Celebrating our musicians this world pianist day

Celebrating our musicians this World Pianist Day

Every ballet class at The Royal Ballet School is accompanied by live music. Today, World Pianist Day, we’re excited to honour the people who can create big orchestral moments and emotional dimensions in our classes and on stage with just a piano. We’re fortunate to work with several hugely talented pianists across White Lodge and Upper School, who bring structure, flow, and mood to each ballet class and piece they work on.

We spoke with Olga Mazour and Akiko Hobson, pianists on our Artistic team, about their experiences working with our students and their love for the dancer-musician dynamic.

Music is able to communicate the most subtle movements of a human heart

Olga said:

‘The ballet accompanist is the choreographer’s and conductor’s closest assistant on all music matters. Having a thorough knowledge of the chosen music and its tempos, they are an intermediary between the conductor and choreographer. With the help of a talented, well-educated pianist, a choreographer could stage the ballet in a way that truly expresses the essence of music. Music can communicate the most subtle movements of a human heart and a piano can sound like an orchestra! From an early age, our students are fortunate to hear our talented pianists playing with an ‘orchestral touch’, which is when a pianist can imitate a full orchestra.

I really enjoy playing for the soloists, when a collaboration between a very sensitive and talented dancer and musician creates magic on a stage.’

I like the special moment when the dancers react with the music I play

Akiko always loved ballet:

What made you fall in love with playing the piano? How long have you been playing?

I actually didn’t fall in love with playing the piano until my mum took me to piano lessons when I was three years old. In fact, I wanted to do ballet, and my mum decided that piano was better for me than ballet, and took me to piano lessons!

What do you think is so special about the dancer-musician dynamic in class?

I like the special moment when the dancers react to the music I play. Sometimes it works amazingly and the music helps to enhance the dancers’ artistic expression.

How does your work in classes and workshops prepare student dancers for working on stage with an orchestra?

I try to listen to the orchestra and compare the piano reduction score so that I can provide the sounds, speed and phrasing that dancers need to hear when they dance. Also, knowing the steps dancers are doing at each point of the music helps.

What’s your favourite part about working with the dancers?

The moment when the music I provide helps dancers to dance better, jump higher and shine!

What do you listen to when you aren’t in the studio?

Absolutely anything! From classical music, rock… even nursery rhymes! And anything we ballet pianists listen to will appear in ballet class at some point. 

Do you play other instruments?

Melodica. Sometimes my husband (who is also a ballet pianist) and I duet with piano and melodica in ballet class!