Basic Principles for Ballet Accompaniment
Universally, the musical language of the ballet studio is the sound of a solo piano. Also universally, the verbal technical language of the ballet studio is French.
While most well-trained pianists can bring into the dance studio a wide experience of classical concert literature plus a command of popular styles, novice accompanists frequently lack both a close familiarity with the repertoire of musical scores composed specifically for ballet as well as a knowledge about ballet terminology and the physical exercises themselves. This chapter provides an introduction to the exploration of these subjects.
It is important to understand the French terms because there may be times when a teacher does not demonstrate physically but merely asks for an exercise verbally. As an aid to learning both the terms and exercises, it is advisable to study one of the illustrated technical handbooks listed in the Appendix 2 and to spend quite a few hours watching both the video dictionary of ballet and live classes.
In addition to learning the terminology, one should form a visual image of exactly what the standard exercises consist of physically. It may be helpful to try to mark them with one's own body, at least with the hands. As previously suggested, taking a very elementary series of classes might also help one to develop a kinetic feeling for what dancers do in class. This also allows for a slow-motion learning of certain exercises that in advanced classes may seem to pass by too quickly for analysis.
An appreciation of the general style of classical ballet is also called for on the part of the musician. One can gain this to some extent by observing a good