Dancers + Pianist = Magic
Music and Dance:
Greater than the Sum of Two Parts
by Chantal Incandela
NOTE, Classical Music Indy, Fall 2018
Often we hear of artists "feeding off" the energy of an appreciative audience and vice versa. Add the energy between a musician and dancers, and you get an extra element of excitement for performers and audience alike. "We dance to canned music most of the time," explains Mariel Greenlee, dancer with Dance Kaleidoscope, describing the relationship dancers have with prerecorded music. "It feels like a conversation. And when you add another person to the mix, it feels a little more alive. It makes the music seem like a living, breathing thing that you dance with a partner."
Helping her create this connection in October is the music of George Gershwin and Claude Debussy in Music of the Night, played by Eric Zuber, a 2013 American Pianist Association finalist. Each artist views the collaboration through a distinct lens.
Zuber, who has a special relationship with Gershwin's music, has collaborated with other musicians before, but never with a solo dancer. Nevertheless, he appreciates what it will bring about. "Participating in a multi-disciplinary collaboration like this can really expand one's horizons and change the way one thinks about music," Zuber says. "Working with and studying the movement of dancers, instrumentalists can gain a number of insights into musical flow, phrasing and other important elements that can benefit our interpretations of solo music. I've always enjoyed the process of creating something special together in a spontaneous way."
Now in her 14th season with Dance Kaleidoscope, Greenlee has danced to this repertoire before, but never accompanied by a live musician. She finds the collaboration with Zuber easy, fun and exciting. "In dance, you're also hyperaware of your body, which is your instrument. Things happen and you're like, 'Oops, I accidentally balanced that in a way I haven't before, but then I was late. But then he sped up and I sped up, and we were together, and it was magical."
There's a hyperawareness for Zuber as well. "When working with dancers, I expect it to be more akin to solo playing, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to have my attention fixed constantly on how I can musically assist what the dancer is attempting to convey on stage," he says.
Greenlee describes her role as a dancer as "the physical embodiment of music." She feels closely connected to all music—especially when it comes from a live artist. "These moments can't be forced," she says. "They only happen as two living, breathing things together. It's magic."