Despite her traditional ballet training in South Africa, Andrea Giselle Schermoly has always had a wide range of music tastes and sensibilities. "There's always been this other drumbeat in my heart," says Schermoly, who's a three-time Outstanding Choreographer winner at the Youth America Grand Prix. That "other drumbeat" has become an integral layer to her creative process.
Following a series of career-ending injuries while dancing with Nederlands Dans Theater, Schermoly found a new stride choreographing competitive ballet pieces for students at the Marat Daukayev School of Ballet in Los Angeles. Since then, she's been commissioned by ballet companies all over the world, exploring all styles of music for her work. "My pieces for New York City Ballet and Royal New Zealand Ballet were primarily classical," she says, "but I used Jefferson Airplane and a very quirky rock opera for Santa Barbara Dance Theater and a Bob Dylan piece for BalletMet."
Schermoly finds it helpful for dancers to cross-relate music styles. Whether teaching a contemporary ballet workshop or choreography from her repertory, she has students identify the time signature from a Michael Jackson song or a Glenn Miller jazz piece, then compare it to a classical orchestration. "Sometimes classically trained ballet dancers get stuck in a box," she says. "So we talk a lot about musicality and how it affects movement."
When teaching a ballet class, though, Schermoly rarely strays from the traditional structure. "There's so much to learn from classical music and the many styles within ballet," she says. "I would rather talk about speed and rhythm within the classical framework."
Here are a few of her favorites for class:
Artist: Michael Jackson
Song: "The Way You Make Me Feel"
"When I was a child, my mother, who was an Olympic artistic gymnast, used to play this song as a warm-up in our gymnastics group. She coached me for a short time before I moved on to rhythmic gymnastics. This song is nostalgic and makes for a good, upbeat start on days even when energy is low. It's a good pick-me-up."
Michael Jackson - The Way You Make Me Feel (Official Video) www.youtube.com
Artist: Glenn Miller
Song: "Moonlight Serenade"
"I enjoy the change of mood in this and the dreamy quality of that era. It's a feel-good song that seems to enhance smooth, grounded movement."
Glenn Miller & His Orchestra - Moonlight Serenade (Official Audio) www.youtube.com
Artist: Max Richter
"This song's repetitiveness is good to build longer combinations. It also allows for both fast-paced, staccato movement and longer, sustained adagios. Often a class favorite, it's emotive and dancers connect to its pensive, pulsating rhythm."
Max Richter - November www.youtube.com
Artist: Tracy Chapman
Album: New Beginning
Song: "Give Me One Reason"
"This song gets me every time. It spikes my flow, and I enjoy its funky downbeat."
Give Me One Reason www.youtube.com
Album: The Four Seasons
"The entire album, any day forever and ever, amen."
Four Seasons ~ Vivaldi www.youtube.com