One of the pre-eminent arrangers and restorers of the great classical Russian ballets, KEVIN GALIÈ is a conductor, organist and accompanist.
How did you start working for dance?
As an Organist I took as an inspiration Marcel Dupré, who was famous, for finger strength, for playing at the piano for at least one hour per day before he even touched the organ (today harpsichord or clavichord have become the fashion for organists). When I dated a ballet dancer when I was 25 year old, it occurred to me that playing for ballet was a way to keep Dupré’s goal, plus I saw the parallel between my sport of rowing and ballet, which both involve both balance and strength. So, I started apprenticing with the great accompanist, Steven Davis, and went to Russia with him and his partner and saw the ballets in Moscow, Riga, and St. Petersburg. Steven sadly shortly after succumbed to AIDS.
What makes conducting for dance different to conducting for symphonic music or opera?
There are actually a lot of parallels with opera and ballet in that the soloist has a certain way of tempo, holding high notes, etc. that they want the conductor’s collaboration on. Opera actually used to have a great deal of interpolation, that has gone out of fashion, but it is still central in the ballet world. The counter-object to this tends to be Balanchine’s ballets and some other choreographers’ ballets, where the soloist is not influencing the tempo and the conductor must match the pre-conceived tempi very precisely – and the dancer must meet those tempi, comfortable or otherwise. For symphonic music, I much prefer playing keyboards in the orchestra than conducting. I feel that my contribution in conducting is for stage works because of my experience and my fluency in Italian and German (sorry, wish I knew French!) and in the language of Ballet after years of accompanying.
Which are the aspects you enjoy the most in your job? Is there anything you would change?
I would change those répétiteurs or teachers who think they know music but actually don’t. The best are the ones who freely acknowledge they don’t know music or the ones who have actually learned music.
How do see the relationship between music and dance?
It’s both – sometimes the dance is first and the music follows, and other times it’s the opposite.
And what do you think would be the ideal relationship between the two worlds?
That musicians be more included early on in the choreographic process in choosing music for a piece or choosing cuts/changes to an existing musical piece. I can think of settings of many ballets, for example, Romeo and Juliet or the Poulenc Organ Concerto where the scores have been essentially put into a blender. Stravinsky was known for having said ‘restriction is freedom’ – isn’t it a wonderful artistic challenge to simply work with the score as it is? Also, for organisations that have a limited budget, the selection of music is so much vaster for smaller ensembles than choreographers seem to realise.