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The sound of music: new CDs for dance class.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Celebration: Music for Ballet Class

David Howard & Tim Grundmann

48 mins. $30.

Great energy in these solo piano tracks, many of which are credited to the pianist.

Finis Jhung & Scott Killian: New Ballet Music to "Special Places"

Ballet Dynamics, Inc.

73 mins. $24.

If you're looking to take a break from traditional piano accompaniment, this imaginative CD, with its digital orchestrations (synth horns, bells, strings, and more) might fit your bill, as would others in the series.

Joyful Noise Discs One & Two

Andy Monroe

70 mins. $15 each.

Monroe's experience playing for classes at the schools of Paul Taylor, Alvin Alley, and Jose Limon provides the background for these colorful recordings designed with a modern class in mind. His discs include a variety of rhythms, phrase lengths, and textures, using piano, and percussion.

Open Class! and Master Class!

Music for the Intermediate/Advanced Ballet Lesson. Directed and produced by Charles Flachs; Pianist: Susanne Anderson

60 minutes and 62 minutes. $28 each.

Lovely musical choices, mixing traditional repertoire (Offenbach, Tchaikovsky) with not so traditional selections from Granados, Joplin, and Sousa.

Something Different: Contemporary Dance Music Vol. 1

Michael Price

47 mins. $21.99.

Eleven cinematic tracks from a composer from the United Kingdom, orchestrating his piano solos with contemporary sounds and textures heard in today's film scores.

A Trip to Italy: Melodies of Italy Arranged for Ballet Class

Pianist: Steven V. Mitchell; violinist: Joyce Hammann

44 min. $25.

A terrific pianist, plus a sublime violinist, offer a deliciously Italian menu, from Verdi to "Mambo Italiano" to "That's Amore" and beyond.


Fun Favorites Pre-Ballet

E. Laura Hausmann & Nathan Fifield

74 min. $29.95.

Tuneful spirited melodies ("Yellow Rose of Texas," "Home on the Range") as well as Joplin and Chopin.

Introduction to Ballet & Character

Gayle Corkery & Whit Kellogg

64 mins. $30.

Colorful selections from around the world ("The Hall of the Mountain King," "O Canada") with the miraculous sound of piano four hands. (How can there be so many notes?)
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Author:Dowdell, Linda
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Sound recording review
Date:Feb 1, 2006
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