This is day 17 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 Vol. 4 published by RAD
Some enchaînements, particularly pointe ones, seem to need music which is potentially rather dull – carefully articulated, restrained and with a constant feeling of being ‘under tempo’. This little mandolin number from Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet saves the day, because all those qualities are part of what makes it special. Hot and sour Thai chicken soup is delicious; a hot and sour milkshake is a catastrophe.
There’s something endlessly satisfying and engaging about playing music like this. It’s so simple that any minor carelessness – lapses of timing, articulation or dynamics – show up immediately, like trying to eat spaghetti bolognese in a wedding dress. In fact it’s a lesson in the value of simplicity and understatement, and
waiting for the right moment to slip in something unusual; in having
the courage to write E major chords if E major chords are what works
(rather than thinking ‘E major’s so last year’). There is such clear, pure, cool air in this music that you can feel yourself creating the atmosphere Prokofiev wanted after only half a bar of the introduction.
That’s what perhaps makes this music most effective for class – it has the capacity to create instant magic and atmosphere, like stepping outside on a winter’s day and taking your first intake of bracing cold air. So much in class conspires against that happening, that when you find a key to that door, you use it.