Music is the fabric that binds and makes sense of ballet. It is as necessary for ballet as breathing. So how do you make the most of the music in your ballet class and beyond?
Music and ballet go together like wine and cheese – they can exist separately, but they are so much better when put together! They are life-long partners that complement each other beautifully. Ballet gives shape and form to the music, and in return the music elevates the dancer to a higher level. Together they uplift and inspire, and help to make sense of each other. We all long for the ballets where we are completely invested in the performance, watching with our hearts in our throats, looking for the ultimate rush. Watching an exquisite dancer moving in harmony with the music is exciting! Without the music to inspire the dancer and the dance, the excitement is lost.
In class, you are thinking about the steps and the corrections, desperately trying to remember everything that is being said by your teacher. When this happens, it is easy to miss the music completely. Suddenly your ballet class becomes nothing more than a series of exercises with a bit of something playing in the background! Your attempts at artistry disappear and you can feel quite dry. A couple of simple strategies will help you tune in and create a richer experience.
Firstly, when your teacher listens to the music before they set the exercise, listen with them! The steps are not yet there to distract you, so engage with the music you are about to use. You will discover the dynamic, giving you a greater understanding about how you are going to move. You will hear the tempo and know how fast your movements will need to be. It is the only preview you are going to get, so you may as well use it!
The second strategy is a little more abstract, but just as useful. If you can feel that music swirls around you like an invisible force; it will inform your movements, dynamic and emotion. This is the picture that ballet helps to create. You can hear the music, but you will gain more by feeling as though you are fully immersed in it. Imagine that you are dancing through, around and with the invisible force that is music. Once you feel as though you are submerged in the music it is easier to tap into that emotion and to allow yourself to truly dance in harmony. This is why music is the dancer’s partner and not just something that is listened to. Simply listening is not enough.
One of the best places to be immersed in the music is the kitchen! Put on some music and let it fill you, it doesn’t matter what the style is. Succumbing to music is incredibly freeing and joyful! That’s why dancing at home to any music will stand you in good stead when you head back to the studio. Your ability to engage with and enjoy the music will increase no end, and your ballet practice will thank you for it!