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Ballet Talk for Dancers

live accompanist


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I tried to do a search on this subject and couldn't find anything so I hope this topic hasn't been already thrashed and beaten with 'nuff said. Anyway, are there any studios anymore that have a live piano accompanist? Do only schools affiliated with a company offer a pianist for dance class? I have never taken any ballet classes where there wasn't an actual pianist in the studio taking direction from the instructor and proviiding the music for the class until I returned to ballet after an absence. Is it a cost issue? I find it extremely annoying to have to wait while the instructor changes the CD or queues the music. My mucles get cold!!!! How can you have a ballet class without a pianist? Are there other people out there who take class to a CD? I've checked around here an nearly every studio uses taped music.

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Hi. I think all teachers would LOVE to have a pianist for classes but the main issue is cost. We have a pianist for exams (which we have each term) and for at least one practice beforehand but that's all the syllabus music anyway. We rarely but occasionally do get a pianist in for free classes. A good painist in my area costs £20-£25 per hour and they get paid through any breaks too so it is very costly - I don't earn anywhere near that much myself!


However, a good teacher should have music prepared in advance on just one or perhaps two CDs and I find a remote control very helpful and time-saving!

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Most definitely it is a cost issue. First you need a piano and then the pianist. Live piano accompaniment is expensive. There are still some ballet studios in my area (L.A./Orange County) in California that do provide live accompaniment. Some do not have live pianists for all classes though.

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Guest pink tights

I grew up in schools with a live accompanist and I am, indeed, fortunate to have live accompanist at my current school. It is wonderful to have such beautiful music, but even more important--to have someone who can properly accompany class. I consider it an art or a gift. Most don't study for years, just to accompany class. And yes, it does add to the cost. It's difficult, especially in smaller cities. Pre-recordered CD's are not great, but certainly, much better than LP's...

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I haven't had a regularly accompanied class for quite some years now. When we get close to exams, we have a few classes with an accompanist to get used to the different sound of the piano compared to the cd (it can be very disorienting!) My dance teacher has been on the hunt for a good accompanist to have at least somewhat regularly, but it is very difficult to find the right person.. being able to play the piano does not mean you can have the ability to play for a dance class (I used to play piano, there is no way I could tolerate all the interruptions, restarts and the tempo tweaking without panicking/going nuts!), and if there's a ballet syllabus, also involves learning loads of music. Having live music playing makes so much of a difference, I feel that I actually have to listen and respond to the music (instead of having the CD's tempo and particularities stuck in my head). We had a Nut piece with a live symphony-- what a wonderful experience.. every time, the music and thus the dancing feels different and fresh.

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My teacher uses CD's but she has a "music lady" who works the CD player. She changes the CD's and ques the music quite effeciently although there are moments where the wait seems too long and the dancers get figedty (sp?). I've never had a pianist accompany class but I did watch a working rehearsal with a pianist and felt that would be so much better.

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I've been lucky to only have classes with live accompanists. And I certainly appreciate them. There's always something to be learned from musicians... especially when I find myself trying to sort out frappés to Gershwin's "Fascinating Rhythm"!

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I've taken classes with an accompanist in Portland with OBT. I grew up with an accompanist and find working with live music adds a very tangible other dimension to class.

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I have live music for most of the classes I take - I really appreciate that the accompanist can adjust the tempo, e.g. going slower for men jumps

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I think CDs have made it easier for people to ditch the pianist, and, as people have been saying, this is a shame in many ways. There was always a pianist at the classes I went to as a child. However, if my class fees had to cover a pianist as well, I don't think I could afford to go to so many. My teacher is pretty good at only using a couple of CDs in a class and working it all efficiently - and I do remember a fair bit of standing around while the teacher communicated with the pianist and experimented with tempi etc when I was a child. Still, I'd love to have a pianist again some time! There is a heightened sense of the synthesis between music and movement when that is reflected by the presence of two performers.


One of my friends, a very talented musician, played for a local ballet school to earn extra money during his student years, right through to the end of his PhD.

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We had accompanists for our classes when I was a kid, and I was rather spoiled by that luxury. I miss it very much. The school I work at hasn't got a piano and definitely can't afford an accompanist or piano tunings at the moment, so even were a piano to be donated, we still couldn't have live music. It's unfortunate. I absolutely hate fussing with our sound system. When I plan my classes, I plan them to tracks, make a list and stick to it. (Except when I need to modify my lesson last-minute for whatever reason!) Our sound system is on the fritz right now and is definitely no fun. It doesn't usually recognize I've put a CD in, it skips if I so much as look at it funny, and it certainly won't play multiple disks at a time, though it's supposed to.

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My school uses accompanists, though sometimes a teacher has to resort to using a CD when the accompanist isn’t there. I do think being a good accompanist is difficult and not particularly rewarding from the musician’s point of view. One accompanist mixed the piano with drumming. Very interesting to do a frappe combination to drum music. I much enjoyed that.


In one modern class I take the accompanist is a professional musician who only does it because his sister is the teacher. He improvises everything. Last year the room in which we take class had an electric piano with a lot of auxiliary sounds the player could create. He was a master at using all of these sounds. The music in that class is magical I must say.


A few years ago, the teacher’s son joined his uncle in accompanying the class. He used drum sticks on a cardboard box while his uncle played a traditional piano. All improvised. Wonderful.

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I suspect it can be rather unrewarding work being an accompanist unless one really enjoys watching dancers at work, or really enjoys children learning things. I wanted to see what piece of music was being played for us once, as a child, and peeked over my accompanist's shoulder. Imagine my surprise to find her reading a cookbook instead of sheet music! At any rate, on top of the ability to play what is on a page, one must be able to watch or listen to a combination being given and find music that either fits it or can be tailored to it, and play it that way. Too often, teachers and rehearsal directors demand things of accompanists, instead of requesting things, and they pay little regard to whether or not their demands are reasonable, or whether they might pose a risk to the accompanist. (Think repetitive stress injury due to playing something too demanding too quickly or in too cold a room without a chance to warm up first.)


Where I currently take classes, we have accompanists for half of our technique classes and recorded music for the other half. Thankfully, our teachers really appreciate our accompanists, respect them as professionals, and there is collaboration that goes on between them. Some of us dance quite differently to the live music. That's always interesting to see. Our energy can influence our accompanists and vice versa.


Most of the time I love having accompanists. They only time it drives me nuts is when we have one who's on a kick playing music totally inappropriate to classical ballet, over and over again. We have one who likes to play that old ditty to which someone put these words, which I learned in childhood, "Comet, it makes your teeth turn green, Comet, it tastes like gasoline," etc., I cringe every time I hear it. He has some other similar selections. The one about the meatball that rolled of the table and onto the floor. Musically they work, but they're played so often I feel that the quality of my dance must be suffering. We're attempting classical dance. I, personally, would like at least 50% of our music to reflect that.

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Most of my classes have CDs, but I've found that what really matters is the teacher's management of the music and the quality of the accompanist. Some accompanists are really magical--have a vast repertoire, a great feel for what would be right, etc. Some pianists have a limited repertoire, and some pianists and teachers do not communicate well with one another.


On the flip side, some teachers are quite magical with the CDs--always have the music ready, and always choose something that fits well. Others are less organized.

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