Music for Class: A Classical Take

Chebar Williams' ballet class sets up competition students for success.

Williams is currently on faculty with NUVO.

After Chebar Williams tore a ligament in her ankle while dancing with the Joffrey Ballet, she made a humble move. She had already reached professional status in ballet, but she enrolled herself at The Ailey School. “Honestly, I thought that with my ballet training, modern would be an easy transition,” she says. “But in the ’80s, ballet companies weren’t doing contemporary work, so it was like retraining myself. Starting over.”

After guesting with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Williams moved to L.A., where she threw herself into more unfamiliar styles—jazz and hip hop—and began teaching ballet in the commercial world. She’s been on the convention circuit for 18 years, mixing her classical foundation with knowledge of many dance forms. “These kids aren’t bunheads, but I believe in maintaining the integrity of classical ballet,” she says. “It’s about fostering that discipline and respect while opening their hearts and minds so that they can hopefully experience the same emotions they feel when doing, say, contemporary.” DT


Artist: Venti Petrov

Album: Venti’s Class

“I once tried to do the ‘cool’ thing and use something like Coldplay for ballet because I thought it would inspire students to get more involved in class. But I found that the kids would just lose focus, so I stick to classical piano music. This CD is good for advanced levels and has wonderful changes of meter.” 

Artist: Pietro Galli

Album: Musique pour Danse, volume 11

“This album is great because the Paris Opéra Ballet School actually recorded their pianist live while he was playing a class, which ensures the perfect speed for most combinations.”

Composer: Chopin

Piece: Waltz No. 3 in A minor, Op. 34, No. 2, from The Pianist soundtrack

“Taking pieces from movie soundtracks can be fun because they’re classical but arranged a bit differently. I don’t want them to be afraid of ballet. I want them to leave class feeling invigorated.”

Composer: Hans Zimmer

Piece: “Zoosters Breakout” from the Madagascar soundtrack

“I use this for the minis, ages 7–10. The minute I turn this on, they recognize it. The little ones need to understand that classical music isn’t always the boring stuff Grandma plays at Christmas. This is skippy and fun.”

Artist: Quattro Piano+

Album: Quattro Piano+

“The older dancers can handle something not as strictly classical. This group is made up of four pianos, but one of them is synthesized, which gives it a bit of pizzazz. The depth and dimension is so powerful.”


Photo courtesy of NUVO Productions

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