug 1, 2000)

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  • 3 weeks later...
homeschooltreasurs

Thanks!

 

She did the first class yesterday and things went very well. She thought she would only do part of the class and ended up playing until the end. She used a combination of classical and Disney (Lion King) with improv at the end!

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:D That's wonderful!!!!! The ballet world certainly needs good ballet-class pianists...it's an art unto itself.
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I started playing for ballet classes while I was still a ballet student (25+ years ago! :blushing: ). Your daughter's knowledge of ballet will serve her well. The best advice I can give her is to make sure all of her music is "square" -- meaning it squares off every 8 measures because most ballet class combinations are also squared off every 8, 16, or 32 measures. For some classical music, that requires improvisation to make the music fit the combination. Things like nocturnes, piano sonatas, etc. are not necessarily square. It is a good idea to actually mark off the music (by numbering the measures) ahead of time so that you know where adjustments are needed.

 

Other useful resources (for me, anyway) have been 100 Progressive Studies (Op. 139) and 110 Easy and Progressive Studies (Op. 453) by Carl Czerny. While they are not technically difficult, everything is "square" and there are a variety of meters (2/4, 4/4, 6/8, etc.) that are useful for class. I have found these collections to provide a good template for further improvisation. They are especially good for barre.

 

Older Broadway (Rogers & Hammerstein, etc.) can also be useful, again, because much of the music is square or easily modified. Be careful of the newer stuff like Andrew Lloyd Webber. Although it is great music and fun to play, there are lots of changes in meter and it usually won't work without pre-planned modification to fit it into the even 16/32 measure requirement for class.

 

Opera music can also be adapted for class use. And you can never have too many waltzes! Good luck!! Playing for class is lots of fun. I find it to be a great way to spy on my kids, too! :)

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  • 3 years later...

Great thread. I have ordered "Ballet Barre and Center Combinations Vol. 2" by Linda Crist that was suggested here. The pages I saw on Amazon looked good.

 

Are there any other suggestions of specific books of piano accompaniment for ballet class? Maybe transcriptions of orchestral scores of ballets?

 

I know this is an old thread...perhaps there are new books or ideas.

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I really do recommend the RAD book I suggested in an earlier thread. A Dance Class Anthology. I bought it for our less experienced pianists and it has a lot of lovely stuff in it - opera, ballet, all types of music - even my super-duper outstandingly experienced pianist found some pieces in it that she hadn't used before! It is divided up into a choice of pieces for different exercises in the normal order in which they would be used in a class. It is based on their CD series Studio, which is also excellent.

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