Ballet Class Blogging: Tunes for the Times
The post-turkey/pre-January-holiday season is finally here! To bring the festivities into my classroom, I’ve made a holiday mix. Since my kids are 6–8, emphasis is on tunes they’d know sung by “artists” they recognize—while keeping me sane at the same time. (So no Beiber or Hannah Montana.)
1. “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” from How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966 cartoon): I like this for pliés. It’s a little faster than I’d usually choose, but it’s jazzy and gooey—perfect for plies.
2. “Christmas, Don’t Be Late” by Alvin and the Chipmunks (1958 version): Slow tendus. Kids love the Chipmunks.
3. “Dance of the Reed Flutes” from The Nutcracker: I often do piqué degagés a la seconde—in the structure of 8 on the right, 8 on the left, 4, 4, 2, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1…this fits in perfectly with the melody. It’s fast, but not too fast.
4. “Welcome Christmas” also from How the Grinch Stole Christmas: It’s a fast 4/4 tempo, if you’re teaching older students: Great for speedy degages, frappés or petit battements.
5. “O Tannenbaum” from A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio: I use this for a ronde de jambe exercise, mixed in with a short adagio (lots of retirés and pliés with port de bras.) It’s so jazzy that the timing is pretty tricky, but I just can’t imagine a holiday mix without Charlie Brown!
6. “Baby its Cold Outside” by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan: Sounds crazy—but it works as a medium speed grande battement exercise, taking time to pause in the tendu position before closing back to first position.
7. “Sleigh Ride” by Leroy Anderson: Small jumps, changements or again, fast degagés.
8. “Silver Bells” by Alvin and the Chipmunks: It’s a nice waltz. The rodents don’t kick in until about 40 seconds from the beginning, in case you can’t take their cute chipmunk voices.
9. Brandenburg Concerto by Johann Sebastian Bach. (The opening of Paul Taylor’s Esplanade): You’re right: this isn’t a holiday song. But I love it, and after the Chipmunks it’s a nice change.
10. “March of Wooden Soldiers” from The Nutcracker: Have to practice marching in a line with pointed toes precisely on the beat!
11: “Snowflakes” from The Nutcracker: Use this for small jumps, or during freeze-dance. It’s very fast. I ask my dancers to imagine they’re as light as snowflakes. How do snowflakes dance in the air?
12: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Kermit the Frog: It’s a great song for a slow-tempo free-dance, creative movement part of class.
13–15: “Mother Ginger,” “Spanish Dance” and “Sugar Plum Fairy” variations from Nutcracker Suite: I use these also for freeze-dance. The dances are so varied and kids really like to imitate the dances they’ve seen the older girls do.
What’s on your holiday mixed tape this year? For more ways to bring the holidays into your studio, read “Holidays in Every Way: Sharing ideas for a cheerful and inclusive season,” here.