Episode 15 – Music for Petit Allegro and Medium Allegro

In this episode, David teaches the listener how dancers begin to jump in ballet class, and he explains in great detail how dancers prepare to jump through the use of the plié exercise, and some plié relevé exercises.

David also tells the listener the different positions that dancers jump in, the basic positions of 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th, and he quickly gives an example of the type of exercise he would set for a first jump, or warm up jump.

The listener learns from David the multitude of steps that can be included in small jumps and medium jumps, Changement, Jeté ordinaire, Soubresaut, Assemblé, Sissone, Echappé Suaté and many many more.

The pianists then begin to discuss all the possible music that can be played for jumps, of which there are many different time signatures and styles of music that can be used.  But ultimately, the team agree that at this point in the class when the dancers are fully warm and stretched and pushing their bodies, that there is a lot of fun to be had with the music.

The listener also learns in this episode what the pianists like to play for jumps, which reveals things about their character and personality that they’re able to bring to class.  

Matthew mentions quite importantly the technical element of being able to play a secure stride in the left hand, which gives the dancer the tempo and mitre to dance against, and an inventive melody in the right for decoration.

The team discuss the different tempi that are associated with different steps, as some steps go hand in hand with different tempo, and listen out for David’s “preparing the undercarriage to land”!

Music referenced in this episode

Transcription of this episode by Jonathan Still

Taking part: 

MG: Matt Gregory  CH: Chris Hobson  AH: Akiko Hobson DY: David Yow 

—BEGINS—

[MUSIC: Ballet Piano Podcast ident] 

V/O: You’re listening to the Ballet Piano Podcast: Lifting the lid on dance accompaniment.
[Music ends]

MG: Welcome ballet fans to another instalment of The Ballet Piano Podcast. In today’s episode, we’re discussing small jumps, going into what we call a medium allegro, and we’ll explain what that means in a moment. But first, even though we’re still in lockdown, I’m here with the whole of the team. Chris Hobson

CH: Hi Matt 

MG: Akiko Hobson 

AH: Thank you so much for getting my name right! Hello 

MG: [laughing] Hashtag David Yow of Instagram 

DY: Hi everybody. 

MG: And I’m Matt Gregory. How is everyone? How’s everyone doing? 

AH: Good 

CH: Good, all right. 

DY: OK actually, yes. All things considered. 

MG: Surviving lockdown? 

DY: Just about! 

CH: Surviving lockdown? Feeling quite positive, actually at the moment, I think we’re heading towards the weekend aren’t we, so it’s really nice. Hurrah! 

MG: Marvellous. So David, 

DY: Yes, Matt 

MG: Tell us about how we begin to jump in ballet class. 

DY: Well of course the first thing I always do is we try and, well, for me, what I say is, you’re going to prepare the undercarriage to land, as in a plane [all laugh] as it were. 

MG: Are those the words you actually use? 

DY: I do, those very very words. So I’m talking about maybe doing some plié relevés or some very, very small jumps, focusing on how you land from the air, slowly controlling through your feet into the demi-plié so you’re not going to jar your bones, your muscles, or hurt yourself in any way. That’s the first thing I always do. And in terms of doing that, you’re going right back to really the very beginning of class, when we started to stand up, do our warm-up and do pliés, and so this is like an extension of the pliés, you’re just going into the air, that’s all really. Very basic, in the basic positions: first, and second, fourth or fifth, those kind of things. 

MG: And so this is where pliés and fondus you know directly relate to the jumps, is that right? 

DY: Absolutely essential, and until you actually understand how to control those muscles and use those muscles in different ways, especially to land, to stop the gravity pushing you down to the ground so quickly, you know, when you’ve found those muscles, then your jump becomes much more an elastic quality, shall we say. And you can do much more then in the air. But yeah, I always start with that. 

MG: And so what’s the very first jump exercise that you would do then, in the centre? 

DY: So let’s say I would ask for a steady 2/4 or maybe a 3/4 if I wanted more time, and we put our feet in basic position, first position, and we just do maybe some demi-pliés and relevés to start with, so I’d do a four bar introduction, [in rhythm, 3/4] five and a six and a seven and a eight, and we do demi-plié one relevé straight to demi-pointe, two, stretching your knees, and demi-plié, and then stretch your knees and stand on flat feet. And we might do that four times. [in rhythm] Bend, and relevé and bend and a stretch. Yes? And then we might do after that, we might do demi-plié, a little jump focusing on the coming down to control the landing and a slowly plié, and four times, let’s do tendu à la seconds, and lower in the second, and then repeat the same thing in second. So that’s really, really basic really, isn’t it. But what I would want the dancer to do is to focus on their posture, and their ability to control their muscles, to bend their knees and stretch their legs in a vertical line with opposing forces going up and down, on balance. And that would be it, really. 

MG: What is this that I’m always hearing from teachers, these terre à terre jumps? Is this that? Is this what you’re talking about? 

DY: It could be. Terre à terre means “close to the ground,” so you’re not going to try and push yourself airborne as high as you can into the ground, what you’re going to try and do is just stretch your legs and your feet enough so that everything is in a straight line off the ground, and then to come back down, so your toes may be just pointed, maybe just two millimetres off the floor, if that, you know. It’s very small, but you really are foucusing on the controlled downward movement. 

CH: I didn’t know that. Every episode I’ve learned something new. 

DY: Terre à terre it’s “earth to earth” 

CH: French wasn’t a language I learned at school unfortunately. 

DY: What’s that in Japanese, Akiko? 

AH: Well, I can just translate it literally, like close to the ground, or small jump, I would imagine. 

DY: Yes

AH: Do you want me to say it in Japanese? 

MG: It’s quite a cute little phrase 

CH: Yes, come on! 

DY: Yes! Yes please. We’re international! 

AH: [laughs] Give Jonathan Still [the transcriber] something to work at on the transcriptions, come on! He’s going to email me and go. . . 

DY: For international listeners. . . 

AH: If you want to say like a small jump, I would probably say, chiisai jump. So “jump” is “Jump” we use it as a jump, and then chiisai means small, that’s “small jump.” 

DY: Excellent. 

CH: So we’re all learning something new. 

MG: We are! And then, so after warm-up jumps, where then does the jumping go, in class after warm-ups? 

DY: So then we’re starting to think about . . .when you start to jump, we’re thinking about how you jump, so basically, when I was talking about the basic positions, you’re jumping from two feet to two feet, in any position, like a symmetrical position, like first position, or second position. When we get to fifth position, we’re crossing one foot in front of the other, and if we’re going more advanced, we might open the legs, and do a fourth position, which is one foot in front of another, but with a gap in-between, so you’re landing on two feet. But then we might start to think about jumping from, leaving the floor from two feet, but landing only on one foot, or the opposite way round, starting from one foot and landing on two feet. So things like changements and sautés . . . changements means, is just French for “changing,” changing your feet, that’s from fifth to fifth, and then you would do sautés in first or second position, and maybe you’d say, you could do échappés which means you’re . . . échapper means to “escape,” so you’re moving your legs away from each other, let’s say to the side and you land with your legs in second position, and then you might jump and come back to fifth position. That would be an échappé changé, so you might be changing the fifth positions each time you do that step. You might do the same things in fourth position, that’s one foot in front of the other, or, then we might start to do things like, you might start by jumping into second position to land on two feet, but then you might go from two feet and land on one foot. It might be a . . . we call that a little sissonne step, yes? Or you could do that from fifth position, and land on one foot, a petit sissonne.

MG: I mean, there are so many steps, aren’t there, that you can include

DY: There are tons. There are very many variations of those kind of two-to-one, or one-to-two jumps, like an assemblé, “assembler” meaning to join your legs in the air in a crossed fifth position with pointed feet; you could start from a demi-plié in fifth position, brush your foot to the side or any direction front or back, and then jump off that one foot and join your legs in the air, and then land on two feet—that would be an assemblé movement. 

MG: Yeah. 

DY: A two-to-two jump would be, travelling, might be something like a sissonne, so you might start like, er, in fifth position, and you might jump off from two feet move, to the side, and move your back foot out to the side and then land with it closing in the front. But you’ve moved sideways from where you started. So then it starts to get more complicated, as you can see. 

MG: I mean, there’s just, you know, you’ve got temps de cuisse, you’ve got 

DY: Yes. There’s another terre à terre jump. 

MG: Jetés, assemblés, ballottés, ballonnés

DY: Yes, and then you’ve got all the batterie after that, as well. 

MG: Yeah, and you know, in most, everything can be beaten, really, can’t it? 

DY: Absolutely. So if the assemblé was jumping, and you’re jumping from let’s say, we’ve jumped from two-to-two jumps, two-to-one jump, one-to-two, you might do jumping from one leg to the other, yes? And we might call those jetés. Jeter means to throw, so you’re throwing your body, your weight from one leg to the other, that might be going up and down, so you’re not travelling anywhere, or you could be travelling forwards, or backwards, or sideways. So that jump can like grow in many different ways and then of course as you said, you can start to beat all these exercises, and these movements, and these steps. So, a basic jeté, might become a jeté battu where you’re sort of leaving the ground, you’re brushing your foot to the side, you’re beating the air and then landing on one leg. 

MG: So, I mean, you know, the possibilities for jumps are pretty much endless, aren’t they? 

DY: Yes. Depends on what your imagination is like, and as you said, they can go on and on and on and get bigger. 

[MUSIC: Ballet Piano Podcast ident] 

MG: So kids, what do we think about music? [laughter]

CH: I like that, “so kids,” I like that Matt, can we keep that for future, that’s cute. 

MG: You’re my children 

CH: We’re all family . . . I know I say this about all the sort of, all areas of music of class, but we can have fun here, can’t we, because your styles are going to be endless, you can go from rags, you can go from reels, you can go pretty much anywhere, you can have straight 2/4s, swung 2/4s, 6/8s, 3/4s

MG: I’ve written down, I’ve written down some of the time signatures that I’ve been asked for: 2/4, 6/8, 3/4, 6/4, 9/8 

AH: Oh yeah, 9/8 

CH: I don’t. . . 

DY: I like all those complicated ones

MG: 9/8s. We can’t forget those tricky 9/8s

CH: What was it from the RAD books? Was it triple jigs, a 9/8? [singing in rhythm] 1 and a 2 and 3 and 1 and 2 and a 3 [MG joins in]

MG: [joining in with CH] yeah 

DY: Oh I love all those 

CH: I’m not a fan of the 9/8. I’m a fan of the 2/4s and 6/8s 

MG: Coz, when you play a 6/8, you know, it’s just nice triplet feel in the square phrasing, isn’t it, but 9/8s is like a 6/4 

DY: Nice and bouncy 

MG: . . .with all the beats put in. Yeah. 

CH: It never works, I don’t feel it for a 9/8, if I’m honest with you, but that’s just a personal thing. Maybe because TV theme tunes don’t fit on to a 9/8 that’s why 

MG: It’s a classic 2/4 really, for some warm-up jumps, isn’t it, or a little 6/8 

AH: & CH: Yeah 

DY: What’s your favourites? 

MG: Favourites. . . Oh, all those Broadway twos and musical theatre things, all those Irving Berlin stuff, they all work for little jumps 

DY: Yes, love all those 

MG: Nice, good melodies. Gershwin, Gershwin works as well

AH: I like playing one tune especially for warm-up jump because it makes people giggle, it’s the It’s a Hard Knock Life for warm-up jump, and all the dancers just get the giggles and I quite like, it’s quite fun 

MG: So give us some names of tunes, so I play things like I Got Rhythm, Putting on the Ritz

CH: Putting on the Ritz is in there. How about Mambo No. 5 segueing into the Blind Date theme tune. [laughter]. That works. Inspector Gadget.

MG: It’s all about being nice and bright, isn’t it, you know

DY: I think that’s the thing isn’t it

MG: Helping the dancers to get off the floor 

CH: Go traditional, go Moondance as well, you know, that is bright 2/4 [sings the tune]. It’s got a nice beat. 

MG: And of course, lots of Scott Joplin rags work for little jumps as well. 

AH: Yeah, definitely. 

CH: I think when you’re a novice and you first start, and you get to jumps, you immediately, you just get the rags, don’t you, you go back to your Scott Joplin rag books from when you were studying, or when you were a youngster, and you’re like, OK right, you remember, or some of the Christopher Norton rags from when you were quite a young pianist, and you’re like, yes! Some of these will works, and so it ends up being a good go-to doesn’t it, and then, and then. . . what was that one that we saw recently, Mr Yow, that a student said, their eyes roll a little bit, or they die a little bit inside when they hear you say “And we’ll have a rag please Mr Hobson” because they know it’s not going to be easy. [all laugh]

DY: That’s my code word! 

MG: If somebody asks me for a rag, I play rags that I know nobody else plays. 

AH: Really? 

MG: Because I’ve got a Joplin book full of rags 

CH: How about Ragtime, the musical? Because that’s not been around for well over a decade, just the opening from Ragtime?

DY: That’s true [CH: singing tune in the background]

MG: I know you play it Chris, don’t you. 

CH: Yeah, I enjoy that. 

MG: Going back to the technical elements, this is where the stride is really important for jumps. Same as the big waltzes, you know, you play your stride in two, that’s your rhythm isn’t it.

AH: Yeah

DY: Yes. 

MG: That’s your meter

DY: That’s what we’re listening for, yeah. 

MG: And then what you play on top, is, you know, that’s the fun bit. 

CH: Your left hand’s your metronome, and on the top’s the decoration, isn’t it, you know, that’s what’s going to make people smile and what’s going to give people the impetus to get through it, but the bottom is, your left hand is just your metronome going tick-tock-tick-tock. And stop-time as well if you want to throw the class off 

AH: Yes, definitely 

CH: Or if you want to see if they’ve got a little bit of musicality 

AH: Yeah, or just cross-phrase and things 

DY: That’s so good. 

CH: Yes! Cross-phrasing 

MG: And then, what do we think about the differences between a 2/4 and a 6/8, and sort of the pros and cons and the benefits of using both? 

AH: I think 6/8 gives a bit more time for the dancers to do things 

MG: Is that more time in the air? Is that right, David? 

DY: It’s more bouncy as well, it has a lighter feeling, so it feels suspended, you know, and that really does help, yeah, I agree.

MG: Yeah. Because when I think of 6/8, it’s one and a two and three and a, it’s like the landing is the rebound for the jump 

DY: Exactly. 

MG: There’s more time in the air, it feels

DY: So it’s a more springy jump. Yeah, you’re quite right. You want that, almost like that trampoline sensation coming off the ground, yeah, absolutely

MG: Am I right in thinking some steps lend themselves better to certain time signatures? Like jetés, are on a two typically

DY: Yes, because you’re going up and down, straight up and down, yeah? So it’s a very metronomic sort of feeling. But if you’re going to do, like what we call a ballotté where you, like, do almost like a demi-plié in the air, and you hold your legs underneath you in fifth position, and then you land on one leg or the other, and you stretch the free leg in the air, either front or back. And then you change, so you’re either going to the front or to the back, alternately, and this kind of swinging movement in the air so that you’re almost suspended, you need more time in the air to get your legs underneath you, so you need that 6/8 kind of rhythm, that almost two beats up two down, up two down. 

MG: I mean the good example is that lovely peasant pas de deux, Act I Giselle

DY: Perfect 

MG: I mean that’s just beautiful isn’t it, and it’s so bouncy, so light, so effervescent. Yeah, it’s lovely. 

DY: It’s almost tailor-made for it. 

AH: You know, there’s one step that I find it, maybe just for me, but I find it really unmusical—is a temps de cuisse

MG: Ah. 

DY: Generally, if it’s done incorrectly, it looks unmusical. 

AH: Yeah. 

DY: But like Matt said, it really is literally terre à terre, you are just only jumping to stretch your feet and your legs, that’s enough, no more. And what happens is, people get carried away, because a sissonne step, the jump I described before, where you’re jumping off from two feet, and you’re standing in the air, almost like on one foot, and then you land on one foot, and close the other leg, but you’re moving in one direction or another, it wants—dancers often feel like they want to get airborne, but a temps de cuisse, it’s literally a “step with the thighs,” it should feel heavy in your legs, because you’re grounded to the floor, really, and so that’s the essence of a temps de cuisse

CH: Are some steps heavier than others, David? And some, some that you want to have, let’s say slightly heavier music for? So, you know, if we go to like a 6/8, like a quadrille [16:43], you go [in 6/8 rhythm] ‘yum, pa bum, pa bum’ as opposed to the lighter 6/8 that Matt sang earlier? 

DY: If we were travelling and we were doing a galloping kind of a step, or something that needed more weight into the ground to push off and travel, yes, probably you would, would want more time, shall we say, musically? To get more things in. Or if you’re going to beat your legs in the air like a brisé, so that’s like an assemblé, which you would beat and then change your legs again when you land, it would need more time really, for you to do that, because it’s a trick in the air. 

CH: Right. And if we compare that to something like the jeté, say, which is, am I right in thinking that’s usually going to be a little lighter? 

DY: Very light, much lighter. 

CH: . . . jeté, you don’t want it heavy, so if we use what I think is your favourite, the Catharsis reel, [sings the tune] it’s my go-to for any jeté, it’s my favourite, just because it’s quick and it’s light, yeah?

DY: Yes. Yeah, and it’s like water running over rocks, and for me, when you’re doing petit allegro, small jumps, there are lots of times when you’re jumping from one—as we talked before about jumping from one leg to the other, or mixing a series of little jumps from two feet to one foot, one foot to two, and then one-to-one—you want the music to, sort of run with you, and a reel is really one of those pieces of music, which really like . . . it’s exciting to do. But yeah, that’s why I like it, because, you’ve got to think vocabulary 

MG: Like a hornpipe as well. 

DY: Yeah, exactly. 

MG: Because they just keep going, don’t they? 

CH: I like it David, when you do groups of students like doing jetés from the back to the front and petit allegro exercises, because you can start to have fun with your melodies and you can start from tune to tune to tune, can’t you? 

AH: Yeah, more groups is better. 

CH: More groups is better, you can have fun, there’s this video that you’ve put on the social media, Matt, isn’t there, of Akiko and I duetting, and that was in a class for David, and it was so much fun. 

AH: Yeah, it is fun. 

CH: Well, when I say duets, we were pushing each other of the piano. 

MG: When you change up your tunes that often, it keeps everybody listening

DY: It does, absolutely 

MG: And you know, it’s pure enjoyment, isn’t it. 

DY: Fresh. What I like to do is I like to start off, if I’m doing something complicated like what Chris was saying, if I’m doing a complicated combination, what I’ll do is start slowly and then every so often, I’ll just go over to Chris and say “A little bit faster,” so by the time we’ve done it three or four times, we’re going at super pace, and everybody’s laughing and giggling because they’re just like, you know, they can’t fit everything in, but it’s just like fun, usually. 

CH: And it’s like, who’s going to fall over first, is it going to be the dancers because it’s got so fast, it might have started at a semi-reasonable tempo [sings beats at 102 bpm] and then by the end of it, when each group has gone through it a couple of times you’re going [sings beats at 167]. Blooming heck my fingers are going fall off, and you can see them trying to do the choreography, and it’s just like they’re looking and smiling, it does create a great atmosphere in the class, it’s good fun. 

DY: It does, it does. You do have to have that fun. And if you’d asked the students to do it at that pace straight away they probably would have looked at you as if you were like mad. But it’s such a sense of achievement, it’s like a little sense of achievement when they’ve done it, because they realise that they’ve been like going steadily faster and faster. 

MG: Yeah, it’s like that at the company, like when, you know, the ballet master sets something and you play something, you know, and once the dancers have done it once and they go round and do it again, it’s so in their bodies, and then that’s when I start to do a lot of tacit and stop-time, play really high-up on the keyboard and get them on their landings, and then change its up and play something really groovy at the bottom. You know, it’s just, that’s when I really change up the music. 

CH: Or changing it up in styles, as well, like you know, from a straight rag to . . . 

MG: Yeah, I do that all the time as well. 

CH: . . . a reel, to something that’s got swing quavers, and you know, things like, I quite like to do, from that Catharsis Reel, which is straight quavers, you can, I send it into something like, it’s called the Chicken Reel, which is then swung quavers. And you know, these are all, these are tunes I learned playing for a Scottish ceilidh band back in the day, so they’ve sort of become part of my repertoire, but they’re, you know, and then you can go from that into, I don’t know, like Brasileira [from Scaramouche by Milhaud] or something like that, you know, there’s a lot of, and then finish off with Tequila and shout “Tequila!” from behind the piano.

[AH laughs]

MG: Yeah, if I get some tiny little ballerina coming by herself, or with two of them, I always play Dance of the Hours, really high-up on the keyboard because there’s lots of like, there’s lots of missed beat in there, and lots of little tacit and stop-time and so I just take all the accompaniment out, and play that nice and sparse, and just watching for where their landings is, and you know, it’s quite fun. 

DY: I love it when you guys play syncopated rhythms as well, that really like complicates matters. 

CH: That’s the one, yeah, it’s syncopation. Because we’ve not made it complicated enough already by speeding things up changing all of the tunes up [laughter/inaudible] the styles of the reels, and now we’re just going to bring in a load of syncopation as well. 

AH: And it makes us feel really excited if the dancers react with our syncopated rhythm, not get too confused by the music. 

CH: If you start going [sings fast] 1 and a 2 and 3 and 4 and a 5 and 6 and 7 and, and totally cross-phrasing let’s say over eight or 16 bars, and you watch somebody doing this fantastic little petit allegro through it and they’re not thrown by it, when you come together at the end, which is great, it’s just that exciting feeling when you come together right at the end of exercise isn’t it? 

MG: I always play Beat It, by Michael Jackson 

AH: Oh! 

DY: Oh yes

MG: But I always [singing 3+3+2 rhythm ] and I always just, yeah, really really syncopate 

CH: Do you wait to play Beat It until they start beating the exercise? [AH laughs]

MG: Well, sometimes I do, and sometimes nobody gets it. 

DY: Well done! 

MG: If someone sets a clear batterie exercise, and I play Beat It and see who gets it. 

CH: And then, you must get really, I mean, and then it’s like a little bit sad inside when people don’t react that you’re now playing Beat It, and it’s like, I’ve put effort into this, I’ve saved this tune for the beats section, and you’re not, no-one’s reacting. 

MG: It’s because you think you’re cool and you’re not! 

CH: I’m not cool any more. I don’t know half the stuff that the cool kids listen to, I’m not a cool kid. I don’t think I ever was, I just pretended, I did a good job at faking it. Like I do in the studio now on a daily basis. 

AH: People probably don’t understand you, Chris, you know. [DY laughs]

CH: [inaudible] 

MG: No, I always do Beat It but then I go into the melody of Man In The Mirror [sings the tune] and syncopate that as well, that always works really lovely. 

DY: By about this time now, when you start to add the beats, that’s when they start to get that fearful face [laughs] and they’re like, oh my goodness, I’ve got to get my legs and everything around this now, that’s why they don’t look so happy [laughs] til they’ve mastered it. 

CH: Is the music, sort of, let’s say it gets brighter, and it can get faster and it can get more fun, as we’ve just discussed, does that help you and the dancers get through this complicated choreography that’s been set, because it’s gone, it’s the quickest sort of unsupported choreography that we’ve had so far, isn’t it? You know, you’ve got no barre, it’s the quickest choreography in the centre. So if you’ve got something like that, it’s not, I mean, it’s not a dist—, I mean, it could be a distraction as well, but it’s also helpful. 

DY: It’s a very helpful distraction, to be honest, because of the actual complexity of what you’re asking them to do, what you want them to do is to challenge themselves to do this, because it is very complicated, and as I said, when I start slow, and we go slightly faster, you can tell when they start to get to grips with it, their confidence sort of like growing, and they’re feeling better at it, and suddenly they’re enjoying it, even though it’s going faster and faster and they’re having fun, simply because they’ve repeated it, and you’ve helped them do that, with the jolly music that you’ve been playing to help them get through, it’s a real, really inspiring part of the class, yeah, totally. 

CH: Brilliant. 

MG: And what about, what about different tempo for men and women? 

DY: As the students become older, you do tend to want to have some of the exercises very different for the boys and the girls so from like 13 onwards, we’re starting to make the jumps for the boys a little bit more sturdier and heavier, maybe the same steps as the ladies, but just in the way that the gentlemen do it, because their musculature is developing differently, you want to actually guide them in a different way, so yes, you would, you want like sort of a heavy feeling to it, let’s say assemblés, or the first few jumps, the batterie, and then of course at the end of the class, when you’re starting to get, to do more virtuosic jumps, you want to slow down the music so there’s more time in the air for them to sort of like “hang” in the air shall we say, or do more things, like beats, and turns and things. Because of course, with all the jumps, you can turn them all, as well, [25:45] so that’s another added, you know. . . challenge. And that needs more time in the air as well, so the more “tricks,” shall we say, that we put into the steps, the basic steps, the more time often you need in the air to execute that particular trick that you’re doing. 

MG: Yeah, I mean I find at the company, for the men, I can’t play slow enough sometimes [laughter] even when they’re doing big, big échappés that they do, you know, sissonne coupé assemblé, it’s massive. Even though we call it a “medium” jump, we’ve not got to grand allegro yet, even on just a medium jump, they’re outdoing each other, you know, and there’s so much space in the music, and we’ve not even got to grand allegro yet, so yeah, for sometimes the men, and you see the women, some of the women join in with the men, bless them, and you know, principal women or whatever, and you know, they can’t really jump as high as the men, and so they’re anticipating the music more, and you know, getting ahead of the exercise, because they can’t jump as high as the men, so I always try and mix it up with men and women 

DY: Unless you’re a certain Russian lady [laughter]. I mean, it’s wonderful to see it when ladies do jump really high, it’s really nice, because they have a different way of moving in the air, so it’s not say that ladies can’t jump high, they can, but they just do it in a very different way, but gents, of course, this is what they’ve been dying to do from the moment they’ve walked through the studio doors, they’ve wanted to jump, and show off, and this is where they sort of like get into their element really. But what drives me nuts is if they can jump, but they jump off the music, that drives me nuts. There’s a time and a place for everything. 

MG: You see some people, I’m not going to mention names, like some dancers will walk in, probably late for class, and start like just halfway through the pliés, face like thunder first thing, and then as soon as we get to the jumps, all of the dancers come alive. Because it’s like, that’s what they want to do. 

CH: It’s like when we talked about it in the last episode, didn’t we, from what was it last time, pirouettes? Where people start to outdo each other with the turns, and this is where this competition, hopefully always healthy but not always healthy, this competition comes into class, doesn’t it now, so it starts in the pirouettes, and it comes in the jumps, and they get bigger and bigger and bigger, and when the big grand allegro, then we head off into the virtuosic steps. 

DY: It’s so exciting to see though, isn’t it? Is it exciting to play for, when this part of class happens? 

MG: I love it, love it, love it. I mean, within the jumps that we’ve talked about in this episode, we’ve gone from really really quick, you know, petit allegro like jetés and assemblés, and then, you know, the medium steps, sissonnes and what not, you know, they can either be really quick and watch the dancers absolutely eat up that—eat up the floor, and then when they do the big jumps, like the medium jumps, they eat up the air. So the jumping bit is just super exciting, on all levels. 

CH: And we’re helping people do this, aren’t we, it’s what we want to do, we’re accompanists. If you’re in the studio, you are an accompanist, and I think we talked about it right in one of the first couple of episodes, where we were talking about open classes and people enjoying the music, and you know, they’re living their best life in an open class, people who do that, and it’s great, and it’s so much fun to play for, when you, on the complete flip-side of that, we’re in the studio, or we’re in the company, and we are, you know, we’re helping people achieve this incredibly difficult and virtuosic art form, and they’re enjoying doing it, we’re enjoying accompanying them, it is a proper . . . it’s a proper buzz. It really is. 

DY: Totally. Music here is the lifeblood of dancing, totally. 

MG: I absolutely love it 

CH: We’re going to put that on a mug David, and sell it! If I haven’t already put one on the website, it will be there soon, a mug. 

MG: Anyone got any ugly stories about jumps? Anything that’s gone wrong? Anything that’s gone wrong? Anything that you think, Oh God . . .

AH: I think I was quite nervous in the beginning, like when I started the job, the jump was the most kind of like nervous moment of the class for me, because I didn’t know whether I’m doing the right, you know, [whether] I’m playing the right music, in the beginning of the career. 

MG: Yeah. David, have you ever had a pianist that just hasn’t got it, what you wanted? 

DY: Yes. Yes. Totally. 

CH: How was that? 

DY: It’s really difficult to know how to sort of like get yourself out of that, and what I generally do is I just go back to simplification, that’s the way out of it, is to just come back to basics, otherwise it just goes completely out of the window. Sometimes if it’s, if I can feel it coming up that it’s not going well, I’ll completely stop and say, OK then, let’s start that once more, let’s try something different, or something else. Or simplify. That’s generally the way I do it, you know, I’ve got like three options, and I’m thinking OK, thinking on my feet, what’s the best option now? Because you don’t want anyone to lose face, and you want everybody to keep their, you know, to be enjoying that part of class, and to be positive and moving forwards as a group. 

MG: So listeners, that’s it for another episode, we hope you found that interesting and insightful. If you want to get in touch with us at any time, you can email us at balletpianopodcast@gmail.com and particularly as the last episodes in this series are Q & As, we want to hear from you, any questions you have for us, whether it’s about ballet and/or music, or maybe you just want to know colour socks Chris has on that day. [CH laughs] Get the questions in, because Chris has bright socks, get those questions in, and we will mention you on the podcast. And also Chris, you could say this, we’re doing another little playlist thing for our listeners, which will be on the website, and Chris, can you just tell us a bit about that? 

CH: We are, yeah, so every episode that we’ve released has got it’s own little section on our website which is balletpianopodcast.com so every piece of music that we reference in our discussions is on there in a playlist, so if you click on to our website at balletpianopodcast.com and click on the [menu] tab that says “the podcast,” you can go to each episode on there, and every piece of music that we’ve ever mentioned throughout the whole series is there for you to listen to. 

MG: It’s just going to give people ideas, isn’t it? 

CH: It is. And they’re the weirdest playlists ever created! 

MG: So check that out on the website, and join us next time, where we’ll be talking about grand allegro, the biggest jump of all; and in the meantime, check us out on Facebook and Instagram, @theballetpianopodcast. So for now, it’s goodbye from me 

CH: Goodbye from me 

AH: Bye bye

DY: Bye everyone. 

[MUSIC: Ballet Piano Podcast ident] 

. . . ENDS. . .

© 2020 Ballet Piano Podcast (Christopher Hobson, Matt Gregory, Akiko Hobson, David Yow)

 Producer: Christopher Hobson


Transcription by Jonathan Still 19/05/2020 09:10:00


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