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Apart from fiddle tune books (see tip #3), another great source of music for class is quadrilles.  There are just hundreds of them out there for free on the net, and they’re all in eight bar phrases, so you can use them straight off the shelf.  In fact, it’s probably the tradition of quadrilles that shaped a lot of ballet class musical culture in the first place.  Those endless glissé exercises in fastish 6/8s? Straight from the quadrille.  Many variations in ballets are fashioned on quadrille rhythms, and ragtime evolved from quadrille, which explains why both rags and quadrilles work for class.

Each quadrille usually contains five different dances, all in a similar tempo range. Conventionally, they alternate between 2/4 and 6/8, with a galoppy thing at the end, so you can joint a quadrille like a musical chicken and use it for barre, turns and petit allegro.  Less commonly, there are also ‘waltz quadrilles’ and ‘mazurka quadrilles’, and quadrilles based on operas or popular classics of the day. If you thought ‘hooked on classics’ was so 1970s, think again, quadrille writers were merciless when it came to carving up other people’s music to dance to.

With some notable exceptions (like the ones by the Strauss family, for example) many of them are just so much musical pulp, but it doesn’t matter. They’re jolly and rhythmic and in 8 bar phrases, and they work well.  Any online digital library will have plenty of them but two huge resources are:

2 thought on “Playing for ballet class tips #5: Stock up on quadrilles”
  1. This blog is so thoughtful and helpful! I’ve been playing for free classes for RAD North, the Northern Ballet School and LIPA over this past year and one of the hardest things I’ve found is that I hardly ever get the opportunity to listen to anyone else play for a class … so this really is invaluable!
    I think you mentioned it on a different blog entry – something like ‘there’s no point in playing wonderful music if the other people in the room don’t think it’s so great’ – that’s the rule I’m trying to live by at the moment!
    Anyway, thanks!

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Jonathan Still, ballet pianist