MUSIC AND DANCE
Music and dance have a very close relationship. When you dance or when you see a live ballet performance, the dancing is almost always accompanied by music. Even if you eliminated the music, you would notice a natural rhythm in the dance.
We carry a natural musical pulse with us wherever we go. Our speaking, our walking, our breathing are rhythmical. Dancing, which is the movement of the body within a specific technique, is inherently rhythmic. So the relationship of music and dance seems both a natural and inevitable one.
If you study the history of man, you will see that both music and dance were an integral part of daily life. First there was dance, created from movements of the body and then there was music, created by vocal sounds, clapping of hands and stamping of feet. Later different sounds were created by striking various parts of the body as well as by using poles, rattles and drums. Music and song often proved an inevitable accompaniment to dance.
The basic elements of music and dance are very similar. Eliminating all the structural complexities of music, the basics are the same today as they were in primitive times. These include the contrasts of strong/weak; slow/fast; loud/soft; expanded/contracted and regular/irregular.
Since the days of primitive man, music has continued to be very much a part of dance. In Greek and Roman times it accompanied drama. In the 12th and 13th centuries, dance and church music were integrated. It was in the 15th century that music began to be especially composed for dance. Soon folk songs, music and dance of the villages were incorporated in court ballroom dances. Music and dance thus followed a similar course. Dance suites included the allemande, courante, sarabande, gigue, minuets, gavottes, chaconne and passacaglia.
In the 17th century, dance and music were very much one, particularly since the period's leading exponent, Jean Baptiste Lully, was not only a dancer but also a composer and violinist. With the advent of theatrical dance in the 18th century, serious composers veered away from composing for ballet. More often than not, ballroom dance music, waltz, polka, polonaise, march, czardas and mazurka were thought to be ideally suited for ballet. This left little room for innovation in composition and thus attracted only mediocre composers to ballet. This sad state continued through the 19th century, except for a few exceptions, among them Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the composer of such masterpieces as Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, Onegin and The Nutcracker.
The 20th century has seen a greater acceptance of dance as a serious art form and has thus attracted serious composers to create original musical scores for ballet. At the same time, music by such composers as Frederic Chopin, Johannes Brahms, Franz Liszt, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Franz Joseph Haydn, Antonio Vivaldi, Arcangelo Corelli and Hector Berlioz, though not originally composed for ballet, is now used by many choreographers. Though these composers were indebted to dance rhythms for their training and compositions, they never wrote music specifically for ballet. Ballet music was commissioned by theatres and composers therefore had to adhere to deadlines, answer the needs of choreographers and cater to the bureaucratic demands of the theatre. Such working conditions did not attract composers of genius, such as the ones listed above, but rather the hacks.
Of course, the 20th century has proven that you do not have to use "danceable rhythms" to create danceable music. Music and dance should be partners; as in a beautiful pas de deux, neither should dictate the other. One of the most exciting collaborations of a composer and choreographer in the 20th century was that of Igor Stravinsky and George Balanchine. In their work together, the music supports the human movement. The sophistication and rhythmic irregularities of the music combine with Balanchine's daring movement to make you look at the dance and listen to the music in a whole new way. Neither dictates the other, but instead they both challenge and enhance. Another collaboration more experimental though equally important has been that of two contemporary Americans, choreographer Merce Cunningham and composer John Cage.
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