Philippe Klaus accompanies Ballet class

Interview with Accompanist Philippe Klaus

13 July 2017

Did you know that our Level 1, 2 and 3 Ballet students enjoy live accompaniment in class? Working with live music helps dancers develop their musicality and artistry.

We talk to pianist Philippe Klaus about how he began accompanying Ballet class and the challenges of playing live.

When/why did you start learning piano?

My dad used to play so we had a piano at home. I started bashing around on it as a little kid and my parents started paying for lessons when I was seven or eight. I don’t think it was ever a big decision, it just sort of happened.

Did you train to be an accompanist?

I trained as a jazz pianist. I couldn’t get any piano bar jobs, but my parents were both ex-dancers and I sort of knew ballet pianists existed. I sent off a CV to Sydney Dance Company and luckily they needed someone. The first couple months were rough though – I didn’t train to play for dance classes, I just threw myself in and learned by making a lot of mistakes.

What is the pianist’s role in the dance studio? 

I play for class, so there’s no set music. I watch the teacher set exercises and I try to play something that will fit. I have to read the teacher and figure out what they want, and they have to find a way to communicate with me too. There’s no rule book, we just use telepathy.

What are the benefits of live music for dancers?

I’m more unpredictable than an iPod. That’s the benefit (and risk) of having a live musician. If the pianist is good, they should make the dancing more inspired and spontaneous. It should help you really dance rather than just do the steps mechanically.

The other advantage is that the teacher can speed up or slow down a musician to accommodate different body types and skill levels. But I much prefer the first benefit. I’m not a treadmill.

Can you describe the connection between music and dance?

I think the connection is the same for the prima ballerina and someone dancing in a nightclub. Even though they’re worlds apart there’s something of the same instinct in there. There’s something about music that makes people want to move.

Do you have much experience with dance yourself?

I did dance classes as a kid but I wasn’t serious about it. All those girls scared me a bit.

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Enjoy live accompaniment when you take Ballet Level 1, 2 or 3 at the studio.

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