Music for ballet class has evolved a great deal over the last century. It began much the same way as music for silent pictures did. A pianist would use a compilation of music notation known as a fakebook. This would be a book or notebook which the pianist would make themselves, one which contained abbreviated versions of music from the great ballets. Check Ballet Classes.
Unlike piano sheet music which is written on a grand staff (both treble and bass clef), a fakebook contained only the treble clef line with the melody written without harmony. The pianist would write the chord symbols above the single staff and these symbols would be used to improvise the left hand part. These fakebook renditions were precisely as effective as the skills of the pianist allowed, and many pianists became very proficient at using this technique both on the pianos of the ballet studios and the organs of the silent movie theaters.
Music for Ballet Class changed very little from its inception as the decades went on, but there were trends. The use of fakebooks faded and disappeared for the most part when sheet music became widespread and affordable, and ballet pianists instead came to the job prepared with bags and sometimes suitcases full of piano music–famous classical piano literature and transcriptions.
There was another type of pianist that came on the scene at this time. This was the individual who could not only sight-read complex musical scores, but was also highly skilled at composing and improvising. These talented individuals became the super-stars of the ballet class music world, and their abilities continue to be coveted by the top teachers and ballet companies around the world.
The best of this new breed of ballet class pianists are intimately familiar with the details of ballet class and the nuances of each exercise and are able to create music on the spot that matches the instructions of the ballet teacher. Many of them studied ballet and choreography.
In the 1980s this trend was standardized into a system. A series of informal studies were conducted at the Eastern Washington university Dance department under Elizabeth Carlssohn, aiming to find the composing and playing techniques that would produce the most effective music. By using beat placement, beat width, tempo changes, chord changes, rubato phrasing, and melodic content to specifically match each exercise the powerful system was created which is now known as the Motosonus Method.
The purpose behind the creation of this system was to use the music in ballet class to its greatest effect, by enhancing the impact the music has on the students in the class. This is the first system of its kind and its inevitable evolution as it comes into wider and wider use will have a positive impact on the quality of ballet class music.