Episode 16 – Music for Medium and Grand Allegro

In this episode, the team primarily discuss the biggest jump of all, which is grand allegro, but before that, David briefly rounds up the medium allegro and talks about how he as a teacher, bridges that gap between medium and grand allegro.

The listeners learn from David that pretty much all the jumping steps can be done at the various heights, those being terre à terre, close to the ground with the feet barely leaving the floor, petit sauté, with slightly more jump and stability, petit allegro where the jumps begin to move from the spot and travel.  After that is the medium allegro where the jumps become noticeably larger and more intense, with more height and more travel.  And the biggest jump of all is the grand allegro, where dancers travel the most, gain the most height, and show off their impressive technique and flair!

David emphasises the importance of the use of demi plié, and how that at this height of jump it is crucial for landing softly, and how the intensity of the take-off requires a slower tempo, more space in the music and generally bigger music than previously used, to create the sensation of being air born.

David also teaches the listeners about the different categories of jumps, which are two feet to two feet, two feet to one foot, one foot to two feet and one foot to one foot.  All the jumps can be categorised into one of these.  David lists the endless steps that can be used in the medium allegro.

In terms of music, the team discuss that in the jumping section of class, all the range of speed and dynamics are used from the smallest terre à terre, to the biggest grand allegro.

In this episode, the listeners learn about the division of ballet steps at medium allegro for men and women.  Men are generally more muscular and jump in a different way, and ballet repertoire lends itself to tailoring the steps for men and women. But ultimately as the dancers reach grand allegro exercise, they are trying to cover a lot of space, and everything to the extreme facility and maximum push.

The team digress slightly into the ways terminology differs around the world depending on training and school of thought, and how steps are called different things depending on where you dance.  Also, listen out for the very famous “lame duck” step and how according to David, the urban myth of someone doing it badly conjured up that image and the slang name was born.

So, the music for grand allegro, the team agree that big waltzes are generally used, but that allegro meaning quick, is really the antithesis of the what you should be playing.  Music for grand allegro, should be big, expansive within the tempo, use of octaves, and also maestoso as Chris quite rightly says.

The pianists discuss the technicalities of playing for grand allegro.  The importance of the volume of the music in encouraging the dancer to jump as high as possible, and where possible, the pianist is trying to emulate an orchestra by creating a big wall of sound.  The size of the music is going to help the dancers sail through the air.  

As mentioned in previous episodes and mentioned again here, the use of stride is so important for grand allegro.  The left hand plays the bass note and jumps up the keyboard to play a chord in the next beat, creating metre and tempo, and that is the important necessity to create the feel of the exercise, keep the tempo, and use all of the keyboard to create that grand sound.

The pianists talk about the plethora of waltzes that can be used for grand allegro from Strauss to Richard Rodgers, as long as the waltz is as rousing as possible.  And the way the pianists accompany the grand allegro, being sensitive to the dancer’s take-off and landing is very important.  There has to be a harmonious marriage between dance and music, throughout the class, but particularly in the climactic grand allegro.

The episode finishes with a couple of funny anecdotes and lots of laughter. Get comfortable, because this is a long one!

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. 

CH: Hello podcast fans, and welcome back to this episode of the The Ballet Piano Podcast. My name is Chris Hobson, and as always, social distancing with me is Miss Akiko Hobson

AH: Hello

CH: Matt Gregory 

MG: Hello 

CH: Hello, and hashtag David Yow of Instagram

DY: Hello

CH: Hello. Gentlemen, how are you both, are you well? You look fabulous on my laptop screen. How are you both? 

MG: [laughs] I feel. . . I’m absolutely smashing 

DY: Still kicking! 

MG: Yeah, absolutely great 

CH: Still kicking. Matt your hair’s looking good, David yours looks fabulous.

AH: It’s just getting longer and longer isn’t it! 

MG: My hair looks so long. 

DY: Yeah, me too Matt. 

MG: I’m using the headphones as an Alice band to hold my hair back 

DY: Exactly, exactly! 

CH: I get out of the shower usually about two minutes before I log into my first Zoom class in the morning, and what I’m noticing is when I, you know, an hour and a half later, I go and walk the dog, and I take the headphones off and I’ve got a big flat patch in the middle of my hair where the headphones have been [all laugh], so it’s a good job I’m not on the pull any more. I imagine that’s about as attractive as eating garlic on a first date [laughter]. Right who’s ready to jump into the podcast, are we all ready to go? 

AH: Yes! 

MG: Let’s do it! 

DY: Lovely! 

CH: Right, so this week we are going to be talking about grand allegro, which is basically the biggest, the strongest and the most dynamic of all the ballet exercises, comprising of movements such as grands jetés, cabrioles, sauts de basque, tours jetés etc. but before we get there, we’re just going to stick on the pause button and reflect on what we discussed last week for medium allegros, and how a medium allegro can segue through into grand allegro as the preparation, because there’s a lot to discuss in medium allegro. I think we did a lot of justice to it in the previous episode, but we could always do more. So we’re just going to quickly top up on that, aren’t we David, so please take it away, from the medium or the back-end of medium allegro, if you don’t mind, please. 

DY: Well, if we just cast our minds back to think that there are five levels of jumps, really: your very close to the ground jumps that we talked about first of all, the terre à terre jumps—we talked about petits sautés, which have a little bit more jump and stability, and then petit allegros which jump around and move around, and now we’re at medium jumps, and then we’re going to go to the bigger jumps, the grand allegro, and as we said, almost all jumps can be done small, medium, or large, it just depends on what you’re going to do with it and how you’re going to do it, and what kind of music you’re going to use, what kind of message you’re trying to bring across. So in our medium kind of jumps, we’re really kind of like getting into the meat and potatoes of actually how you jump, so the kind of push-off you get from the floor and the landing has to be much more flexible using your—remember demi-plié when we started with this a long time ago? How many episodes was that again, Chris? 

CH: Oh gosh, right, well this is episode 16, so plié must have been episode 2 or 3

DY: Oh my goodness! 

CH: So it’s a long time ago! 

MG: Episode 3, yeah 

CH: I’ve gone so grey since then

MG: Back in February

DY: Absolutely. Oh wow. 

CH: Like, when we could still socialise together! 

DY: We’re using those demi-plié movements now to help push us off the ground to gain height, and also to protect our bodies when we land so that we don’t crash-land on to the floor, and you’re using your muscles to soften the landing as it were, and because of that it takes more time in the air, it takes more strength, and so we need more time within the music, so we’re using bigger 2/4s, bigger 3/4s, almost with a nice, like, airborne kind of a feeling about them, really. And we talked about all kinds of different kinds of jumps, didn’t we, we talked about two-to-two jumps, yes? You’re taking off and landing and on two feet, you can take off from two and land on one foot, or take off on one foot and land on . . . all those kinds of things, and now we’re going to put those things into practice, so as you said, we’re doing things like grands changements, which could be a medium jump, that’s two . . . you’re bending your knees, jumping in the air, and then landing again, having changed your feet from fifth to a fifth. Or you could do any sautés like that, in a sort of a bigger jump. You can échappé, you can move your legs away from each other to the side, or to the front, and back, échappé meaning to “escape,” yes? So your legs are escaping from each other and land in an open position, and then perhaps you come back into a closed position, or you might do like a sissonne where you’re taking off from two feet and you’re landing on one foot, that could be sur place. Did we talk about sur place a very long time ago, which meant no travelling at all, just “on the place,” yes? So you’re jumping up and down in the same place. 

CH: Just on the place, yes? 

DY: Or you could do like a bigger sissonne where you could travel en avant, travelling forward, so you’re like taking off from two feet, you’re travelling forward, landing on your front foot, and then slowly very gently closing into a fifth position derrière, that would be a sissonne fermée, “fermer“ meaning to close, en avant meaning you’re travelling forward. It could be done, the same step, en arrière, going backwards, or de côté, travelling sideways, or we can do things like an assemblé where you take off from one foot, you’re brushing along the floor with one foot, jumping off the one foot, joining two legs in the air, and then landing on two legs, or a temps levé where you’re taking off from one leg and landing on the same leg, and finally the jeté which means to throw, so you’re throwing your body weight from one leg, taking off from one leg, and landing on the other leg, in any direction. So there we are, so those are your medium kinds of jumps, really, plain ones. 

MG: I mean that’s really interesting hearing you say that because obviously I know the names of steps, but hearing you say that they, obviously a jeté can be done, a jeté ordinaire, petit jeté, but then at the grand allegro level, it’s a grand jeté en avant or de côté or whatever

DY: Exactly. 

MG: But yeah, just hearing you say it, it makes absolute sense that those jumps can be done, you know, terre à terre, really small, and then at the grand level, you know, they’re splitting their legs and, you know, six feet in the air, that’s amazing. 

CH: As we work up to the grand allegro the music’s now, we’re starting. . . we’ve gone from the very light, you know, the light 2/4s, the light rags and things at the start when we’re doing little petit sautés, we’re working through now at the tail-end of medium allegro into grand allegro, the music’s getting a lot heavier, isn’t it? It’s almost in preparation for this big waltz which we’ll discuss later on

DY: Yes

CH: And it’s getting bigger, you know, it’s not this pretty like flappy music that we’ve had, or fun music, things are starting to get serious, and the ante’s been switched up a little bit hasn’t it, hasn’t it, so like as a dancer, David, or as a teacher, what was the process going through your mind when you were going from medium allegro through into the preparation for grand allegro and then getting ready to do that first grand allegro exercise of the day? 

DY: This is the most exciting part of the class now, because you’re, you’re just letting rip really, you’re just going for it, and pushing your body to the limit, to get as high off the ground as possible without hurting yourself coming back on to the ground, with as much control as you can, and this is where now, the division between ladies’ work and men’s work starts to really show the division now, because of course, physically the men are more, are muscularly more, you know, robust now, not to say that ladies’ can’t jump, they can, there’s some beautiful ladies who can jump, and they have done, and you know, it’s really exciting to see ladies’ jump, but they jump in a different way as we said before, we sort of alluded to that last time in our medium jumps, so now we’re really trying to travel across, we’re trying to cover space as well, and that’s the really exciting bit, really, about grand allegro, you know, and all the different ways that you can do that and you’re pushing your body like at the end of the barre to do as big a movement as you possibly can, so that means either lifting your legs as high as they can, beating your legs as much as they possibly can, turning as much as you can, everything to the extreme, and that’s what so exciting, it’s so, so athletic really, it’s breathtaking when it’s done really well. 

MG: It’s also worth saying as well, that everything prior to this exercise is leading towards this exercise, every position that’s been done at the barre, the centre, arabesques, second positions, effacés, écartés, all the lines have been practised, slow promenades for pirouettes, you know, grands ronds de jambe become ronds de jambe sautés, it can all be in the grand allegro, can’t it, everything, you can put anything in the grand allegro. 

DY: Absolutely 

MG: You know, those those battements piqués, it’s for cabrioles and things like that. 

DY: Cabrioles, exactly. Yes. Totally. And the thing is now, we’re not just doing a single step, we’re actually putting steps together, so big steps could be—steps being together could be what we call “compound steps,” where there are series of steps, like a sissonne, a coupé, and an assemblé would be a sissonne doublée or a retombé. You could do a series of similar steps where you do repeated jumps up and down, yes? Just like plain changements, they could sort of like develop into beats, where they become lots of beats, so you’re beating your legs not just once, not just twice, but maybe three times, to make yourself do entrechat six so two legs beating, yes? A maximum of three times each would be like an entrechat six, six beats in the air, or you could do like what we call, we have like preparatory linking steps into a big step, like a demi-contretemps into an assemblé porté so you’re doing like a demi-contretemps is half of a linking set of steps that travel, that makes you, gives you more power along the floor to gain vertical height, so like you know, when you look at the athletics and you see someone do the triple jump, those three steps before they jump into the pit are like what a compound step would be for us. 

CH: Preparatory 

DY: Yes, preparatory steps, exactly. So, or we could do a series of steps like a demi-contretemps and a six de volé so we could beat those assemblés travelling down from one diagonal to the other, which is quite exciting, or we could do some galloping steps that maybe linking steps into things like sauts de basque which is where you jump off from one leg like a jeté and you land on another but in the middle, you’re going to turn once in the air, or turn twice in the air, and that’s really exciting, and both ladies and gentlemen do those, or grand jeté en tournant, or entrelacé as it’s called. I don’t know about in ballet terms, because I guess it’s evolved in many different areas of the world, many steps have different names, is it like that in music. 

AH: Not really. 

CH: Not really, no. 

MG: No. 

CH: I mean, if Akiko and I are going to say now, I’d imagine, is a march, a march is a march in Japan, isn’t it? Or a waltz is a waltz in Japan. 

MG: Because in ballet, the way it’s evolved there are different terminologies depending on what kind of syllabus or what kind of style that you choose to learn from the beginning, so like, when I was growing up, we were talking about things where we, steps like grand jeté en tournant, so it’s a big jeté which means you throw your weight from one leg and land on the other leg, and you’re also turning in the air, you’re doing you’re doing half a turn, so you’re running and you’re facing one direction, and you end the jump landing on the other leg, facing the other direction, and it’s a really exciting jump. And when I got into the company and I was moving around the world, that step wasn’t named similarly around the world the same, so now we talk about it in terms of entrelacé, which means that you’re interchanging your legs in the air, so it has a different name, and a different you know, but the step is still the same, and I thought that was quite interesting, and there’s quite a few steps and terminologies in ballet terms that aren’t the same, and I wondered if it was the same in music? 

CH: Has that become more cohesive now, worldwide, you know, say, in 2020 maybe as opposed to maybe 20 years ago, or 25 years ago, 30 years ago? Or is it still very much dependent on particular steps have a certain name or are referred to in a certain way, in certain areas of the world? 

DY: It has got more homogenised, as you were saying, but there are, I mean, it does depend on what syllabus, or what, let’s say, branch of ballet that you start with. So if you start with RAD, and Cecchetti, and all of those kind of things, and BBO, British Ballet Organization, you will learn about grand jeté en tournant, but if you start with the Russian, the Vaganova system of training, you’re going to hear about entrelacé, and if you go to America, you’re going to hear about entrelacé, and if you say “grand jeté en tournant,” they’ll look at you really weirdly. 

CH: As if .. . 

DY: So what I do now is I actually say, these steps have many different names, but when you look at them visually, they’re going to look the same, so what you need to do, like if you learn a different language, you just need to know that that thing is the same, you know? And that kind of helps the student to understand that it’s not wrong, it’s just a different way of saying it, but it’s the same step in the end. 

CH: And can I ask you—the “lame duck,” how many cultures use the word, or the descriptive name “lame duck.” 

AH: I actually want to ask, what is it? Why do you call it lame duck? 

DY: It’s slang, because it grew out of someone doing it very, doing what we call a tour piqué en dehors, so you’re going to step onto your half-pointe, and turn around outwards, and somebody must have done a series of those very badly, and looked like a lame duck waddling around [AH laughs] so that’s how it started, well that’s how the myth started, anyway. So when you hear it in the companies, they’ll say, let’s have a couple of lame ducks, or something like that, and that’s what they mean. 

MG: It’s become so engrained in the ballet vocabulary. 

DY: It has. 

MG: Nobody calls it posé pirouette en dehors, everyone calls it lame duck

DY: Absolutely, and like tour jeté en dedans is what we. . . we just say “posé turns“ so you’re stepping forward and turning en dedans and so when I first learned how to teach a certain system, at a particular school, it was all new to me as well, but it was interesting, because I was thinking, oh, wow, there’s more than one way of saying this, like you know, like cooking, there’s more than one way of actually putting the ingredients in a pan, and coming out with a beautiful meal. But as we were talking about you know, combination jumps, like you know, compound steps and things like that, you can then put steps together into combinations, you know, and they can be at any height, and we call these enchaînements, because enchaînement means “linking together” so you might put one step in one—start with one step, go on to another one, and end with a third one, and in between, you’re linking them all together with linking steps, like running steps, or you know, all different kinds of steps.

CH: So the choreography’s basically it’s as broad as and as wide and as interesting as your imagination and your experience. 

DY: Yes. And as you said, it’s more choreographic now, at the end of this class, so you’re, it’s open to more expression, and you’re really just trying to show your joy of dance in the air, really, it’s fantastically exciting, it really is. So that of course, will lead on to our next segment which we’re going to do which will be virtuoso jumps and virtuosity. 

[MUSIC: Ballet Piano Podcast ident] [16:34]

CH: So kids, musicality for grand allegro [MG laughs]. Matt, I’ve nicked your “kids,” and I’m using it every week. 

MG: That’s fine. 

CH: Aw. Just change who’s the daddy each week, can’t we, this week it’s me. So musically, we are mostly going to be on a blimming big waltz, aren’t we, usually. 

AH: Usually, yes. 

MG: Yeah. 

CH: And it’s going to be a big waltz to match the big and exciting and soaring movements that are going on in the class, isn’t it? You know, so you’re going to have big octaves in the bass for the oom-cha-chas oom-cha-chas, but interestingly enough, I was thinking about this, we call it grand allegro, allegro, so you know, the exercise for grand allegro is not musically what you’re going to expect when you have a piece of music and you say “it’s an allegro,” is it? You know, because it’s not, it’s big, it’s heavy, it’s you know, it’s very majestic, it’s maestoso almost, it’s big.

MG: Yeah, absolutely. 

CH: As a novice accompanist, you come in and you hear this, OK were going in for grand allegro, and I remember doing this right at the start of my career, you know, and having, being told to have a few big waltzes ready for the end of class, you know, so I mean the Chopin, [sings Chopin Op. 18 No. 1 Grande Valse Brillante] and the “Minute waltz” [Op. 64 No.1] and thinking, you know, really working really hard on my finger dexterity to get it really quick, and then getting there and the tempo being [sings a very heavy, slow three] oom-cha-cha oom-cha-cha and thinking, oh God, I’m not prepared for this! 

AH: Well now you’re competing yourself how many strings you can break in one lesson, no? 

CH: Depends on what studio I’m in, and what piano I’m playing, and [laughter] . . . I don’t do that. 

DY: With gusto!

AH: I have a question to David actually, you know, as a dancer, does the volume of the piano, does that matter for you guys to jump high, or the dancer grand allegro? If we play quiet . . . 

DY: I absolutely love it. No, it does, it does. Because it’s like, it’s like raising your voice and projecting your voice if you’re a singer, rather than singing very quietly; now, you just want to let go, and so you need that music to help you sail through the air, and when you’re. . . if you have a pianist who doesn’t really understand you or is not really experienced, they won’t understand how much the volume of the music coming out of the piano is important to grand allegro. 

AH: That’s great to know because once, well, that’s what I believed myself without asking any teachers, so I tend to play quite loud music for grand allegro, and I was once told that my piano is too loud, and I felt horrible. So I’m just quite happy to hear this. 

MG: It’s got to be as full as possible, the music has to be as full as possible. 

DY: Exactly, it’s got to match the movement. 

AH: Yeah. 

DY: It’s got to match the movements, exactly. So to play quietly would be opposite, you know. 
MG: Yeah, hundred percent. Yeah. 

CH: It’s like we’re trying to recreate an orchestral sound here, aren’t we, we are being this big wall of sound that you’re going to get, if you imagine like the Nutcracker grand pas de deux or something two thirds of the way through, or three quarters of the way through, for that, the biggest climax, I think there’s two or three, isn’t there, but the final one where it’s incredibly loud, we are trying to recreate that wall of sound and that effect that the dancer is going to get on the stage in their grand allegro exercise, and you know, we might be playing fortissimo, and we’ve already played fortissimo, possibly if there’s a big crescendo in an adage that we’ve done, you know, to evoke emotions earlier in the centre, but it might be the same decibel of volume but it’s a very different fortissimo, just in terms of how we’re playing it, isn’t it? It’s brighter, it’s a little bit, almost brasher sometimes. And it’s bigger, it’s more in your face that anything we’ve done previously. 

MG: And what you’ve just mentioned Chris, about trying to emulate an orchestra, I will even though I’ll play the waltz, you know, I will always fill in and add bits, and you know, things like that, just to fill in the melody as well, just to create that huge body of sound for the dancers you know to really jump as high as possible. 

CH: All your oom-chas for the accompaniment are always going to be in octaves, aren’t they, you know, low down in the piano, jumping up with the stride as we were referencing last week, you know, so you might 

MG: That’s what I was going to say, striding is so important for grand allegro, and I remember when I first started playing for class, and I was really inexperienced, and I couldn’t stride at first because it’s you know, it’s something you learn, and I remember David Andrew Wilson, a good friend of ours, he’d say to me, give me a bit more “One” like the first beat of the bar, and I’m thinking, I’m really trying but I can’t, I don’t know how to stride properly yet. So that’s just something that comes from, you know, from practice. But yeah, I love playing big waltzes. 

DY: Could you explain what striding means again, I’ve forgotten. 

MG: Striding is what you do in your left hand, it’s where you find that waltz rhythm, so you play with your pinky and your thumb, your big bass note, and then you’d find your chord on the two-three in your left hand, and that would be your oom-cha-cha oom-cha-cha in your left hand, and then all the glorious melody and harmony are in the right hand as well, that’s your big decoration, your big melody. So the stride bit is what your left hand does. 

DY: Thank you, thank you Matt. 

CH: When we come to choosing repertoire for the grand allegro . . . Matt, Akiko, where do you go? Because it’s, I mean, there are a million and one different waltzes out there, a million different, massive big waltzes. 

MG: There are so many. You know, the big Strauss waltzes? The big Strauss waltzes, the Viennese waltzes, they’re all great, but you know what, the musical theatre waltzes are perfect for grand allegro, my go-to is the “Embassy Waltz” from My Fair Lady because it’s so rousing 

CH: My Fair Lady, yes, I play that a lot, yeah. 

MG: And, Richard Rodgers, the waltzes of Richard Rodgers, of Rodgers and Hammerstein, are just beautiful, you know, Carousel, it’s all those big waltzes. 

CH: I love the Carousel waltz. 

DY: Love it. It’s one of my favourites. 

MG: Because the way they’re written and the way they’re harmonized, they are, they’re so rousing, they’ve got lovely 9th intervals and 7ths and 6ths intervals, and they’re just, they’re just really rousing. And it’s perfect for grand allegro. 

CH: And they’re supportive as well, without being obstructive or something like that, aren’t they, for the dancers when they’re doing these big allegros because this is where they want the most support, musically, but we don’t want to be doing what we were doing back in petit allegro which is having a little bit of fun and just playing on the off-beats, or cross-rhythmic, and you know, syncopation and things, this needs this big “one” and quite occasionally, if you think of some of the big, the big ballet waltzes, a lot of them have got intro—, are on the upbeat aren’t they, so the phrase actually starts on two or three, which is great, if you’re doing a grand allegro from the corner, because every time you get to that main melody, you’ve got, just before you take off you’ve got this thing like one two three, you’ve just got that little start of the phrase going in, so on beat 1 the melody has already kicked in a little bit for when you go, it’s an extra level of support I think. 

MG: Mm. And when I’m playing the big waltzes as well, if the men and women are doing run run run grand jeté, while they’re in the air, I’ll suspend the music, and I’ll land on the beat with them, because they just want to get as high as possible and they don’t want to have to, they want to you know, get as, you know, get as big a jump as possible, so I’m going to just wait for them to land before we carry on, and I think that’s quite important. 

CH: If people aren’t being very musical, Matt, do you wait for them to land and then get your fist ready on the bottom of the piano, so play beautifully, so play beautifully, like some beautiful Richard Rodgers waltz [sings] and then they land half a beat late and as they land you go “boom” on the bottom of the piano? 

MG: Yeah. . . [laughter] I’m sure that’s what you do. 

CH: I was just thinking I haven’t done that for a long time but I have done it previously, but this is like, it’s what makes this special isn’t it, this is what makes the relationship between music and dance special is this sort of work and this sort of exercise, because like David says, it’s choreographed, this is as close as you’re going to get really to rehearsing or performing ballet isn’t, a performing stage ballet, this is it, you know, grand allegro, so it’s got to work from both ways, but when a dancer’s on the music, if we know the dancers well you like adjust the tempo slightly for them, which I know David sometimes agrees with and sometimes really tries to kick my derrière for in class, and if I do it, I’ll hear this voice from the corner shout “Don’t slow down!” and I sort of go, oh my God, I didn’t actually realise I was slowing down because you just get so used to accompanying what you’re seeing in front of you, and you know, especially if you know, if you’re in school, you know some of the third year lads or girls because you’ve played for them for a few years, or if you’re in a company for a while you know the dancers that want a little bit more time, so you give them that little bit more time, and it’s just, it’s magical when it works, as long as it’s not taken too far and they completely trash the music. 

AH: Yeah, but especially like male dancers, they do become quite demanding because they want to show off how high they can jump. 

CH: Have you ever had a bad experience with a male dancer, Akiko, in grand allegro? 

AH: Yes

CH: Do you want to tell us? 

AH: This is quite extraordinary, but I think it’s fun to share. So, I was playing for male dancers on the class, grand allegro, and the teacher was quite demanding and he choreographed a very, you know, a virtuoso grand allegro for the dancers to dance, and he came to the piano and passionately explained to me that he wants this speed for first bar, second bar is different speed, so he basically wanted the speed changed every bar of the big waltz, so I said to the teacher, I can help you maybe every four bars, or every eight bars I can change the music, but if I change the speed every single bar, you’re going to destroy the music and also the dancer who know the timing, so I can’t do that, and he took it quite personally that I went against him, so he put the hand on his waist, what do you mean you cannot change the music? Of course you can! I used to be a principal dancer where Zubin Mehta conducted the orchestra, and he followed me what I do, so you have to follow me what I say. [laughter] 

DY: Absolute diva! 

MG: Wow! 

AH: So I kind of tried to help him, but obviously, you know, as a musician you can’t possibly change the speed for every bar, so he ended up conducting 1-2-3 next to me, conducting me and the dancers, the dancers weren’t really listening to my music, they were listening to his counting, so it was quite a hilarious class. That was a crazy . . . 

MG: That’s so rude! 

AH: Yeah, that was. . . we’re good friends so 

DY: Oh my goodness. 

AH: You’re good friends now, you haven’t always been good friends, have you! 

AH: Yeah, well I didn’t know how to say at the time, at that class. 

CH: Do you know what, that’s another issue that we could maybe talk about later on towards the end of the series, or we’ll do a little special episode at some point on how do you address issues in a dance studio. 

AH: And communicate

CH: And communication. We’ll do a special on that at some point, I think, that might be fun. 

MG: Well, I have a story that relates to jumps and that, I won’t mention any names, but there’s a certain principal who’s now at the Royal Ballet, and when he was at his previous company where I was playing for company class I must have put—they were doing petit allegro actually, or sort of you know, a jump that was coming across the room, and I always watch what’s going on, I’ve always got my head up, I must have put my head down for a second, and as he finished his jumps, he walks by the piano and shouts at me, “Why don’t you watch the dancers!” grabbed his bag, and left the studio. And I’m still playing because people are still coming across the room, and the teacher’s looking at me with one raised eyebrow, like obviously, this teacher took his side, and not the musician’s side

DY: Ah [sympathetic]

MG: And he just picked up his bag and left the studio and I was like, I felt so small, I just had to keep playing because people were still dancing. 

CH: Oh Matt that’s awful

DY: That’s professional. You were the professional then. 

CH: You were, not him. 

MG: I kept going. 

DY: Good for you. 

MG: And the thing is, this dancer is one of, is one of the nicest guys, he must just have been having an off-day, it was completely out of character for him, because he’s an absolutely lovely guy, but yeah, that’s my claim to fame for a certain 

CH: For a certain dancer that you’re not going to mention the name of 

MG: Exactly. But yeah, it was relating to jumps, so there we go. 

CH: Do you know what, in that case, I think I feel really lucky, because I’ve struggled with, I don’t know, I’ve probably struggled with every single ballet exercise over the years at some point, certainly a lot in the start of my career, but I’ve never really had it with grand allegro once I knew the tempo, and I’ve never been shouted at like that, so I think I’m lucky. 

MG: [to Chris] I think grand allegro suits your personality because it’s loud and lairy [laughter].

CH: Grand allegro is the only exercise musically where I can’t talk over it because the volume’s got to be louder than my talking. Ah well, speaking of talking, we actually need to hear from you, because coming up in a couple of episode’s time, we have our season 1 Q & As. So we’ve had quite a few questions coming in already, and 

MG: We need more 

CH: So hopefully we’ll get some more in, because we need them and we want to hear from you, which you can get in contact with us of course on our email which is balletpianopodcast@gmail.com, or log on to our website which is balletpianopodcast.com, you can get in contact with us there, or via any of our social media channels, @balletpianopodcast. What do you want to know from us? Is it what I had for breakfast this morning? Is it about Akiko dressing glamorously during lock-down? Is it how long Matt’s hair is, or is it from David Yow about just how much fun he is or isn’t having teaching on Zoom? All questions are open, and I’m pretty sure Matt’s not going to filter most of them out because it’ll be fun won’t it, you know, especially to put somebody on the spot. 

MG: It’s going to be a good episode, yeah. It’s going to be good. 

CH: It’s going to be great, I’m looking forward to it, I want to see what people want to ask us. 

AH: Me too 

MG: I’ve got lots of questions already but listeners, we do need more. 

CH: Next time we are going to be discussing virtuosity, so that’s going to be all things manège-ing and coda-ing around the room that we can possibly do just to celebrate finishing the class. So until next time, it’s goodbye from me 

AH: Bye bye

MG: Goodbye 

DY: Goodbye 

[MUSIC: Ballet Piano Podcast ident] 

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

Producer: Christopher Hobson 

Transcription by Jonathan Still 31/05/2020 18:11:00


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