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This is day 23 in my Dance Inspirations Advent Calendar (II)

stylus.jpgHarald Lander‘s ballet Etudes and Knudåge Riisager‘s music for it based on piano etudes by Carl Czerny ought to be in this Advent Calendar somewhere, because as much as this year’s calendar is a tribute to all the people in it, it’s also a guided tour through the mysteries of class and the things that go on in musicians’ heads when they play for it. In my view, Etudes has so many examples of the way certain music works perfectly for particular types of exercise, that it acts as a mirror, a benchmark, a litmus test, a role model and an education in music and dance all rolled into one for the dance accompanist.

I associate all kinds of music with Ivan Nagy, especially Stravinsky’s Apollo for reasons I’ve already gone into. But since I want to get Etudes in here, I’ve got no choice but to give a funny reason for associating Ivan with this tarantella, which is the music for the jeté crossings towards the end of the ballet. It goes back to a story Ivan told me, almost crying with laughter, about a performance he was in where he and a ballerina crashed into each other at full speed centre stage, and then – to add insult to injury – her tiara got caught in his crotch and they had to struggle to disentangle themselves before they could get up and escape to the safety and anonymity of the wings. Warmth and laughter are great things to bring to allegro music, and there’s nothing like one of Ivan’s stories to do the job.

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Jonathan Still, ballet pianist