‣ In what ways do you believe the dynamic of the music-movement relationship needs to change in the ballet classroom?
Generally the idea of training a dancer is related – above all – to the control of the body’s mechanism. This is of course normal, but nowadays we need to add some other ideas and words related to the understanding of musical messages.
The ballet class can become a place in which students can learn and understand not only the steps of a certain dance technique, but also understand and deepen how to listen to the music. They can also learn about how the musical performance atmosphere works and affects them, regardless if they become professionals or not, and to connect the quality of the musical message with the quality of their movements.
They have to learn what it means to interpret music and what is inspiration. That’s why I say to students that a ballet class is like an “artistic gym”. Listening to music is not easy at all, and sometimes trying to listen to it during the ballet class without any preparation and information, can be very difficult.
The risk of teaching just the mechanism of the body is that many times music becomes just a “sound carpet”, good in order to have the sensation of the speed and melody, but nothing more. Students must also learn how to control their movements with connection to the music. They have to have the sensation of “taking space” or “using space” with the musical phrasing. Without that capacity, ballet technique can become more like gymnastics.
Listening to music is also one of the most important forms of training, because generally speaking, it helps when people listen.
‣ So how does one go about implementing this theory in a practical and systematic way?
In order to obtain a good connection between movement and music, the role of the ballet teacher has to evolve; s/he has to be more prepared with good music training and knowledge.
We also need a new role for musicians, especially pianists. They can really help students and teachers to understand all the details of the music, especially that which is played in ballet class and comes from ballet repertoire.
So, I would like for the pianist (I prefer that word over “accompanist”) and the teacher to work together in a new way, for example having conversations before class with the attitude of working as a chamber music group does. In this way, both the teacher and the pianist can give to students the same level of energy, information and help.
Another important thing for students would be finding time to listen to music each day – ten minutes, for example. And if possible, with the help of a pianist who can explain all the different dynamics of the sound, the phrasing and how to count it. This may have to take place outside of the studio. Of course, it would be fantastic if students could listen to many pieces (starting from piano pieces) belonging to the classical music genre.
They need also to have a clear idea of what is the “meaning”, the atmosphere and the interpretation of each exercise of the ballet technique, from pliés to the last exercise of the class, so they are already prepared with their muscles and their mind for applying everything during the execution of the steps.
When dancing, they could try to alternate concentration on the steps to concentration on the music until they reach the end of the exercise. In this way they can check if they are understanding the musical details and at the same time controlling their movements in relation to those details. The control of the movement perfectly at the same tempo (speed) of the music is the basis of a good “musical dancer”.