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Settling the Score, Redux

I thought I’d nailed down the score for Simon Crane, but once I gave it a listen it turned out that the first act was, erm.



It was very Satie.

Don’t take me wrong—I more or less love Eric Satie’s entire oeuvre. But as the score for a ballet, it turns out that “All Satie, All The Time” isn’t really all that effective.

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Rep Class Again

Rep/Rehearsal went well tonight. Our piece is coming together. I continue like it. It’s not difficult, but it’s pretty (and I get to show off my floaty jumps and my extensions, so that’s nice too).

We’re adding a second weekly rehearsal session for the next few weeks so we’ll have time to nail down the rest of the dance. It’s something like 4.5 minutes long; we have the first 2 minutes set.

BG counts the music per phrase, which results in some completely wack counts (there’s a phrase that counts out to 7 beats because of some rubato and a caesura; it’s one of those moments in which Vivaldi goes, “HA! You thought this movement was over, BUT IT’S NOT!!! PSYCH!!!”).

Took class beforehand also. It went really, really well. My brain, my arms, and my legs were all working at the same time (will wonders never cease?). Turns were good; petit allegro was fine … even when BG was like “No Big Arms Because This Is Petite Allegro.” Which was basically a correction for me.

We were a big class in a tiny studio, so there were lots of zig-zaggy combinations. I’m down with that. I think they’re good for getting us to STOP FREAKING THINKING SO MUCH (which was basically the theme of tonight’s class). You can’t freak out about OMG LEFT SIDE INCOMING if you’re constantly zig-zagging back and forth between left and right.

Also, BG made everyone do contretemps, and I actually lurve contretemps, so it makes me happy that now everyone knows how to do them. Or, well, everyone who was in class tonight. Not, like, the whole planet.

The weird part is that my left side has suddenly decided to be better at turns and at jumps that have turns in them. No idea why. It just is what it is.

Oh! And today, in killer class, the billion and fifteen chaînés I have done in BW’s class paid off. We used them in a combination, and it just was like, “Oh, chaînésno problem.”

So it was like, “Pas de problème,” and not “Pas de problème.”

…Which is officially the most linguistically arcane and nerdiest pun in the history of my puns.

So apparently I no longer hate chaînés. I am, in fact, forced to admit that I kinda liked the way they felt today.


In other news, I am now under obligation to make a video. I was marking a piece of choreography while transporting my giant water jug, my towel, and my notebook across the room, and T decided that I need to shoot some video with the giant water jug.

So I’ll probably sort that this weekend, because the idea sounds hilarious, and so totally typical of me. I am forever doing turns with a towel in my hand or jumps with a water bottle because I start thinking about the choreography and forget that I’m carrying things.

And, of course, should said video actually arise, I shall post it here (and on My Tiny Pathetic Insta Feed).

Danseur Ignoble: Music for Dancers, Music for Movies

When my sister and I were very small, our parents bought a copy of the London Symphony Orchestra’s seminal recording of Holst’s The Planets, recorded under the masterful baton of Sir Colin Davis. We immediately established it as our preferred improvisational dance music: so much so that we regarded it as ours, not as theirs.

When it came with us to Mom’s new house after the divorce, the capacious living room allowed us the freedom to improvise wildly theatrical “performances,” most of which took place when Mom was out. We would dance our way through the whole thing, incorporating every shred of ballet training we had (and making up the rest from whole cloth).

There was something in that music that really spoke to us. It was magic: old, wild magic.

Imagine, then, my shock and dismay when I hit up Prime Music for the recording and found the old, wild magic gone!

I found myself questioning my musical memory (which is very, very accurate). Had my child’s brain imagined the expression, the passion? Had the playing always been this, well, bland? Where were the dynamics, the shifts in tempo that lent such expressive elan to the LSO’s work?

And then “Jupiter, Bringer of Jollity” came on, and I got it: This wasn’t the same recording. Couldn’t be.

And, in fact, I was right: in my late-evening fumblings, I’d tapped the wrong album — the recording I had been listening to was produced as a movie soundtrack (it appeared right next to the London rendition on my tablet’s screen; evidently, my aim was untrue).

Of course!

It all made sense. Movie soundtracks, by necessity, can’t always be as expressive as the London rendition. They’d upstage the action on screen if they were. Their purpose is to help to move the story along without getting in the way of the words spoken by the actors (and to surge, when called upon, in sorrow or triumph — or in order to facilitate a montage).

I stopped the recording, fired up the London version: yes, there it was, in all its glory, exactly as I remembered it. Dynamics, tempi, and all.

There’s a lot of dance implicit in that music — and that’s missing from the blander soundtrack rendition.

The London recording is music for dancers (well, really, for musicians, but it comes out the same in the final analysis): it can afford to be expressive. Dancers feed on that.

It can afford to pay with tempi, with fermatae, with caesurae (if you’re not a musician, those are all modes of expression related to timing); it can afford to swell through mighty crescendi and ebb through delicate diminuendi. Like orchestral music, dance is more interesting when the timing is dynamic; dancers, meanwhile, enjoy a symbiotic relationship with changes in volume dynamics.

Dance performance depends on counting, of course, and technique — but, in the end, the dancer’s ability to feel and interpret music is what makes or breaks a performance. We can forgive the cavalier for not quite making that lift if we believe him; Odile can miss a few fouettées if she makes us believe.

That belief is founded in expression.

Holst isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (who is?) — but he wrote dignified, playful, magnificent music; the kind that, in the hands of a good orchestra, lays a great foundation for ballet. It’s voluble; it’s expressive.

In the end, that and a good beat are what most of us look for in music for any kind of dancing. Maybe not so much in music for movies — but for a ballet, an East Coast swing, or even just a good old-fashioned booty shake, that’s it.

To borrow a phrase from a movie: Kinda makes ya feel like riverdancin’.

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