Nothing makes me more uneasy than the kind of teacher who seems to imagine a music so perfect, so refined and so sublime to accompany their exercise that there is very little in the real world that is likely ever to approach it. Like Georgie and Lucia playing duets in Tilling, they close their eyes and savour a world of refined aesthetic contemplation to which we can only aspire and guess at (usually wrongly, as evidenced by the frowns, the conducting and the furious shaking of the head).
I think I only came across one or two like that, in my whole career. In one case, I realised with horror that he intended to back-seat drive the music all the way through every exercise. At one point during a frappé exercise where he had inserted a demi plié or other feature into the flow of movements, he turned to me like you might shout at a driver to turn left or brake and said ‘The HARMONY is important here!’ – by ‘here’, meaning this precise beat of the bar (I forgot to mention that he insisted on improvisation only for the class, so that you could match every nuance of each exercise with corresponding musical events).
No, I like my teachers to have a down-to-earth and practical attitude to music, and to talk about it in terms I can understand and relate to. Hence, one of my favourite requests in class came from Jackie Barratt, who, having set with exquisite precision, artistry and musicality a rond de jambe exercise with a port de bras on the end, came to the piano and said, by way of a musical indication,
‘Three days of slow mush, please’.