I’m not the racing driver, not the vicar, and not the composer of Under the Bodhi Tree, I’m Jonathan Still the ballet pianist who lives in Tooting, amongst other possible descriptions. Chances are if you came searching for Jonathan Still, you were looking for the one I call Jonathan Still (US), who—confusingly—is also a musician (though a much better one than me). You’ll find that Jonathan Still at https://jsmusic.co/
I am currently based in London, UK, and freelancing as a ballet pianist, music typesetter, musical handyman, anything that pays the mortgage, while I finish my PhD on music in ballet training. If you want a rough idea of the kind of thing that I’m writing about, see my article How down is a downbeat? Feeling meter and gravity in music and dance. I’ve written a lot on this blog over the years, but the last two years of “Advent calendars” are the most representative of where I come from: Confessions of an anxious ballet pianist and A year of ballet playing cards. Advent calendars are (a writing task I’ve set myself several years running: to write 25 daily posts in December about a topic related to themes on this site) are
After many years of audio transcribing, mainly interviews for research projects, but also some piano scores taken by dictation from orchestral scores, I am also offering audio transcription services. See my Transcription Services page.
About this site
I wish I’d called this site a renaissance cabinet of curiosities, but I didn’t – it started off as what it says on the tin, a rather boring but useful page of links about dance & stuff, and instructions about IT for students. I got bored of that, and became a blogger instead, and this is the result.
I’ve moved over to this new domain & new name, because my previous hosts didn’t seem to be able to cope with Movable Type (and I was beginning to hate Movable Type anyway). So here I am, with WordPress & Siteground, a much happier marriage, frankly. You can use the contact form below if you want to get in touch. If it’s just a comment on something you’ve read, consider leaving a comment on the post in question, rather than sending me an email, so that others can see it too.
38 thought on “About me”
Very interesting. I think I play your music each week at a North London ballet school. The new Pre-Primary syllabus? “Run and Balance”? Some really good music there.
Thanks for the comment – yes, that’s me. Run & Balance? There’s quite a funny story behind that, which I’d enjoy telling you if we ever get to meet up. Looking at your blog, I think we probably should!
Was wondering if you are the same Jonathan at SSEES with me back in time doing Russian L & L?
Yes, that’s me. Though now with less hair.
I’m a dancer and I used to work in Italian Opera Theatre as mime-dancer, I’ve seen in some of your past post that you’ve worked with Klausb Beelitz for Deutsche Berlin Opera.
Do you know perhaps how to participate at auditions to work as mime-dancer in Opera Theatre in Berlin?
Thanks a lot
Hi Erika, I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to reply – I don’t know how you’d do this, but I guess you could just call the Direktion and ask? Or look in Dance Europe? The whole ballet landscape in Berlin has changed since I was there, I was at the Deutsche Oper, and that is no longer – it is now Staatsballett Berlin, based at the Staatsoper for the moment.
Hello! I found this website after seeing your name in RAD music books. I am an aspiring ballet accompanist who just recently offered myself to play in a local ballet school in Indonesia (as a side job after my full-time day job) and am still practicing before plunging myself into the class. I found your articles in this website very useful. Since ballet accompanist is a rare breed, it’s exciting to be able to get connected through the web and twitter. I am hoping to learn from you a lot, and your works in RAD music are really beautiful.
Hello, Jonathan. I found your site while attempting to find a key to the meaning of all those icons in that arcane (to me, anyway) Windows %systemroot% system variable thing. You said, “This icon, for example, means ‘minimize all windows’ or ‘return to desktop’ … but why a spade in some mashed potato should mean that is beyond me” and made me laugh. Yes! They are baffling. Anyway, I went looking for your newer comments and find them not boring in the slightest.
Thank you for your rants and links regarding multi-tasking; I feel vindicated. I’m wasting a good deal of time making anagrams out of my name, too, thanks to you. But I still have no idea what those icons are supposed to mean (and Microsoft is loathe to divulge that, as far as I can tell. Microsoft is dictatorial and anti-helpful and a frequent target of my own rants).
Thanks Deborah – so glad it was a bit helpful and made you laugh! One day I’ll change the ‘boring but useful’ bit – it started out as that because that’s what it was, but it’s not so boring maybe now, and perhaps not as useful either!
I am a ballet teacher and have all of the RAD studio series CD’s and also enjoyed the discussion at the launch of the new Intermediate Foundation and Intermediate.
I have discovered a wonderful young pianist who accompanys choirs and music students, and he is going to start playing for some of my classes in september, with a view to being ‘trained up’ by me as a fully fledged ballet pianist. To help him, I have trawled through, and listened to recordings of, lots of sheet music that I have and I’ve annotated each piece as appropriate (in my opinion) for certain exercises, so that we can start building up a mini-library of music that he can access quickly during classes, however during my RAD TC training we were ‘taught’ to sometimes ask the pianist for certain dance rhythms eg polonaise, grand waltz, etc but your articles here seem to show some dislike for the ‘dance rhythm’?! My question for you is this – Should I attempt to have certain pieces of music in our mini-library? Or should I have pieces to cover a list of suggested styles/dance rhythms?
He has informed me that he isn’t comfortable improvising from scratch, but he is an excellent sight-reader and accompanist so I’m sure he is very capable of ‘creating’ introductions, codas and ‘endings’ etc
Thanks in anticipation!
To me, building up a library of pieces that work and annotating them sounds like an excellent way to start. Have you seen A Dance Class Anthology published by RAD? That’s basically what we did in that book, and there’s also a long introduction at the beginning about playing for class. Also, your pianist might be interested in our music factsheets, especially perhaps the one on music resources, if you and he work together on how to sort through the stuff that’s available.
I do have a bit of a dislike for the ‘dance rhythm’ culture that seemed to grow up around the TC in the past, but it’s more to do with the way it became a whole, insular culture of its own rather than being related to the real world of real pieces of music. To take just one example, when dance rhythms became abstracted into rhythmic patterns (as they were) student teachers would then use the rhythmic pattern, but ignore everything else about the dance form, including its tempo and dynamics, resulting in the ‘That’s lovely, but we need it half that speed’ syndrome.
I think the answer to your question is ‘a bit of both’. It’s good to be able to pull out a ‘generic’ triple jig or a galop when you need one, but on the other hand, there are specific pieces of music which are appealing precisely because there is something unique about them. In other words, you need a kind of medicine chest of generics and specifics. It’s inevitable that some of the pieces you like most may not have a ‘dance rhythm’ assigned to them, or perhaps they do, but you don’t know what they are. Or maybe they are exceptions to what normally constitutes the ‘rule’ about a dance rhythm. That’s what bothered me most about the dance rhythm exercise – that some of the most wonderful music in the world would slip through the net if you were only allowed to have stuff that fitted the mould of what you had been taught a ‘minuet’ was, for example.
For my ‘Advent Calendar’ in 2007, I went through a number of pieces on Studio Series 4. If you or he haven’t seen this already, you might find this useful too. You have to keep ‘view older posts’ when you get to the bottom of the page to see them all.
Wow! Thank you for being so thorough! I found a lot of the music I had already got (sheet) was suitable for plies/rond de jambe/port de bras/adage, and then I’d got some Joplin which helped fill in some other bits but I still need examples of pieces for grand battements, and grand allegro, so I’ve bought the anthology and will share the advent calendar with my pianist too, and hopefully we’ll both learn lots!
Thanks Jonathan for your excitement around Jacob’s Pillow Dance Interactive. We are adding new artists and companies each week. If you are interested in a monthly bulletin of what’s new you can sign up for “Virtual Pillow” e-club http://www.jacobspillow.org/about/club.php
Digital Projects Manager
Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival
Jonathan you appear to be experience in all this. I came across your blog as a result of a search for planning issues and I see you were involved with the RACS building. Do you have any advice on how to oppose a planning application on a dwelling?
Hi – I’m not really experienced at this at all, but the RACS building is at the end of my road and I felt strongly about it. The campaign was brilliantly organized by a number of people but particularly Dale Ingram I think, and supported enormously by our MP Sadiq Khan, who was very impressive. There was a group on Facebook set up to help consolidate the campaign which I think was very effective, and if you look at that, you’ll see a lot of useful advice that may be helpful. http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=120459897979005
Dear Mr. Still,
I want to say how thrilled I am to have discovered your blog! I look forward to sharing it with others.
I am a ballet instructor in TN. One of the lucky few instructors in my city who continues to enjoy the luxury of live piano accompaniment. Most of my colleagues are not so fortunate. I am, in fact, the sole instructor at my workplace who consistantly has access to said luxury. This is due to an ironic lack of accompanists in Music City USA. Once upon a time there was a sizable pool of seasoned professional ballet accompanists here. All but a few of these artists have either migrated away from TN, retired altogether, or in some cases passed away. Sadly, there is no subsequent generation in place to fill the vacuum.
I am on a humble mission to revive this art locally; not merely as a niche field, rather as a noble tradition, in a town where such traditions are well respected. In this era of digital media and pre-recorded music, it is my hope there will continue to be generations of ballet instructors and their students who are blessed by the uncommon privilege of being serenaded in the classroom. I am more confident in my mission having discovered your blog.
This evening I had an encounter with a young woman who had replied to an ad we placed at one of the many excellent music schools in town. We scheduled her to come in to observe a class. This was meant to be an introduction and primer on the fundamentals. Having never seen a ballet class nor spoken with anyone who had experience, we did not want to throw her into the deep end without first giving her a good look at the pool. Turns out our regular accompanist never showed. I took a huge leap of faith by inviting her to take a stab at it. She accepted the challenge.
Although I am capable of speaking Musician and can translate Dancer into Musician, better than most I might add, it took us a few tries before we were on the same page. She did a wonderful job once it was clear we were speaking the same language. I have recomended that she be hired.
I already know that she will need grooming as well as a lot of support finding material that will meet our mutual needs. I was not expecting to find such a remarkable resource as your wonderful blog. I have already forwarded the link to her.
I should tell you I was sold on your site long before I realized just who’s words I was reading. I am very familiar with your work. Your “Studio Series” are some of my favorites. Same goes amongst many of my colleagues.
Thanks for such nice comments, about the blog & the Studio Series. I’m thrilled that the blog has been useful to someone. I did the blog on the subject of playing for class this year because I happened to be mentoring a pianist who hadn’t got a lot of experience, and it reminded me of all the things that I had to learn when I started. You blank those things from your memory once you gain the experience, because you begin to take things for granted.
I’m so glad to hear that about your mission to revive the art. It’s not just nice for dancers, it’s great for pianists too – those (like me) who enjoy it get so much out of playing for class, but if the art is lost, it’ll be because it’s lost on both sides: teachers are getting out of the habit of using musicians, too, and so little by little, these things that hold the music together slip away.
All good wishes to you and your new pianist!
Do you know why John O’Brien’s Body Conditioning classes at Pineapple haven’t happened this year please? I’m an occasional visitor from outside London and absolutely LOVE his classes. I hope he’s well.
Sorry to put this on here, but as you seem to know him, I didn’t know how else to contact you!
Hi Meg, I don’t know why that might be – we haven’t been in touch for a while. I’ll see what I can find out!
[…] a blog post here by Jonathon Still about about using the mazurka in place of a waltz for some ballet combinations. He even points […]
Dear Mr.Still, you described your research regarding Czerny’s original music for Riisager’s/Lander’s Études. Have you ever published the results anywhere or would be a list of the 26 “Czerny-Etüden” available? Thank you very much!
I haven’t published the results anywhere, but you’ve made me think that’s quite a good idea. I might not be able to do all of it, but I’ll make it a blog post soon.
Hi Jonathan, I remember your great class music and also the wonderful Wojtek Lowski. Thanks for writing so beautifully about him; he was my favourite teacher and ballet master and had the joy of his classes at ENBS 1990-1992. I was so devastated to hear of his death and the ballet World is a lesser place without him.
I’ve contacted you before but misplaced your email. Would you mind to send it to me again privately?
Hi Jonathan, I’m Ballet pianist too and I have been working in Rome, Italy. We have…many things in common, because I’m a blogger, although my blog is in italian language: in english it could sound “Rain of notes on dancers” (http://pioggiadinote.com). As you can see my writing english is not very well but I’ve started to read your posts and I think coming back soon here!!
Hi Tania, good to meet you, and thanks for letting me know about your blog!
You Still are. You still are just as I remember you —- Brilliant and hilarious! I will read and listen to you on my road trip from NYC to Santa Fe, New Mexico in ten days. How wonderful to have found you again. I would love to reconnect after all these years…
Oh Betsy how wonderful to get this message – I’ve been wondering where to find you for years. It would be wonderful to reconnect. Thank you for dropping by and saying hello. If you’re in London PLEASE let’s meet up.
I am also an accompanying pianist for dance. My name is Mariana Palacios. I am following your blog. Thanks a lot for this work and to share it with us! I would like to contact you personally. Could you write me an email to [email removed] or contact me by linkedin? I will travel to London soon in June. I don´t know if you live there, but it would be great if we could meet, perhaps listen some of your classes, and speak about this amazing field! 🙂 Thanks!
Thanks for the kind message. I’ve accepted your LinkedIn invite, so contact me through there. I do live in London – and I’d be happy to meet up if I am free. Just let me know when you’re hear and we can talk more. Always interested to hear other people’s stories!
Is there a way I could contact you privately please regarding accompanying ballet and workshops?
Kindest regards, Christopher Hobson
Hi Christopher, thanks for the message. I’ve accepted via your linkedin request. My email address is
I’ve been trying to find the proper title for Czerny’s “Study No 3” as it’s called in my Royal Conservatory of Music (Canada) Grade 5 book. The book concludes with a set of “Studies”, numbered 1 through 8, a few by Czerny, but there is no information about their proper titles. The Grade 6 piano book also has Studies by Czerny, some with the same faux-names as in the Grade 5 book. My googling found no relevant results. Your name, however, came up prominently in some searches. Perhaps you know the one I’m speaking about? It’s in C minor. It’s a simple piece, but the ending is incredibly beautiful to me.
P.S. From Czerny, do you have a favorite? or several favorites?
Have you looked at the RCM syllabus (assuming you’re doing the one that’s still in force from 2008)? They list the opus numbers in the syllabus, whereas perhaps they don’t in your music book. However, there’s nothing in C minor there. Czerny wrote so many studies that I’m afraid I couldn’t begin to guess which one it is! There are lots of books available from the IMSLP however – here’s a link to the Czerny page. The reason my name comes up a lot is because of this page that I did about the ballet score Etudes which features Czerny studies. They would be some of my favourites, but maybe particularly the Op. 355 No. 1 in C major.
Thank you!. I have added videos of the Etudes to my playlist to watch with my beloved. I will pay special attention to  3. Molto leggiero e scherzando (Ronds de jambe) Op. 355 No. 1 (the music for which I found on IMSLP – thanks). Perhaps of interest to you is that the IMSLP now has Op.355 #s 35-60 in an Op.355 book 2. The RCM Syllabus PDF does not include the Czerny piece I was seeking info about, but is a great find for me – a helpful [diagnostic] aid (the ear tests and sight-reading for clapping are good for me). I now have a sense of what makes the ending of the Grade 5 “Study No 3” so beautiful to me – Czerny moves between harmonic minor and ascending melodic minor and descending natural minor. And if I’m not mistaken, he has a polychord in there too.
Thanks very much for the tip about the book two of 355 – this means that the original of the Mazurka (A minor) is now available, which is great. If you ever see the opus no. of the tarantella that I’m looking for, let me know!
Dear Mr. Still,
Thank you so much for this wonderful blog! I am a classically trained pianist that just started playing for company class in October. Your blog has been amazingly useful in helping me to understand how a ballet pianist works and what kinds of pieces to play for class. I’ve loved, too, knowing where to find different ballet works that aren’t on imslp (for example, Paquita). Thank you!!
I had a quick question for you. I have found a couple of different versions of Don Quixote different places on the internet, but I’ve never been able to find the Cupid variation in any of them. Do you know where I could find that?
Thanks so much for taking the trouble to send such nice feedback, I’m so glad to know the site’s been useful.
It always takes me a while to remember where the Cupid variation is—it’s actually in that Paquita score. That’s because there’s a version of Paquita which was like a gala fruit salad with a bunch of everyone’s favourite solo in (including Cupid). For some reason, even though the Soviet score of Don Quixote has a lot of the modern interpolations in, it doesn’t seem to have Cupid. As the score doesn’t have page numbers, to save time, I’ve just extracted the solo and will email it to you. It’s in the score as “Variation 2,” around page 39/40.
All the best,