In my new BBC Radio 3 programme Sound of Dance, I look at the myriad different relationships between dance and music. Over six episodes, I’ll be speaking to leading dancers, choreographers, musicians and composers about the hugely varied language of dance music, and how it inspires movement. Dance forms covered will range from ballet to tango and Syrian dance.
Ahead of the series start, here’s my selection of a few pieces that demonstrate the amazing breadth of music written for dance, from the revolutionary, to the incredibly well known – and a few of my favourites too.
The 1914 premiere of The Rite of Spring sparked riots across Europe. It was unlike anything heard before, from its blazing cross-rhythms to the persistant, hair-raising dissonances. It was obvious fro the first tortured bassoon entry that the ballet had abandoned conventional expressivity, and was exploring unchartered territory.
Libertango – Piazzolla
60 years later, Piazzolla started a different kind of revolution with his Nuevo Tango piece, Libertango. The relentless syncopation, the heights of tension and angst, and the languishing expressivity combine to create a piece that is vibrating with energy.
Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy – Tchaikovsky
The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy is a Christmas favourite famed for its exquisite delicacy. The music reflects the slow falling snow of winter, and has a light daintiness that the belies the dark, smooth undertones of the piece.
Blue Danube – J Strauss II
J Strauss II's The Blue Danube is a landmark among waltzes. The slow build up of material culminates in the lilting strength of the iconic theme with its full, expressive movement. Love it or hate it, The Blue Danube is a giant of the ballet world.
Dance of the Knights from Romeo & Juliet – Prokofiev
Prokofiev’s Dance of the Knights is a piece of arrogant strength. The slow, booming beat combined with the glory of the lower brass shows off the true ornate Russianess of the piece: the tension brought about by dark, sophisticated writing.
Aquarela do Brasil – Barroso
Barroso’s Aquarela do Brasil is the essence of South American music. The sweeping lines and jazzy percussion give a salon-feel combined with the sashaying skirts of the carnival. Porter’s Night and Day (below) has a similar, more restrained feel – less of excitement and more of love.