Going into my last ballet exam… possibly ever, I decided to do as much research as I could into the syllabus to fully prepare myself. Knowing the history of the music I find helps performance greatly, and I really noticed a difference in my performance in Advanced 1 when I knew where the music came from. Case in point – the music for the Adage in the centre is from Les Deux Pigeons and is gorgeous – listen to it here. Knowing that the music was from a Pas de Deux and then later researching the story behind the ballet meant that my performance was a lot stronger and I was able to get into the right mindset going into the choreography. It’d be like trying to dance Black Swan without actually knowing what was going on in the story – you wouldn’t be nearly as captivating or authentic.
So for this exam, I decided to go through and create a playlist of the original music (in order that they appear in the syllabus) to listen to in conjunction with the syllabus music to get a better sense of the context for each of the songs. I won’t go into every single one specifically since part of the fun of researching is learning new things, but here’s some of my favourite findings.
Pliés – Amapola
You might not know it from the piano music, but Amapola is actually a love song, comparing his love to a poppy. So when you do the absolutely lovely port de bras in the rise and demi plié, I like to imagine someone brushing their hands through a field of flowers.
Ronds de jambe à terre – Trauer Walzer No 2
The name “Trauer Walzer” means “Mournful Waltz”, so when doing the first dégagé fondus think of extending your port de bras as if you’re reaching towards something you can’t have. Go all Giselle on it.
Adage – Nocture from A Midsummer Night’s Dream
This piece originally accompanies the sleeping lovers in A Midsummer Night’s Dream between Acts 3 and 4. Basically Robin has messed with everything and when they awake at the end of the song, they’ll fall in love with the wrong person. So this adage, which could be super slow and painful (because it’s adage, duh.), should actually have a bit of mischievousness. Play with the ballottés as if you’re stepping over sleeping people, and really extend the tombé away from the barre as if you were almost caught in the act.
Pirouette enchaînement – Accelerationen
Ok not gonna lie, this exercise scares the hell out of me. The music keeps getting faster and stronger and yet you have to keep a calm, even tempo throughout the piece. What makes it a little less scary though is that the piece is literally called “Acceleration”, and was actually composed for an Engineering Students’ Ball in the 1860s.
Here’s the whole playlist for you to listen through.