Dusty Button's Music for Ballet Is Cinematic

Photo by Mitchell Button, courtesy of the artist

Dusty Button prefers music with a range. "There needs to be a beginning, a climax and a strong ending. Like a movie," she says. The award-winning dancer, who joined American Ballet Theatre's second company, ABT II, at 18, has always been drawn to lyric-free tracks filled with dynamic phrasing, rhythms and composition. "Whether it's the violin, piano or cello, instrumental music gives me more inspiration. I want the dancers and the audience to feel something new," she adds.

As a dancer, Button's stunning facility and technical abilities have defied ballet conventions. Dancing with London's Birmingham Royal Ballet and a Boston Ballet principal, she was named Red Bull's first ballet athlete and frequently performs as a guest artist and choreographer with companies all over the world. As a teacher, though, she enforces the value of a strong, traditional foundation. "Trends die out, but technique will always remain. It gives dancers the freedom needed to do other styles," she says.

Despite being a stickler for technique, she's found that making more liberal music choices has enhanced her choreography and teaching style. "When I was younger and immersed in the ballet bubble, I was so focused on my training," she says. "It was my husband who introduced me to exploring different genres and ways to approach music."

For the past year, while teaching ballet with the Artists Simply Human convention, Button has played artists like Drake, Kanye West or Lil Wayne. She finds that dancers who don't necessarily aspire to be professional ballerinas connect better to the steps with a familiar song. "When you put on music that's more relevant to younger generations," she says, "kids don't realize how hard they're working. They just love the song and feel less stressed about being perfect.

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Song: "Clair De Lune" (feat. Christine Hoberg)

Album: Down To Earth

"Because of my ballet background, I've always been connected to music with heavy instrumentation that tells a story."

Max Richter - On Reflection . . .

Artist: Max Richter

Song: "Our Reflection"

Album: My Brilliant Friend soundtrack

"This still has the sounds of a classical piece, but more intense."

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Artist: Ólafur Arnalds & Alice Sara Ott

Song: "Verses"

Album: The Chopin Project

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Song: "Can't Be Broken"

Album: Tha Carter V

"I've never really liked music on the radio, but using music kids know for ballet can be inspiring for all kinds of dancers."

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Artist: Kanye West

Song: "Lift Yourself" (single)

"Just because I teach ballet steps to contemporary music doesn't have to make it contemporary ballet. It's still ballet."

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