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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Music: Piano Accompaniment


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Hamorah, thank you so much! I did try Amazon for this book, but since they said it was currently unavailable, I thought maybe it was out of print. However, since you have suggested it again, it must really be good and I will definitely pursue it. I notice that the RAD website you gave has it, so maybe I could order from there. The description you gave is very helpful...sounds like just what I am looking for. Thanks again!

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  • 1 year later...

Just found this thread and glad to find that there are ballet students who are also playing piano for the class. I start playing piano for RAD class two months ago. The music is devised in the syllabus so I didn't have to improvise. My background in ballet - as I'm currently also taking class, is quite useful especially in communicating with the teacher. However playing for the class is not as easy as it looks like. I had to keep a steady tempo which initially i am not too good at. In summary, it has been a very interesting and enriching learning process and I hope to continue this endeavour - even though I am only doing it as a hobby for a small number of hour per week. I hope in a few months or next year I would be able to start playing piano for free class.


I hope to revive this thread, hoping to learn from other ballet pianists on how to develop oneself into a good ballet pianist / accompanist.

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I would never presume to tell a pianist how to play their music, because I consider you artists!!!


What I can say is what helps me in the levels I teach, and hopefully others can do the same.


With tiny little ones (around 7 & 8), it helps to have some runs at the ready for the times you hear the teacher saying things like, "Let's see how fast we can get into a circle", and the pianists plays a lovely, speedy run while the children get themselves into their configuration. Or if a teacher has to say something like, "I can see we are all quite interested in our shoes today. Shall we all have a seat and fix our shoes for once and for all so we can get back to dancing?" and the pianists plays, "Dum, dum, duuuummmmmmm" in an ominous tone but with a funny smile on her face.


Also, having all of the typical genres ready to go is helpful: Waltzes, Tangos, Marches, Mazurkas, Tarantellas, etc.


For the mid-levels, what really helps me is when the pianists are listening to how I give the combinations- whether my voice and movement are soft or stonger, and whether I am giving a 3/4 or 4/4, and my tempos. Provided they play steady tempos, like a little metronome was sitting there keeping time, I am usually pretty happy!!!

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I have to agree with Clara 76 that having a number of suitable pieces for dance in various tempi ready is very important. Sometimes a pianist will play something that doesn't quite fit the enchainement and then I'll ask her/him to try something else, so it's very useful to have a range of waltzes, polkas, adagios etc in their head, ready to pull out when needed. What really bothers me is a pianist who brings masses of sheet music along and every time I set a step ruffles through them searching for something suitable - it wastes so much class time. I think it also helps if an accompanist can improvise, but I know that not all pianists can do that.

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It's really interesting to hear the perspective of the teacher regarding the pianist. Such skill of playing for dance doesn't seem to be well codified and most pianist should've learned through a dialogue process with the teachers.


As i have not yet played for free class (without pre-determined set of music) I can't comment on that at the moment.


The ballet school I'm at are relying heavily on CD and Ipod and do not have resident pianist. There are part-time freelance pianist hired only for exam season since RAD requires exam to be conducted with pianist. I started playing a few months back for only one class.


RAD class have a specific set of music so I don't have to spend time looking or preparing the set of music for the class. I am trying my best to play according to the tempo in the recorded music, but often times the perceived tempo that I play is not exactly the same as the recording. So what I do is to listen very carefully to the teacher when she is giving a break down of the movements and follow the tempo given by the teacher as much as possible. And I need to follow the teacher when she is teaching part by part of a long dance, so that I know which part of the music to play in a specific tempo when repeating the part of the dance. So it's not like I can relax while the teacher is not requiring a pianist.. I need to also pay attention to the teacher to ensure the class is running smoothly. What a challenge and a learning experience!


I would imagine for free class, at the beginning I would talk to the teacher and prepare the set of music to play. Hamorah rightly points out that scrolling down music sheet in class must have been very disruptive. I will keep that in mind to avoid it to happen. A combination of sight reading skill, a memorized set of music / genre, and improvisational skill should help in running the class smoothly.

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