Dance Accompanying: Who am I and what do I know anyway?

Yes, if you’re here, you probably do already have some sort of acquaintance with me. Maybe we’re friends, maybe I teach your kid, maybe you’ve seen me perform. But I wanted to talk a little bit about a certain facet of my life before we keep going here on the blog, as I’ve already written a bit about a certain subject, and anticipate a few more posts before the summer is over.

I’m a piano teacher and an accomplished player, yes. But I’m also, a few months out of the year, a piano accompanist as well, and this isn’t just any kind of accompanying, this isn’t me getting together with some of my other musician friends to work on some solos. No, this is ballet accompanying, which is another beast entirely. This will be my third time accompanying for this group, the first being many years ago, the second being last year. Both the first and second time I felt like the whole experience was very fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants and I didn’t really know what to expect, what to do (well, to a certain extent I did the second time) or how it would all turn out in the end. This year I am going into this experience much more well prepared than I was the first two times (more on that later). We’ll see if that changes anything.

I do also have a strong dance background. As previously stated, I accompany at a dance camp, where classes are every morning for about three hours, camp is two weeks long, and there are three separate sessions (so it’s six weeks of work total). I also attended this camp in my youth, and have 20 some odd years of dance experience – ballet, tap, and Ukrainian folk dancing, plus a little belly dancing tossed in for good measure.

I have never FORMALLY trained as a dance accompanist. So I guess this is a bit of a disclaimer type of post. I did have to take a class on accompanying in college as part of my music major, but that really didn’t prepare me for this specific kind of accompanying. What I do have is a strong music background and a strong dance background, so I suppose that gives me a very unique perspective on this whole dance accompanying thing. I only really talk to one other accompanist on occasion, and he’s got no dancing history whatsoever (but he’s a terrific, terrific player!), and I have a feeling he is more the rule and I am more the exception when it comes to dance accompanists.

Because here’s the thing. I really only know that one accompanist. I know plenty of piano players. I know plenty of performing musicians in general. But I personally know very few (aka, one) other dance accompanists. Even finding resources online for accompanists is hard for me. There are actually some pretty great resources at the Royal Academy of Dance’s website, but as far as people talking about it? Not many, and not recently.

So while I don’t claim to be an expert on the topic, I do know that I am pretty knowledgeable, and pretty experienced (yes, I only do it for six weeks out of the year, but it’s the most intense six weeks of my life. Also, anything I read in the RAD’s book on accompanying I had already figured out on my own in just six weeks of accompanying, so there), and I just want there to be more of a discussion, just more words committed to it out there in the blogosphere (if that’s even a word people still use).

If there are other accompanists out there, I encourage you to share your experiences. Let’s band together and start a discussion! Exchange some ideas! Boost each other up! I don’t mind sharing tips with tricks with accompanists from other continents – it’s not like you’re going to go to my dance studios and get a job there before I could!