2/4 or 6/8 music training ballet

#22: Choices..and commitment!

2/4 6/8 air time allegro assemble ballet teacher choices glissade landings marking musicality petit allegro May 21, 2020

Choices..We all have to make them

Have you ever been at a restaurant and said to the waiter, "I'm not sure what I want, the lemon seared trout with risotto or the chickpea/chicken curry bowl with naan..which would you recommend?" So often we're faced with a situation where 2 options would work, but we don't know which one we want.. or why! (After months of social isolation, you can see where my mind is at, a meal I don't have to make!! lol)

Like this little story, you, too, are faced with this daily conundrum of which time signature do you want for your petite allegro, a 2/4 or a 6/8. 

2/4 or 6/8 for petit allegro?

If you are secure on the differences of these 2 time signatures, brilliant, you are in the stronger 1/3rd of ballet teachers when it comes to your music knowledge. Unfortunately, I cannot even tell you how often I have played for teachers who pleasantly wander from one to the other throughout their marking.

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &5  &6  &7  &8.. etc.

The different sautes that they've selected drive them into different rhythms temporarily. For example, sautes in first are often a 2/4 feeling, but as soon as a teacher starts marking a glissade or assemble, magically the teacher slips into a rhythm that gives them just a bit more time to get the footwork done, a 6/8.

Instead of just the dancer count and the '&' (1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &),  instantly the teacher and dancer are granted an extra music beat, the beat right after each dancer count but before the '&' (Otherwise felt as the silence between the dancer count and the'&').


Your musician and dancers just had to switch from a 2/4 to a 6/8. If you were to stick your finger in the air in front of you, you just went from bouncing straight up and down, to a circle shape!

If you're working with a musician, you just drove them bonkers! They went from digging through their brain and music for the perfect 2/4 to.. "oh, ok, they actually want a 6/8?" At this point we're wondering if you know what you want. 

You might, or you might not. lol. Let's figure out how to discern what you actually want!

Top 3 Factors in choosing music for Petite Allegro

  • Is your saute exercise about air time, or the landings?
    • If it's about airtime, you likely want a 6/8 because that way your dancers get 2 beats in the air between the dancer counts. Remember that 6/8? It is groups of 3 notes, 1 note is for the landing and 2 notes are for air time! A 6/8 is always going to give you more air time! Hence why it's good for galloping and skipping from the corner. Air time.
    • If you're wanting to work on the landings, you more likely want a 2/4 because there is only one '&' between the counts, meaning, equal time, in the air and in the landing.
  • When do you want your dancers in the air?
    • If you're wanting to challenge your dancers to really count and be up on 1, for example, then you'll need a 2/4. This is because dancers should always be on the ground on the dancer count in a 6/8.
  • What is the point of your exercise?
    • If you're working on the quick footwork for glissades, you wouldn't want to use a 6/8 because it gives your dancers WAY too much time to pull it off. If you're working on the gathering of the legs in an assemble, then you probably want a 6/8 because it will give your students the time to focus on snatching them together well!

All of that to say, put some thought into the purpose of your petite allegro, how much air time you want to give your dancers, etc. and then COMMIT to marking the WHOLE exercise in the time signature you want!

Don't feel dumb taking the time to practice counting your whole exercise in the time signature that you think you want. You'll discover parts of it will feel awkward and that is where you need to commit to the time signature you picked for the reasons you picked it, OR, recount the whole exercise in the other time signature and see if perhaps you actually want that instead! 

Be cautious that you don't get sucked into the ever comfortable 6/8. That groove is so pleasant and easy to feel that it often becomes an autopilot instead of a purposed choice!

Your students will thank you (in their heads! lol) for your efforts because they'll pick up the nuances and timing of the jumps when you're first marking them, instead of after you have to correct them for not being musical!  

As you tighten up and clarify exactly which time signature you want, why you want it (purpose of the exercise) and consistently mark it throughout your whole exercise, you'll begin to see a ton of benefits like wasting less time marking and enjoying more time teaching, and who doesn't want that?!


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