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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Musicality


Guest Enterprisecdr

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Guest Enterprisecdr

I hope this is in the right spot...

 

Anyways, I've taken piano since I was 4 years old (I am 16 now, and starting lessons on how to play the harp!I was a pianist before a dancer, and I still take piano twice a week.) But I was wondering, how much of a help is musicality to dancers, the audience, and especially teachers when teaching a class or watching a performance? Is it easier to teach combinations? Easier to choreograph? Easier to see misktakes? etc...

 

I find that now I learn dances/combinations better and easier both when I hear the music and when I count the counts. I've also noticed that the allegro combinations come easier when I've heard the counts, not the music. Is this totally unusual?

 

Just wondering...

 

-Kat smile.giffrown.gif

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It's not at all unusual, Kat. You've just cited the reasons why many full-time academies REQUIRE music, whether as performance or theory, or both.

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I wish ALL serious ballet students had music training! And yes, Kat, it is absolutely and positively a major help (actually almost a necessity, I think) for teachers and choreographers! However, there are some people who have such a good natural sense of musicality that, even without training, they are able to dance, choreograph, and to teach very well too.

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Guest Colleen

I find it a difficult thing to teach combinations to younger students who cannot 'hear' the music and the counts within it. As someone who took piano from the age of 4 and continued until I finished my gr.8 Royal Conservatory of Music exam, that type of thing is second nature to me. But to others it is really like a foreign language and I find those students have a great deal more difficulty getting unusual or more difficult combinations than their counterparts who can mentally equate steps with the music or the counts.

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It is very hard, Colleen, and sometimes even impossible if the student cannot seem to learn to hear the music and has no natural musicality. I find most can learn, but there are also a few who don't. Sometimes though it can also be a matter of just teaching them to LISTEN. They get so intent and concentrated on the steps that they are not even hearing the music.

 

Do you work with a pianist or with CD's? If you use CD's try working with some orchestrated music to get their attention. With a pianist or CD's, try taking a few minutes of the class to just listen to different selections of music and try to hear the beat and the meter. Like with pre-ballet, use clapping or some kind of movement to emphasize the downbeat. If they can't do this when they are just listening and not trying to dance, there is a problem! frown.gif

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I sympathize with you, Colleen. Sometimes, I run into students who can't contact the music no matter how hard they try. There is "rhythm-deafness" just the same way as there is "tone-deafness". I found myself in trouble one day when I was choreographing something, and had the dancers moving to a counterpoint voice in the music. You'd think I'd pulled the counts out of open air! It took awhile, but after a LOT of explaining and demonstration, they finally understood.

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Guest Colleen

Ironically it's not the babies that have the hardest time! I'm always at the mercy of recorded music with all of my classes, but with the classes that I teach at community centres I'm totally free to structure the class how I want. So I follow a mixture of RAD syllabus and my own ideas of what that class needs. And with those classes I use the set RAD music for some exercises which I really like but I also use non-syllabus cds (Roger Hewett's Ballet Elite and Ballet Fantastique, as well as Lisa Harris Solo Piano and Variations are my current favourites). And the non-syllabus music isn't specifically designed for the younger grades and therefore has some variety in its content. So I'm able to get the kids to respond to lots of different music and they're okay. And with them I do a lot of listening and clapping and I vary the exercises so that they don't get to use to doing one thing with the same music.

But when I teach at my studio, I do some of the classes and the coaching classes for exams (gr.3,4,5, and Pre-El) so I am required to follow the set exercises and use the set music all of the time. And as Major Mel can attest, RAD music is wonderfully simple and square (perhaps my one major beef with RAD other than the soft pointe shoes non-sense smile.gif ). A lot of the music sounds so similar and the counts are almost always on the beat; the odd time that that the music is a little difficult the kids don't know how to respond. But because for each grade they hear the same music during syllabus class for 8months in a row, I find that they almost become deaf to the music after a while. I try to counter this by making them count out loud (and some even have a hard time with this because they don't really associate the steps with the music I don't think) but there's only so much you can do when you're not allowed to stray too far from the set music and exercises.

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Guest Enterprisecdr

Out of curiosity, what is the advantage of using a set barre and music all through the grades? I think it would get kind of boring after a while. Just wondering... smile.gif

 

-Kat

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Using a repetition class is useful in achieving as near perfection in every element of the set class as may be. However, having said that, let me add that it is also extremely important to have "free exercises", when the instructor deems them necessary, to assist the students in achieving the most that they can do with a given element, and entire "free classes" should be a regular part of instruction to enable the student to absorb new material quickly.

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Guest Colleen

Actually, even though I've grown up on a strict RAD diet you've touched on the great disadvantage of strict syllabus work(and just to be clear Enterprisecdr, each grade has its own set music and exercises.the way i worded my post might have made it sound like all grades use the same music and exercises) . As a young teacher this system works well for me. I'm pretty good at helping students perfect steps and develop performance quality in their exercises, but I'm years away from being able to develop dancers. But, when it won't affect their exam preparation, I do occasionally make syllabus class an open class. And with the pre-el group I often do open pointe with them to challenge them past the fear barrier. But getting past my own RAD training to be able to open classes all of the time is something that I think/hope will develop over time as I continue to learn and grow as both a teacher and a dancer.

That being said though, I think that RAD syllabus classes equally balanced by open classes can and does develop great dancers. Because students get the opportunity to work on specific skills and also on actual dancing. The problem is that most RAD schools don't introduce open classes until students are doing Gr.6/pre-el, so that means typically around age 12 or so (for someone who starts around 5-6). So, to be able to dance in centre during an audition only a couple of years, or maybe even the same year that you actually start to learn to dance in centre doesn't work so well. I once took a master class that was for a summer program (i was maybe 12) and I was floored by how other dancers could really grasp combinations quickly AND perform them well. I was a couple years younger than most of the other girls and far behind them in technique, but the difference in comfort level in accepting new exercises was evident and had nothing to do with technical ability. So, if that problem could be rectified I think you'd find syllabus students with the same ability to move as those students who always have open classes.

 

[ February 19, 2002: Message edited by: Colleen ]

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