Image credit: Maria Kochetkova with San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s Giselle. © Erik Tomasson
Counting Adagio Music
This month’s subject can be a tricky one. We are talking about counting and hearing the beats in adagio music. If this is easy for you, go ahead a read something else, but if you find yourself wondering which set of eight you’re dancing to and where the down beat is, I hope these few pointes will be helpful. Listen to the examples as many times as you need to. Try counting them to yourself until you feel confident!
• Listen for the lowest note being played. There will be three or more notes that are the very lowest ones out of all the fancy sounds happening on the top. Listen for the lowest ones. They will usually occur on the count instead of on “and uh.” Listen to an example:
• Listen for whether it’s a duple meter or a triple meter. The difference is that you will hear “one and a” for triple and “one and two and” for duple meter. Here are some examples:
This one is a slow “one and two and” over a lot of beautiful expressive notes: https://youtu.be/hTYxHUeOyw8
• Over all tempo is more important than meter. This is not true for many exercises in ballet class. But for adagio, as long as the big beats, the space between the numbers, is not too slow or too fast, “one and uh” and “one and two and” don’t make a huge difference. If you have a live pianist, you can ask him/her to count the beats and you can both agree how quickly or slowly they should come. You can also ask your pianist to leave out ornamentation to make the large beats easier to hear. They can be added back in as you and your students gain improved musical hearing.
The word adagio actually translates to “at ease.” NOT something ballet dancers usually associate with the exercise! Musicians interpret the word to mean that the tempo should be relatively slow, even with a lot of decorative notes, and that all the sounds should be smooth and connected. So while adagio can be one of the most challenging parts of class (anyone practicing for Gisselle’s Act II entrance?) try to feel and dance as if you truly were “at ease.”
Note: Cheval Dancewear does not own this music. Please take a minute to explore more of the amazing work of the two artists we used in the examples