Print Friendly, PDF & Email

This is day 3 in my Dance Inspirations Advent Calendar (II)

Some of the greatest dancers and teachers I’ve met have one thing in common at least: their mind is always ‘on’ as far as music is concerned, like someone who never puts the phone down in case the other person still has something to say. There’s usually one dancer in a studio who’ll give you the most fleeting of smiles because they heard the way you phrased something differently today than yesterday, or because there’s an extra hint of happiness or sadness in the way you played a familiar song, or because the piece has (if you but recognised it or thought about it) special connotations. Great teachers feel moved by the music with, if not before the dancers, and sweep the class along with them.

The first time I played for Pat Neary’s class was one cold winter morning at 10 am at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin (which feels like 7.00am in most people’s days), and instantly I realised she was one of those people who felt everything in the music.

One of my favourite gags for pliés is to do Cole Porter’s Begin the Beguine [CD], because it builds and builds into this mad operatic wail that everyone knows, which is a bit over-the-top for the first exercise of the day, but great of course, if you need waking up. So I did that, which made her smile (well, a lot more than smile), and on the other side, while the going was good, I did ‘Tonight’ from West Side Story, which, like the Cole Porter, has this whoosh of emotion half way through. Within a few bars, Pat staggered across the room saying “Oh God, it’s too MUCH!”. Which, of course, it is – it’s far too much for first thing in the morning – but it takes a Pat Neary to actually be so awake and in tune with the music that they can feel as much hearing the music as you do playing it. For further evidence, read Jarrko Lehmus on Pat Neary in his weblog – I couldn’t put it better myself.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Jonathan Still, ballet pianist