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modern music and classical ballet

Guest Fred

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I've recently decided to take adult ballet classes and in my search for a ballet teacher in my reagion I found a techer who gives adult classes. SHe inveited me over to one of her classes and what do I discover, she uses modern music to teach classical ballet. Anybody ever heard of someone using modern music instead of the old piano music to teach classical ballet ?

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And when you "grow up", so to speak, and become a professional, it gets worse dear. On stage, and in class.

I have heard honkey-tonk piano, night-club piano, hotel-bar piano, and break-dance piano, in classes in companies that Shall Remain Anonymous, but we are not talking Little-Fothingham-on-Plop in X-shire.

Some teachers (Hans Brenaa, are you listening, up there in the sky) would blow up. Others....

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Teachers use a great number of different approaches to classroom music. I've taken class from teachers who've used Dave Brubeck's 50s-60s "progressive jazz" as class music, others who've used just a metronome, teachers who played old ballet standards but were their own pianists, those who just count, and all sorts of other variations. I don't know that it does any real harm to use modern pop or even modern concert music (although Penderecki might be tough) for class, as long as the teacher is skillful in using it.

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Hello Fred, and welcome to Ballet Alert! Online :)

While I would not want to do a whole class with modern or pop or contemporary music, and I do feel it's important for ballet students to hear as many of the classics as possible, I do think it is not a bad idea to mix things up a bit...sometimes! Not all the time. After all, the students who are going to dance professionally may or may not be in a ballet company. Some may do modern dance, Broadway, Rock Video, MTV, whatever. (Not that I would use Rock music in class ;) ) And, in ballet companies today one will dance quite a lot of contemporary works with very modern music. My point is that some variety in classes is good, as long as it is used well and rythmically appropriate for the work.

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The wonderful pianist in my intermediate ballet class plays some wild and delightful tunes on her piano. Recently we had Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera. It was quite a touching piece actually and the very long adagio we did to it didn't feel so long with that music playing. But then that pianist is amazing.

Our other pianist one night during barre started playing 'I just called to say I love you'..I couldn't stop smirking..I think that was a bit too far...it was quite surreal...to be honest I'm not sure if anyone else really noticed....


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I wondered what exactly you meant by "modern music"? Pop music, rock, show tunes? Or contemporary serious music?

I once watched a class at a professional company where the teacher was using contemporary jazz, and it seemed the specific intent was to break the dancers of their old way of responding to the music, which was melodic. (And totally wrong for that comany, IMO.)

I've also seen classes that used pop music very well. One class by Flemming Ryberg in Copenhagen -- whether it was his choice, or the pianist's I don't know -- had the boys doing beats to "I Feel Pretty." Well, the rhythm was dead right :)

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There are lots of great songs from Broadway shows which work wonderfully for classes! With a good pianist, or even with CD's using orchestrated (non-vocal) versions, these can be very effective. Of course I also love opera music, which many pianists use quite a bit. But the great music of Cole, Kern, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Weber, and especially Bernstein is really good for many types of ballet combinations. West Side Story has a lot of good things!

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I took class several times with a pianist who was used to improvising for Graham classes. The tempi were always scrupulously correct, but the beat was not strongly accented. She played very stark, spare melodies that were very beautiful and irregular, which was wonderful in modern, but difficult to adapt to in ballet, which generally moves more regularly--in other words, while the rhythms would have seemed right to a musician, the quality of the music and the quality of the dancing were too much at odds with each other for my taste.

Also, "Oops I Did It Again" is rather irritating in ballet class, and if I hear "My Heart Will Go On" during plies one more time, I will wash out my ears with lye.

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Fred, I was wondering what kind of modern music you meant.Does the teacher play CD's of pop stuff?I am a musician for ballet classes and will play mostly classical music as I feel it good for dancers to be used to Chopin and Beethoven.I also throw in surprises(to keep myself on my toes)like classical Sesame Street or whatever.Ragtime is pretty standard now for ballet class,as well as character music.David Howard always liked to use Lynn Stanford music,which is just there in the backround providing the rhythm.I'd be bored playing that way every class every time.There is one accompanist who plays only improvised,weird,percussive music and I love taking class with him playing. One master teacher likes anything and everything as long as it fits the steps.Makes sense to me!

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I'm all for having an Amoklauf from time to time...however:

Though people will freely own that it might be a wee bit - well, whatever - to amble into a restaurant famed for its cooking, pull out one's own bottle of Ketchup, and plop it all over, it has become socially acceptable to plop Ketchup all over classical dancing.

There's a close link between the turn-out in the ballet, and the shapes that generates in the mind's eye,


the way classical music has developed, out of the ancient Greek modes, over the last couple of millennia.

But, some prefer it with Ketchup.

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Katherine Kanter wrote:

Without wishing to be coarse, might that have something to do with dogs, and pavements, or perhaps, still worse DOGS AND FITTED CARPET?

No; it's a Britney Spears song, and it isn't disgusting in that sense, although her singing does tend to make one think of dogs and pavement...

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Most of my ballet life (from early childhood and on - in various European countries) I was subjected to Chibulka gavotte during fondu exercises at the bar and in the centre. Nice melting music, I am not against the music choice at all. By the way, anybody ever heard of Chibulka? I think he was a Pole and this was his only contribution to music heaven.

Trouble is that in "me old age", whenever I hear the damned thing played on f.ex. "Oldies favorites" on the radio. or if I have a nightmare; there is always that old Chibulka thing spooking in my brain. Is this a common occurence? Has anybody else had similar experiences?

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His name was Alphons Czibulka - he was from Hungary, and became chief musician of the Austro-Hungarian army. He was a rough contemporary of Johann Strauss, Jr., and that gavotte is probably the one titled "Stephanie". My mother always used to play his mazurka "The Tsarina" when she wasn't thinking of anything else.

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I actually love it when a teacher uses eclectic music. One of my favorites was John Coltrane's "My Favorite Things" . Then there was the grand pirouette combination when the pianist played "I Could Have Danced All Night." The teacher said to us before the repeat, "now remember, you're all Audrey Hepburn." And it worked!

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