"The Music Curriculum:It's Dynamic Role and Importance in Current DanceStudies"
IGMID Seminar 2001 at University College of Dance, Stockholm October12-14-2001
As you can see from the title above the Svenska-IGMID, the Swedish affiliation of IGMID,
has held a three days Seminar at Danshögskolan (The University College of Dance) in
Responsible for the organisation were: Lars Dahlman, Jimmy Alcayna, Csaba Deák, Micke
Dehlin, Karin Ivarson, Davor Kajfes (from The Swedish Ballet School and The University
College of Dance) and David Yoken (The Department of Dance Turku Polytechnic Arts
Academy, Turku, Finland).
Svenska-IGMID felt that the very successful Conference "Music and Dance in Unity" in 1998
should have a follow up, trying to keep alive the dialogue and exchange of ideas between the
musicians active in the dance field, as well as the equally important exchange between the
dancers (choreographers/dance teachers) and musicians (composers/music teachers/ .
Our ambition was then, and still is to carry on talks about the subject on all possible levels,
from playing for different forms of movement activities (technique classes, methods,
improvisation e.g.), to composing for choreographic productions.
We think that the continuous contact between the two art forms is of vital importance for the
development of the Art of Dance.
It goes without saying, that we can all benefit from that collaboration which can bring fresh
ideas and spark the desire for experimentation in music and dance interplay.
The main focus of the seminar was the music Curriculum and the differences between schools
in conveying it to the students of different forms and styles of dance, including choreography.
An attempt was made to make a formal evaluation and comparison between the institutions of
various countries as to the contact hours and course content concerning their music programs.
The response from the musicians/music teachers, dancers/dance teachers choreographers from
the places in different countries was more then satisfactory. Besides Swedish participants, we
have had those from UK, Portugal, Italy, Finland, Iceland and Denmark.
It was a very exciting event, full of lively discussions and exchange of ideas and thoughts,
concerning music and dance.
On the first day-Friday afternoon, we have had an open debate around the following issues:
1. "A creative process and use of music in dance performances",
2) "What part does the music play in dancer's and choreographer's education?", and
3) Funding of production.
In the first issue we wanted to look closer into matters concerning the relationship between
dance and music in the different settings, from the one where the choreographer is using the
already composed music for his/her choreography to the one which grows out of composer
choreographer collaboration. There are, obviosly, many possibilities of relating to or using the
music in contemporary choreography, all of them equally valid for the artistic expression, but
with different problem in their presentations.
It was a very fruitful discussion, introduced by the composer/cellist Peter Schuback,
expressing his view on the music and dance relationship. He said that being engaged in
playing his instrument - making music, is in a way an act of dancing. The movements of the
body including a fine muscular action and co-ordination is actually a reflection of the musical
movements one is about to project. It actually evoked José Limóns famous statement:
"Dancers are Musicians are Dancers". Consequently Schuback in that sense, does not see,
any division between the dance and the music.
Historically speaking the importance and roll of music was varied, as we all know, being
nowadays a conglomerate of multiple choices.The Swedish choreographer Christina Caprioli
expressed a view which I think is embraced by many contemporary choreographers and
composers, that the integrity of both sides is of a paramount importance in ensuring the
unlimited conditions of the collaborative process. The part of the excitement in the process
lies in the encounter of two independent partners with the personal views and ideas.
Nevertheless, it is the work of art that they are about to create that should be their common
denominator and a main focus of their artistical efforts.
Many of the musicians present at the seminar are in one way or another involved in the
teaching music to dancers as well as playing for the classes. We felt that there is a need for a
continuous dialogue between the choreographers teachers and musicians about "what part
does the music play in dancers and choreographers education" and what part of the musical
knowledge is of vital importance for their professional skills. There was evidently a
consensus among choreographers and musicians that understanding of music, on many
different levels, cannot be over-emphasised. On the other hand, some differences of opinions
occurred in discussing the methods of mediating musical knowledge and what part of musical
knowledge is most important or indispensable. Formal versus practical knowledge?
Obviously there are certain differences in teaching music to the choreographers, dancers or
dance teachers (like e.g. the programme at the "The University College of Dance"), but the
bottom line was in a way summarised by Christina Caprioli that music should be learned
through dancing. The elements of music like phrase, rhythm and dynamics are integral parts
of dance - dance is music.
Kate Lawrence (University of Surrey) pointed out that actually there is no limit, but time in
how much you can learn about music, however, the purpose of the theoretical knowledge
should be in the first hand, to enhance and broaden the horizon and understanding of music.
She presented a very interesting documentary of a musicians-dancers workshop which was
aimed at achieving mutual understanding, through the means of joint movement exercises,
which clearly demonstrated possibilities of finding common language denominators.
Colleagues from UK, Mark Ingleby and Jamie Mac Carthy talked about their working
methods with music and dance while Marcello Coffini pleaded for more analysis of both
music and choreographic works in the teaching processes.
Finally a few words have been spoken on the question of funding the choreographic
Here in Sweden we have different state organisations involved in funding of choreographic
projects. We would like to see more co-ordination between them in a manner that could, to
the greater extent, stimulate the promotion of commissioned music for dance. The participants
from other countries e.g. Denmark and UK, informed us about their struggle with raising
money for the musical part of the production, like featuring life music or specially comiposed
It is not easy to render all the details and nuances of the two hours discussion but I can assure
you it was a constructive and a very stimulating one. Throughout the years of our teaching
experience we are confronted, on the daily basis, with many of these questions and they are
always equally intriguing. As we all know there are no universal recipes for neither the
successful collaboration between the choreographers and composers nor how to convey the
musical knowledge to dancers. It is a continuous process of exploration and experimentation
quite similar to the artistic endeavour in other words it is and should be kept alive all the time.
There were, conveniently, two dance performance in town that particular evening to choose
between, and to make the day complete: one at the Opera House with the Royal Ballet:
"Rose", and the other one at the "Dansens Hus" a solo performance by the outstanding
Swedish choreographer Virpi Pahkinen.
The program on the second day Saturday included the further discussions as well as
The issues on the open debate were connected with the main theme of the Seminar: "Teaching
musical materials in dance schools", which among other things implied questions of "The
need for basic knowledge" "The difference, if any, in dancers and musicians musicality?" and
questions around the communication between the dance teachers and the musicians.
The procedures were opened by David Yoken from " The Department of Dance, Turku
Polytechnic Arts Academy" (Finland) and one of the initiators of the Seminar. He outlined the
structure and contents of their intensive 4-years program for the future dancer/dance teachers,
and talked more specifically about his own course: "Dance and Music". The interesting thing
was pointed out in connection with the Finnish musical/cultural tradition. Music education
there is included regularly in the public schools (on both the primary and the secondary level),
with better degree of basic musical knowledge as a result. This makes it easier for David to
further develop the specific part of the musical awareness, which is necessary in the field of
Gun Román the vice principal of the "University College of Dance", described the
organisational structure of the school as well as the part of the musical curriculum offered at
the three main programmes: for Dance education, for Choreographers and for Dancers. G.
Román pointed out that "University College of Dance" is the only institution for dance at the
university level in Sweden. The school has many specialised programmes and courses like
those for "Folk Dance", "Dance Therapy", "Historical Dances", "Anatomy", Dance science",
The Music Curriculum includes a music history, rhythm studies, music and dance workshops,
composition and improvisation. As a school with a historically large and strong Department
of Dance Education, with main programmes including The Children's dance, Jazz dance,
Classical Ballet, Character dance, Modern and Contemporary dance and Spanish
dance/flamenco, music play a key roll in the overall Curriculum, and some of the music
teachers and accompanist are permanently employed.
The school has quite recently changed the length of the period of education from three to four
Nowadays you can see the information about the schools entire programme, at the
"Danshogskolans" own web site (see below).
Suzanne Knosp, Associate Professor of Dance (School of Music and Dance/Dance Division,
University of Arizona) one of the key figures in the IGMID was initially also included in the
programme as a presenter of her Abstract: "Using an Interactive, Multimedia Web site in the
Training of Dance Teachers and Dance Musicians". Unfortunately the tragic September 11
events, has put an end to her plans to participate in the Seminar. She has by e-mail expressed
her deep regret for not being able to come due to the high risk involved in travelling abroad at
that particular time.
We appreciated very much all the necessary info she have sent us, wherewith we could check
her exciting and innovative site.
After the presentations the debate around issues mentioned above was in full swing.
All the participants had something to say. The question around the different aspects of
communication between dance teachers and musician was apparently hot, but it was discussed
open-heartedly and have brought forward some interesting points. The word "negotiation"
was mentioned both in connection with choreographer-composer collaborative relation as
well as the one between the dance teacher and musician in the studio. The important thing, as
we all agreed upon, was, that the mutual respect, vivid interest and open minded attitude are
the basic qualities of the successful collaboration. The ways of communication become a
secondary question once the positive atmosphere of trust is established. Nevertheless there are
many methods the dance teachers can utilise in order to make themselves understood and to
trigger, sometimes, the preferable response from the musician. Basic knowledge on both sides
is a desirable qualification. The discussion could have continued for hours, but we wanted to
test some of the relevant statements practically, in the two pre planned workshops.
The participants were divided in two groups, one to work with ballet and the other one with
modern/contemporary dance. The idea was to experiment with different versions of musical
solutions to a single movement phrase. Musicians took turns to play the version that they
found suitable for the given dance exercise. Also, they played it twice, to be able to create, the
second time, another more personal and daring version.
A proposal came from a dance teacher who wanted us to examine how far can the musicians
let their imagination fly off and still succeed to maintain the feeling that the music and dance
hold together. What is needed is a dance teacher who encourages the musician to take those
excursions. It was of course a higher educational level we were talking about, one which can
eventually, give room for a more creative approaches to music making in the studio. During
the working process other aspects of mutual communication emerged like e.g. how to start the
exercise (always a tricky question), as well as what kind of comments can enable the creative
and positive working atmosphere.
We have had two workshops, one in the morning and the other one in the afternoon. The
afternoon one was a kind of continuation-summary and demonstration of what have been
worked out during the morning sessions. This time we were all together, both the ballet and
the modern/contemporary dance group. The comments and discussions afterwards were
intense and very rewarding. Later on more comments were made in connection with the
workshops and an observation, unanimously, that nothing can bring more clarity around the
questions of music and dance relationship, than the practical demonstration and experience.
Between the two workshops there was yet another debate about the "live music's" existence.
The pros and cons arguments made it, at times controversial. The reasons why we are
witnessing the tendency of diminishing use of live music in the studios were discussed. (it
seems that the situation is better in the theatrical sphere, but maybe that is true for Europe).
Most of the time it is explained as the lack of financial resources. It may be partly true, but the
growing entertainment musical industry is not to be ignored. The music offered in the media
is rather single-tracked. We in the educational field have a responsibility to do everything we
can to counteract those tendencies by offering our students the great variety of contemporary
as well as historical musical achievements. The connection with the working market for the
newly examined musicians was mentioned as the strong argument that we have to stand up for
using the "live music" in the studios.
Marcello Coffini, Italian musician/composer said that he thinks that we have to re-define our
music and profession constantly, to be looked upon in accordance with the qualities it stands
for. Naturally it means that the high competence should become the standard.
He also mentioned that he is giving piano recitals which include short dance pieces, and
argued that the kind of mixt programmes featuring dance or poetry e.g. can reach wider
At some point the communication between the dance teacher and the musician was brought
up again, especially from the psychological point of view. The comment was made that the
individual differences and preferences shouldn't be overlooked. They are of great importance
in creating team work conditions. Kerstin Lidström (Swedish Ballet School's principal)
reminded everybody that neither dance teacher nor the musician should ever forget why they
are there in the first place, namely for the dancers sake, and not to prove the level of their own
excellence. Continuous searching for the ways of improving common language, not
necessarily verbal, should be one of our primary tasks.
The day was concluded with the talk about Svenska-IGMID future plans and objectives.
According to the comments and suggestions that have been brought up, there is a need for
more practical activities: musicians workshops for dancers, studio musicians workshops like
those at the Seminar, and a drive for more dancers/dance teachers and choreographers
participating in conferences as well as joining the IGMID. The question of professional
training for the musicians in dance was raised (one course on the university level is taking
place in Sweden right now) in an attempt to improve the level of competence, and last but not
least the need for paying attention to the trade union issues (professional status, employment,
It was a very gratifying experience for us, that so many colleagues from the European
countries made the effort to come to Stockholm and participate in the Seminar.
Their interest and engagement made us decide that the doors of Svenska-IGMID is open to
anybody in Europe who is active in the music and dance field to join us, during the time they
don't have their own national organisations established. The exchange of ideas, addressing
questions of common interest, inspiring each other, are of vital importance for IGMID'S
Those who felt exausted after that busy day, went to a nice dinner and spent some relaxing
moments in Berns, one of the oldest restaurants in Stockholm.
Last day of the Seminar, is the day which is, at most conferences, quite similar to Haydn's
"Farewell Symphony", with musicians leaving the stage one by one and with only two of
them left at the end. That was definitely not the case this time. The "last movement" of our
Seminar was as much "molto energico" as the previous two days. "Morning meeting
summary", was the somewhat prosaic headline of the last hours of our three days activities.
A wish was expressed to end the Seminar with some more talks about music curriculum's
different lay outs at the different schools.
David Yoken started it with the description of their school (The Department of Dance Turku
Polytechnic Arts Academy) music curriculum and his project entitled "Dramaturgy of
Sound", which is aimed to help dancers to get acquainted with the process of making music,
using today's technology, and even try to do some of their own sound creations. The project
which he did, by now, in Greenland, Iceland as well as with the students at the Turku school,
was demonstrated with some excerpts from the their works.
M. Ingleby from the Hammersmith&West London College, where he is having a series of
classes for the musicians/composers and choreography students, which are dealing with the
creative processes, like e.g. the ways of generating ideas, likewise, the different models of
collaboration including psychological impediments problems, and the techniques how to
Students age can be from 16 -25, and it is a three year professional education at the
Performing Art Division. Some of them are lacking a solid musical background and a
previous knowledge about music, which can be a problem one have to deal with.
Lars Dahlman Svenska IGMID's chairman, the member of the teachers and musicians staff at
"The Swedish Ballet School", gave us a vivid report of his struggle to establish and further
develop the musical education at his school for professional dancers. They have music
education only during a single year of the complete three years studies (once a week!). His
ambitious programme which he calls a "dream curriculum" includes basic knowledge ranging
from vocal training, rhythmical studies, conducting exercises to the history and analysis of
The reason he calls it a "dream curriculum" is because of the frequent cuts in the preliminary
schedule. Stockholm Ballet school is pursuing a preparatory education for a dance career at
"The Royal Opera" and the students, start having rehearsals and performances early in their
J. Mc Carthy, nowadays a head of the music Dept. at the "London Contemporary Dance
Another three years education programme, for students from 18 years of age including also
those who have had the previous professional experiences. The basic knowledge is
complemented with a lot of practical work, including rhythmical training and vocal one, with
the focus on breathing techniques and last but not least exposure to the variety of styles and
directions in contemporary music. Analysis of Bach's counterpoint is used as a ground for
choreographic studies in the second year, and lot of room is given to the composer-
choreographer communication and collaboration issues.
The goals are to improve the musical knowledge "open the ears" and learn about "how to
listen and what to listen to".
Karin Ivarson the head of the music Dept. at the "University College of Dance" gave a
briefing on the music Curriculum, in a addition to what has been said about the school by G.
Róman, the vice principal. She pointed out that a great deal of the music curriculum is
embedded in the methods of respective programmes (Ballet, Modern/Contemporary Dance
e.t.c.). Anybody interested in more detailed information's can find it on the UCD web site (se
The last presenter of the schools curriculum's was M. Coffini from Rome ( (Accademia
Nazionale di Danca). He said his 11 topics programme is also a kind of a dream, because it is
actually a work in progress. It is a very elaborated one which covers wide range of issues
from basic knowledge of music for dance, dance forms (historical to contemporary) analysis
of dance composition, improvisation, playing for dance, multimedial interaction to
communication and collaboration issues.
Many more interesting comments and discussion contribution were made during the intensive
and productive three days but it is due to consideration of space that I had to, regrettably, skip
some of them. Hopefully nobody will feel left out, because that wasn't done intentionally, and
finally, I have to say and I'm speaking for my collegues in the Svenska-IGMID that it is due
to all participants energy and good will, that the Seminar was running in such a wonderful
atmosphere of open-hearted exchange of thoughts and ideas, and we are grateful to every one
of them. It was swinging. We are looking forward to the next European gathering, maybe in
wishing you all
the very best for the Holidays and a coming New Year