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Department for Learning
Pianists for dance
The Pianists for Dance Scheme was developed by Birmingham Royal Ballet and Birmingham Conservatoire to broaden the opportunities for keyboard students and to address the shortage of pianists that have the skills to accompany dance.
'Ballet pianists will soon become like dinosaurs; an extinct species!' – Jonathan Higgins, Principal Pianist, Birmingham Royal ballet
The programme aims to:
Advocate the importance of the pianist for dance.
Increase the number of pianists in Birmingham with the skills and experience to play for dance.
Highlight the career opportunities available for talented pianists.
Provide pianists for Birmingham Royal Ballet and Elmhurst School for Dance.
The two-year programme is divided into phases and is developed to increase the students' knowledge of dance and the specific skills needed in dance accompaniment.
During the first year, students gain a knowledge of dance and are introduced to set syllabus music and improvisation techniques. Through practical sessions in a variety of settings, students gain experience and develop confidence in the skills and techniques needed by a ballet pianist.
The programme for the second year develops in consultation with the student and focuses on the particular skills needed to play for a professional ballet company. Professional pianists working for Birmingham Royal Ballet mentor the students giving advice and support throughout the programme.
The four students on the course have been visiting Dance Track schools to observe and accompany workshops – with help from experienced pianists Andrew Kristy and Jane Bartholomeusz.
The workshops provided the students with hands-on experience that was tested during eight sessions in May set up with ballet students from local ballet schools. The pianists have also had their own participatory ballet class, which gave them a chance to experience a class from the dancer’s perspective.
'Actually taking part in a ballet class really shed light on not only how difficult it can be to dance when the wrong music is played but how much the dancer is dependant on the character of the music in order to perform. It also helped to actually perform the moves as it is easier to find appropriate music when you know what the teacher is referring to. Plus all the French expressions can be a bit confusing!' Lindsay, Pianists for Dance student
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