Archives for posts with tag: theatre


Now an understanding between the director and myself has been found regarding creative desires and needs, I now turn to think more specifically about the musical styles for this production. As with most theatre productions that I write for, the music will take several formats. These formats include  sound effects (which are usually recorded), recorded music and live music.

Both the recorded and live music is further divided into underlying atmospheric music (designed to enhance the mood of a given situation),  thematic music (designed to announce certain characters or activities), songs (often sung by one of the performers but may also be performed by myself) and functional rhythmic music (designed for use with movement and action scenes).

 Medusa by Caravaggio 1597


With an understanding of the work and all the practical matters agreed it is then down to an initial discussion to comprehend the needs and desires of the director. This is one of the most important moments in the process of collaboration, a balance between giving and taking ideas which produces positive and creative inspiration for all concerned.

If it is the first time you work together with someone, there is always a delicate moment at the begining where you grasp the artistic direction of the person you are about to work with ( hopefully, you find yourselves on the same wave length). I always attempt to ease back and let the director or choreographer speak as much as possible so I get the best idea   which creative direction to take in our discussion.

However well you may like someone as a person, you may not find a common ground immediately with which to work creatively and I find it important to remain open and as flexible as possible.

Picture above is `Perseus Releases Andromida` by Wiewael 1630

The basic prerequisite to accompany a contemporary dance class is to have a decent level of technical competence with ones chosen instrument (or instruments) and to be sensitive to the fellow protagonists i.e. the dance teacher and dancers taking the class.  An awareness of the space where the class is held is very important and it is essential to use the acoustic of the dance studio to regulate the dynamic and amount of musical sustain used for certain dance exercises.

As the musician is quite often in a corner of the studio, one should take care not to be playing louder than the teacher is talking. Equally, one does not want to be too quiet so that the dancers find it hard to feel the music. I use the word `feel` because sometimes music for class can have a lot of space to it.  For example, leaving gaps between musical phrases can really take the dancer deeper into feeling the movement, but this should be done only when the teacher and dancers have competence and confidence with the musicality of the exercise.  Otherwise,  everyone loses the beat and confuses the movement, looks over at the musician….occasionally funny, but usually not.

As far as instrumentation goes, a contemporary class may be played by an experienced accompanist on virtually any instrument ( and I of course include the voice in this category). Although, I do find that certain teachers have preferences towards certain instrumentation and style of music.

Instruments that give a choice of dynamic and sustain are very useful as it is necessary to play a range of styles from smooth (legato) to choppy (staccato) and at varying levels of volume (dynamics). A piano has an excellent range of choice, a guitar also. Within a collection of percussion instruments, there should be an instrument that can sound a sustained note. Likewise, a range of timbre i.e. some low sounds, some high sounds, some soft, some hard etc., are essential. One should also consider how to carry the instruments from class to class, studio to studio as time between classes may be limited. Whatever the choice of instrumentation, I recommend to add Indian ankle bells or something similar to help keep the beat `ticking along`.

Paul Pavey with socks

Hello and Welcome

In this blog, I will talk    about my experiences  accompanying  modern and contemporary dance classes,  something I have done since 1984.  The first classes I played  were  held in Chichester College of Technology, Drama and Dance Department.  Over the years, I have travelled the world, playing classes for companies, schools and academies and various associations and have had the pleasure to work with some wonderful inspiring teachers and some absolutely stunning dancers.

I  also give workshops to musicians on `how to approach playing a contemporary dance class` and on occasion have been sponsored by the British Council to do so.  Here is a link to some of the schools and companies I have played for Class Accompaniment-pavey

I plan to make this blog less personally reflective but more as informative as possible and hope that this may be of interest to accompanists and any musicians who are preparing to play for a dance class.  It may well be of interest  to dance students and teachers also ! Please feel free to post comments and especially questions..