The Orchestra in the Dance Class – Part Three

by Sabrina Borzaga

The third and final part of Sabrina’s blog exploring the use of violin and cello in the accompaniment of dance classes. Catch up with Part One and Two.

They say that the falling-in-love stage lasts just a few months to then become collaboration, compromise, devotion, sense of duty… you name it. With the accompaniment of violin and cello you will be able to experience an everlasting falling-in-love, the same you feel when looking at the stars, not knowing where they end…

Expressivity, Interpretation and Communication – Smile! No… feel

There are many advantages to this type of accompaniment. The sound of violin and cello brings up the image of Theatre and Orchestra. For the student it is relatively easy to imagine a theatrical dimension and his or her expressivity, interpretation and communication skills become much greater. But what happens exactly?

The sound of violin and cello excites the dancer and because of what they feel for the law of resonance, dancers will communicate with deep, truthful and natural interpretation. Consequently, the audience themselves will become involved and enveloped – again, because of the law of resonance, in an atmosphere which is coherent with the music.

Students often struggle to get into the part and do not fully understand what expression they should adopt. Teachers themselves cannot always find the right words to help students find the appropriate expressive quality. The musical terminology which refers to the progression and expression of the piece can help. For example:

Allegro – lively (vivace) – solemn – majestic (maestoso) – march – graceful (grazioso) – playful – fiery (con fuoco) – softly (dolce) – calm – impetuous – fast (agitato) – passionately (appassionato) – decisively (deciso)

The extent of the vocabulary of musical expressions guides both musician and dancer in understanding what expressivity to adopt while performing the choreography.

In the dance studio, teachers often encourage their students to “Smile!” but students reply as usual “Miss, I am embarrassed!” What are they embarrassed about? Having to smile without feeling. Not having a reason to smile, students feel uncomfortable to adopt an affected expression.

However, the objective should not be to smile, but to interpret. It is true that one needs a degree of maturity to be able to do so, but the vibration of the strings is so powerful that the emotional and most spiritual parts of our brain enter into resonance automatically. It is almost impossible for a young person not to feel any emotion. For some it will be joy, for others emotion but something will happen.

It will be noticeable how expressivity will develop spontaneously depending on the musical style and genre. Naturally and seamlessly a genuine and truthful communication will be conveyed to the audience; it will reflect the dancer’s state of mind – the dancer will let the vibration cross his or her body and will give back this vibration to the audience in the form of emotion.

Nowadays it is not easy to move a child or a teenager. In the era of digital dementia, the greatest challenge for an educator, whether a parent or teacher, is to be able to excite young people and make them experience a genuine and perceptual emotion, which is not ego-driven. Every teacher lives moments when such an objective seems impossible to achieve without knowing what teaching techniques to adopt. The vibration of violin and cello can help. Despite students’ amazement in front of these two instruments, you will join their emotion. Such is the force of music and sound – the ability to unite and work in harmony.

The interaction with the musicians and the quality of the movement

The additional benefit of the accompaniment with violin and cello consists in the interaction between dancers and musicians. First of all, the instruments can be placed anywhere in the studio and the violin can play by moving within the space – which prepares the students to listen with more awareness and attention. Also, the movement of the bows will be perfectly coherent with that of the dancers’ arms and legs. At that point, it will not be difficult to make dancers understand how they are musicians themselves and how the movement of their legs and arms represents a perfect translation of the movement of the bows.

In a time when every life choice is based on quantity rather than quality, in the execution of dance movements an increasingly athletic performance is required and preferred to interpretation. Again, more importance is given to “how much” instead of “how”: how much one can lift a leg, how many pirouettes one can do, how much one can jump. Obviously it is not possible to ignore the requirements of modern technique, but once students have achieved the quantitative objective, they should be encouraged to pursue the “how”: how they lift the leg, how they pirouette, how they jump, how they move within the space and how they move their body. The type of musical accompaniment described here supports dancers to listen to those shades, those expansions, which – if internalised and translated with gestures – can produce extremely high standards of movement and interpretation.

Let us imagine for a moment to have the opportunity to make students experience all of this since an early age. By the time they will be asked to dance in a professional company, accompanied by the orchestra, the transition will come naturally, and dancers will be able to demonstrate a performance of extremely high quality. They will have the time to fine-tune the harmony with the musicians and this will be of great benefit to the relationship company-orchestra. Rehearsals will be carried out with minimum tensions and in perfect harmony, as a dialogue between musicians and dancers.

We can be moved not just by the show on stage, but also by the idea that a whole dance company and orchestra can communicate without words, through the vibration of their instruments and bodies.

From the book: “Danza di Forme a 432 Hertz” – Lo spazio che danza attorno a te