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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Learn more about music


Sabastianni

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I don't play any instruments and know very little about music. I like to learn more about it to improve my dance. About the only thing I can do is recognize the number of beats in a measure but sometimes even that can be challenging for me.

 

Can anyone suggest some resources that might be helpful? I tried to do a search on music but there were too many entires returned.

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Hi Sabastianni,

 

I take musical-hearing and music theory courses at the university (not as part of my own studies, but just because I want to learn), and in the first classes we practised with recognising and reproducing intervals and rhythms. I think these are important skills because they are the building blocks of music, the words of the language so to say.

If you have access to a keyboard or piano, you can use that to play the intervals to yourself (in both directions) and practise in hearing the difference between an interval of 3 white keys and one of 4 white keys for example, and link them to songs you know. Soon you will recognise them from other music you listen to as well! (If you don't have access to any piano or keyboard, maybe you can buy a cheap-but-sufficient keyboard from Casio or something)

We learn rhythms by tapping a steady beat with our hand, and then using our voice to add a metrum. For example, just take a song you know, tap the beat with your hand and go pah-pah-pahdapah-da on the metrum of the melody (but disregard the actual tones of the melody).

 

If you really have no history with playing music at all, you can find basic info to help you with all this and to learn a little bit about music notation (trust me, like everything it's easier to learn if you can write things down for yourself ! :lol: ) on websites as these: http://library.thinkquest.org/15413/theory/theory.htm

There's a lot of information on music theory available on the web, but I think this should give you a nice place to start.

If you have questions, you can pm me.

 

Have fun!

 

Mimi

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I was not allowed to dance as a child, but I was allowed to learn about music. I have noticed that many dancers do not have a good connection with music, as strange as that sounds. I have wanted to teach other dancers about music for a while, so thanks for giving me a place to start!

 

My suggestion to you is to pick up a CD of classical music that features classic, well-known pieces. It could also be a CD of ballet music, but not a CD of ballet class music. So, for example, Swan Lake is amazing music that you could borrow from your local library. Listen to a selection from the CD. Focus on how you FEEL when you listen to the music. Do you like it or dislike it and why? Does the music tell a story? What does it make you think of? Can you identify the beat of the music (easier to do starting out with a faster piece of music)? Find some selections you like and play them each day. What thoughts does the music bring up? Just put your whole focus on the music. Even if you love it, don't dance to it until a few days have gone by and you already have some thoughts and feelings about it. Now, dance to it. I promise that if you have done all of the above you will have a connection with that music.

 

If you continue to work at it, you will get where you want to go! Here are a few more suggestions: Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov (music often used to accompany Arabian Nights tales, also a ballet), Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saens, The Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky, and Cinderella by Prokofiev.

 

Good luck and happy listening! :lol:

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Mimi and HighwayStar - Thank you both for the suggestions. At least I have somewhere to start now. I think a class about music for dancers would be an awesome idea. I've never heard of one but I wonder if our local university offers such. It has a large theater and dance department, as well as music so it might.

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My suggestion is to just listen to a lot of music. I might do something like either tapping the rhythm with my hand or walking on the beats while listening. And about the music, make it different kinds—classical, jazz, world, pop, whatever.

 

If you are interested in books, I remember reading a book titled something like Ear Training for the Body or something like that. It was an excellent book and had many practical exercises and suggestions.

 

But the very best thing of all, in my opinion, is just regular old ballet class. There you are putting together the movement with the music and with time you do it better and better.

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I used to play many different instruments (all kind of recorders and flutes) but now I only play the piano but I think it really helps me while dancing. Especially with the typical piano music we use in ballet. It is very different to dance to it when you can play it yourself on your instrument.

I don't like the idea of to much theory. For me it was more confusing than helpful and I also seem to be a anti-talent in music theory but it might be good for you :D

When you learn playing an instrument you have both, doing the music yourself and learning the theory paralell to it.

In my eyes, the best thing would be to learn to play an instrument.

 

To take the idea of HighwayStar: I can imagine that just dancing around (without choreographie) to any kind of music could help you and that you try to follow with your ears the sound of the different instruments (for example you listen to the violine, then you listen again the same piece but you concentrate on the flute etc)

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I don't like the idea of to much theory. For me it was more confusing than helpful

Lol, I guess this is highly personal, for me it was the opposite! :)

I played instruments for years and of course in the classes I would have to work from written music, but still I played primarily by ear (mainly because I'm the music-notation-equivalent of a dyslexic, I'm terrible! :blushing: ), and not until now that I'm learning more of the theory, I feel like I am actually getting some grip on what I'm doing! :D

 

But I agree that it would be very hard to learn about music without playing any instruments, I can not even imagine...

Sadly not everybody has the time and the money for weekly classes. Assuming they are internationally as expensive as they are here...? :s

So that's why I suggested to buy a simple keyboard, to familiarize oneself with the sound of different intervals and all that.

I wish I had done that a long time ago, I would have been slightly less hopeless in my sight-singing class! :D

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