For Lauren Fadeley Veyette, dance steps are innately musical. They’re ingrained with the music; they’re one.
It was the musical elements in Balanchine’s choreography that drove Fadeley Veyette to dance with world-renowned companies like New York City Ballet and Miami City Ballet. Now, she shares her passion and ear for musicality with her students at Kansas City Ballet School as the Academy Principal and Youth American Grand Prix (YAGP) Coordinator.
Throughout her training, Fadeley Veyette’s instructors cared deeply about musicality, which in turn inspired her to encourage her students to do the same. Playing with musicality is about giving the audience a glimpse of your personality through dance, says Fadeley Veyette. “If you’re dancing the Sugarplum Fairy role year after year, you can change it up this time around by holding a balance here, but then making the next step quicker. With music like that, which everybody knows, it’s about how you can make it unique for you.”
Even though Fadeley Veyette promotes the importance of musicality to her students, she notes that it needs to come from an authentic place. Over-coaching usually results in a stiff or ingenuine performance, she says. “Musicality shapes who you are as an individual and how you present yourself to the people watching. It’s not about ‘I’m going to take all of the time to just get my leg up here and hold it.’ It’s about ‘How do you get it there? How do you bring it down and how do you feel? How do you fill up all of that music?’”
So, how can dance educators help their students find their own musicality? “Sometimes in ballet class, it just takes a piano version of a popular song to get dancers thinking about their personal relationship to the music,” says Fadeley Veyette. “I have a 12-to-13-year-old-age-group class and the pianist will throw out some Encanto and other Disney hits and you see how the students light up, and I’m like, ‘That’s how you need to dance for all of the music in class!’”
Aside from getting her students to acknowledge how their dancing changes when it’s a popular song, Fadeley Veyette occasionally asks her students to watch the pianist play and notice how the accompanist is moving and responding to the music, to demonstrate that musicians, too, have an innate sense of musicality and dance within them.
Fadeley Veyette notes that musicality isn’t just in the codified steps that come from doing a pirouette, tendu or rond de jambe. Musicality exists all the time within the transitions and in the moments of stillness. For example, she explains, it’s the plié before the big jump that will prepare you to glide through the air with the music. “There are so many things that get you into that next step. Even just standing in position while you’re waiting for the music to begin, you can still have that innate movement within your body, even though it’s not actually happening in the steps,” she says. “You have to show that it’s not just the step with the count. It has to have more to it.”
Fadeley Veyette created a playlist of some of her favorite songs for ballet class. Her choices span from classics, like “Tea for Two,” used for technique-building exercises, to more modern songs, like “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” from Encanto so that students can find their own flair and hone in on their artistry. Tune in to her playlist below.
“Tea for Two,” by Junko HATA (for relevés): “This is a classic song that I use and request all the time. Its precise timing is perfect for clear, clean tendus, emphasizing both the pointed foot out, and into 5th position.”
Symphony no. 3 in D major (“Diamonds,” from Balanchine’s Jewels), by Tchaikovsky, performed by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra: “The way this music builds with Balanchine’s intricate choreography is pure genius. As a dancer, whenever I really connected with the music, I felt I was able to bring so much more of myself to the piece, and really embody Balanchine’s famous quote ‘Dance is music made visible.’”
“We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” performed by Yee Sik Wong: “This awesome song from Encanto (perfect for so many ballet combinations) is played here by Kansas City Ballet School pianist Yee Sik Wong. Whenever she plays something fun like this that the students know, their dancing and artistry really light up.”
“Hallelujah–Plié,” performed by Peter James: “A version of this song was the first dance at my wedding, so I love when something is played during class that can bring me back to a special moment or memory.”