The Sound of Music: New CDs for Dance Class

Article excerpt

The first modern dance class I accompanied was taught by Kozuko Hirabayashi, at Kirkland (now Hamilton) College in 1970. Her instructions to me were, "And." Somehow I figured out what to do. Subsequently, I studied dance at the Paul Sanasardo Summer Workshop in Saratoga Springs, where a divine human accompanied class playing cello and finger cymbals, and burst into song at the perfect moment. Gwendolyn Watson became my inspiration as a dance class accompanist, and I went on to become the original music director of both the Mark Morris Dance Group and Mikhail Baryshnikov's White Oak Dance Project (above).

The best accompaniment for any dance class is live accompaniment. Apart from the sheer power of live music, with its dynamics and overtones, having a real pianist--or drummer or cellist--trains dancers to listen more closely and to react spontaneously. And students benefit from the intuitive chemistry that can develop between teacher and musician.

However, crises do occur, whether personal or financial. Back in 1972 in Saratoga Springs, Watson's record (on vinyl) had just come out and was inspirational on its own. Nothing currently available reminds me of that music, but here are some recommendations for those moments when it's up to you and your CD player to teach class.

Ballet Music for Barre and Center floor

Directed and supervised by David Howard. Pianist: Alla Reznik

31 mins. $29.95. www.roperrecords.com

This is a great recording of a brilliant pianist. Choice selections (Borodin, Czerny, Mendelssohn, etc., as well as original improvisations) are delivered with plenty of romantic phrasing and dynamics. Reznik is an obvious first call for ballet class, and if she's already booked, this CD provides a good body double.

Alla Reznik Plays Variations from Famous Classical Ballets, Advanced

31 mins. $29.95. www.roperrecords.com

Specific classical variations (from Giselle, Swan Lake, Raymonda, etc.) featuring Ms. Reznik's innate musicality.

Ballet Class Music (Vol. 4): Lament Choukroun

No time listed. $30. www.danceclassmusic.com

Originally the repetiteur of ballet classes at l'Opera de Paris, Choukroun now trains pianists who accompany ballet class. This is just one in a series of CDs providing hours of original music with a French flair.

Behind Barres, Vol. VI

By Request with Judy Rice & Paul Lewis

64 mins. $30. www.behindbarres.com

This CD features piano arrangements of tunes by Berlin, Gershwin, Arlen, and Leroy Anderson as well as one of my all-time favorite waltzes, "The Carousel Waltz," by Richard Rodgers. …