Sunday, August 18, 2013

What Is a Dance?

A listener raised that interesting question after a program consisting mostly of dances:  a Bach partita, polonaises by W.F. Bach and by Chopin, and waltzes by Chopin and Liszt.

As soon as one is no longer actually on one's feet, however, the dance becomes, as does all other music, a function of memory, fantasy, dream or, as in the case of the Liszt Valse Oubliee, something utterly intangible, unimaginable, ephemeral, fragile beyond telling.

These elements cannot be written down, they must be lived.  Or they may have been imparted in the artistry of, say, Artur Rubinstein, whose playing of that Liszt positively knocked me down when I first heard it in 1961 and has remained my instruction ever since.

Of course one must start somewhere.  At the beginning it makes sense to teach young learners that dance has to do with balance, with some kind of rhythmic regularity that keeps the dancers from falling over.