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This is day 1 in my 2007 Advent Calendar. This year, I’m giving the story behind some of the music that I’ve collected for ballet classes. All the pieces are on Studio Series Intuition Vol. 4, published by RAD.

There are so many reasons why I love Edelweiss for pliés that I could devote an advent calendar to 25 of them. But here’s a few:

  • Nearly everyone knows it (except for one friend, who as it happens is an inhabitant of the very country where the story takes place, but I guess The Sound of Music  wouldn’t be in a list of the top ten Austrian musicals, would it…
  • ….and because people know it, they sing along, even if only internally, and this makes them breathe & phrase naturally, elastically and musically
  • The 2+2+4 structure of the 8 bar phrases is perfectly matched to the demi-demi-full structure of so many plié exercises
  • Because the tune is so simple, it means you can concentrate on things like controlling your breath, shaping a note, and expressing something through the phrase, rather than trying to remember the tune – and that applies to musicians as well as dancers
  • Unless you’re a heartless cabbage or allergic to musicals, it brings back warm, happy memories that are nicer than the exercise. That’s what music is for.
  • It was, according to Suki Schorer in her book on Balanchine technique, one of Balanchine’s favourite pieces of music for pliés. I love the fact that man who did stuff to Stravinsky before anyone else, could be as unpretentious and practical as to choose the best music for the job, rather than something that was ‘clever’.
  • That’s enough reasons for now.

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Jonathan Still, ballet pianist