See the Music, Hear the Dance

George_Balanchine_See the Music

“See the music, hear the dance.” ~George Balanchine

Nobody has described the relationship between dance and music better than the legendary choreographer George Balanchine. In just six words, he has painted the essence of how dance visually expresses music, and what dancers should always bear in mind when they perform.

Simple statements often beguile great wisdom. In this case, behind what appears to be a catch phrase lies a great deal of sophistication, sensitivity and a lifelong dedication to the ephemeral art of movement in time and space.

One of the main reasons that I am so drawn to the art of ballet is the music—and to a great extent, it is classical music that is the ultimate charmer. Long before ballet fell into my adult consciousness, I was already enchanted by the world of classical music. The fact that my husband is an aficionado of classical music, a one-time cellist in an orchestra and a neoclassical music composer, means that I am constantly exposed to beautiful music and the history behind it.

It is no surprise, then, that I immediately became smitten by the music used in class when I started taking ballet lessons as an adult. Classical music just makes dancing so much easier for me, and it gives me the generous illusion that I am actually dancing more gracefully than I actually am. No matter how I look, it makes me feel graceful and feminine, and that’s what really matters.

There are, however, times when the music in class does not inspire me to dance. The worst case is when the music actually turns me off as if a switch has been flipped and my muscles no longer respond. Am I too picky? I have seen fellow students who do not react to music the same way I do. Basically, whatever music is being played seems to be fine for them. Granted, the taste for music is a highly personal thing. For me, certain types of music just makes me cringe or feel blasé. The No. 1 inspiration killer for me, is cheesy Christmas melodies adapted for ballet class, played during the entire December month. Second in line is Broadway musicals converted into class music. Third is petite allegro music that is too cute or pretentious. Call me old fashioned or whatever you like. Just give me some good-old classical music—some adapted from the classical ballet repertoire, or neo-classical music, and I am a happy dancer!

Music for Dance_Karen Salmansohn

Of course, we can’t always choose what music we dance to. In that case we might have to follow Karen Salmansohn’s advice of adapting our way of dancing to the music.

What are  your pet peeves when it comes to ballet class music?

What kind of music gets you into the “zone”?

Do you have any favorite CDs that you use for your own practice? Please leave me a comment. I’d like to hear what you like!

Here is my top favorite ballet class music CD: Dmitri Roudnev’s “Favorite Classics of Ballet for Ballet Class”

Let me end this post with another quote by Balanchine:

“Dance is music made visible.”

Let’s dance to and, more importantly, in music!

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4 thoughts on “See the Music, Hear the Dance

  1. Love this! I actually have a post on music lined up, but it’s going to take a few more before I get there. I’m a rocker at heart, and I’ve heard some songs converted into ballet music – some work just oooookay while some are plain tragic, as you would imagine. What I do love practicing developpés to at home though is an opera piece. The drama and intense power in Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma” has the potency to bring out pretty high lifts for a beginner like me.

  2. I actually love Broadway tunes done instrumentally for ballet! But I love llove love Swan Lake. Also, I did a ballet number once done to O Fortuna that was awesome, so I love hearing that one.

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