Ballet Class Music While You Drive – Are You Joking?

Ballet Class Music While You Drive – Are You Joking?

I’ve been a fan of all types of classical music since…I was born, I suppose. Having consistently listened to the wide range of styles within that genre for over fifty years, I really wasn’t expecting at this stage of my life to encounter an undiscovered (for me, at least) pocket of classical gems. Well, the news is, I did just that recently when I came across ballet class music for the first time. I even listen to it in my car. I’m certain most people have no idea what ballet class music is, unless they’ve taken a ballet class at some point in their journey through life. Fortunately it can be explained quickly and easily.

When teaching ballet, the more upscale ballet studios employ a pianist to improvise music for the ballet classes. Smaller studios use CDs which are recorded and sold by these same pianists. This is referred to throughout the dance world, appropriately enough, as ballet class music. There are two distinct types of this musical style and I’m enamored with only one of them and find the other pedantic at best and profoundly irritating at worst. We all have our musical tastes, after all.

Some pianists simply use opi from classical literature and alter the phrasing to fit the ballet exercise. While it might work well for the dancers, it reminds me of listening to a rendition of one of my favorite pieces of music played by someone who never bothered to really learn it.

It’s the improvised ballet class music that I have found fascinating. Of course it depends on the pianist who composed the music, but in the hands of a clever composer who is also an excellent improvisational pianist some absolutely delightful musical gems emerge. The unfortunate reality is, these jewels of original music are almost never heard outside the confines of a ballet studio, and even then only in the focused intensity of a class.

The pianist who has the skill to improvise the music for ballet class is still restricted to a tight set of rules. Four measures of introduction are always required; every phrase must be exactly eight bars; tempos are strictly limited to the specifications of each exercise; and the character of the music must reflect the requirements of the dancers’ movements. All of which makes it obvious why in the wrong hands the resulting music, however suited it is to the class, can be excruciating to listen to.

A capable composer/pianist, however, can tap into a wellspring of creativity and originality and turn the restrictions to full advantage. In such a case, the listener will hear beautifully crafted melodies, unexpected chord progressions, and emotionally charged phrasing and nuance. Underlying the classical overtones, will be a range of every musical style ever invented, cleverly worked into an appropriate presentation for the ballet exercise; jazz, blues, Broadway, avant-garde, romantic, impressionistic, contemporary, baroque, country, and ragtime all show up at various times during a well-played ballet class.

If you’re at all intrigued and would like to sample it for yourself, you’re probably wondering where you could find music like that. The best advice I can give you is to ask a ballet student if you can borrow one of their CDs. It’s highly unlikely they’ll tell you they lost it.

Don Caron resides in Spokane, Washington where he owns and operates Internet Marketing Spokane [http://www.internet-marketing-spokane.com], an Internet Marketing Consultation firm. While driving to work he listens to his favorite Ballet Class Music.

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