Music is the most constant partner for the dancer in America today. Yet it is often the aspect of dance performances that is least written about, least understood, most expensive, and most challenging to work with effectively.
How have some of our leading choreographers collaborated with composers, arrangers, conductors, and instrumentalists? What kind of music makes a good dancy companion? What is needed, for example, to help a dancer to jump for joy or portray an anguished character, to set the mood for a virtuosic display, to accomplish an extended adagio lift, or merely to keep up with the rest of a chorus line?
Even professional dancers are not always sure about what they want from music--or how to get it---although they glowingly assert that they could not perform without this aural companion. And some of these artists are among the most astute listeners that music has ever had. On the other side of the footlights, both theater-goers and performing musicians have an increasing appreciation for the dancers' art, as well as a great curiosity to know more about how successful dance collaborations come into being.
Who decides what music will be played--and how it will be played? What is it like to be a musician performing in theater pits? How do dance companies manage to pay for interesting new music? How is electronic sound technology being put to imaginative artistic use for theatrical dance? And what is "musicality" in a dancer?
When I first started working as a musician for ballet and modern dance, I was disappointed to find relatively little information in print concerning these and other questions. And so it seemed that a good way to learn more about the interaction between music and dance would be to go directly to some outstanding choreographers, dancers, conductors, and orchestral instrumentalists, and