100 tips for working with pianists #4: Make eye-contact possible

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Make sure that you regularly stand in a position that enables you to keep your lines of communication with the pianist open, even if it’s only for a moment.

nina_arrows.jpgThe main reason for this is that you need to let the pianist know that it’s worth them looking up and checking for feedback from you during the class. It only takes the occasional nod, smile, thumbs-up to engage their peripheral vision. But if every time they look your way, you’re facing the other direction, they’ll get the idea that you don’t intend to communicate with them, they’ll stop looking – and then you’ve lost contact, probably for good.

In the picture on the left, the teacher glances over to the pianist (downstage left) to make eye contact and give a musical direction while marking the exercise, but it’s fleeting, so she continues to engage the dancers around her, some of whom are looking at her directly, others at her reflection in the mirror. This is the kind of multi-directional attention-grabbing that ensures you remain in happy control of what goes on in your class.

Once again, it’s also down to basic interpersonal skills & courtesy – standing with your back to anyone for a long time is rude and potentially intimidating. In a class, it leaves you open to another danger – the possibility that the class is making jokes about you to the pianist (and it’s not just children who try that one!).
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