The Motosonus Method
The information you will find in these posts is based on Don Caron’s Motosonus Method which he developed in his work at Eastern Washington University as a ballet class pianist. If you haven’t read the post on beat placement in ballet class music, that’s a very good place to start.
Phrasing the Music
Today I’ll be discussing phrasing, another critical aspect of ballet class music performance. We all know that ballet class music is always constructed in 8 bar phrases and obviously there is a lot of music that falls into that category and can be used in class. But more important than the number of bars in the phrase is how the phrasing is used to enhance the effectiveness of each ballet exercise. I will give you a few examples.
In a slow, fluid exercise such as plies, the phrase needs to be shaped in an arc, to lift the dancer’s movements from the large downbeat, through the plie and into an arrival at the beginning of the next phrase. This is accomplished by the pianist with a slight push into the middle of the phrase and a slight relaxing toward the end of the phrase, which serves to both conclude the first set of movements and set up the next. You can listen to an example of how this is done by clicking here and then clicking the little arrow you’ll see next to “Plies.”
I encourage you to listen to the examples so that you will begin to develop the skills to choose ballet class music more effectively. These simple playing techniques really do make an important difference in the response of the student dancers.
With rhythmic exercise such as Degages, the phrasing is quite different. The playing must be more metronomic and the phrase is driven forward with accents and gradual volume changes, giving a large sense of shape without compromising the accuracy of the tempo. There’s a fun example of that here. Again, when you arrive at the audition page click on the arrow to the left of “Degages.”
I hope that helps a bit in clarifying some of the mystery that goes into creating effective ballet class music.
You can view The First Class Albums of Ballet Class Music on the main page of this website.