Dance Advantage Review of CDs

Richard Maddock is an accomplished musician as well as a seasoned dance class and exam accompanist. He is currently Head Accompanist at The Pia Bouman School of Creative Movement and Ballet, in Toronto, Canada and has written, performed, and engineered eight CD’s for dance in the last three years. I recently came across Richard online and he graciously offered five of these discs for review here, on the blog.

To top it off, he agreed to donate nine CD’s to give away to nine lucky Dance Advantage readers!

First, let me tell you a bit about the five CD’s I’ve reviewed.


Music for Movement and Imaginations

Ballet Class & Creative Movement (for children ages 3 and up)

I’m not currently teaching preschool ballet, but this is a CD I wish had been around a few years ago when I was teaching younger children! Dance teacher and collaborator, Kelly Jones-Hart has developed a class structure that effectively blends the conceptual exploration of creative dance with basic ballet technique. And with over 40 tracks, there is plenty of material and alternatives to spread over many classes. The disc provides brief notes on each track explaining its possible uses in class. The notes are not a how-to manual. Some familiarity with creative dance methods would certainly increase the variety of ways you could use the musical material. However, plié, tendus, relevé, ballet walks, sauté - it’s all here - forming a cohesive lesson format whether you are comfortable with creative movement concepts or simply looking for a way to enliven your children’s ballet classes.

Musically, the selections are simple but engaging. Composer, Richard Maddock knows when to keep the beat “readable” so that young dancers can stay in time with the exercise. And, he is playful, adding flourishes and fun when trying to inspire little imaginations. There are a variety of “freeze” dance selections with random pauses, and a group of compositions designed for Enchaînment (combination of steps or concepts). These often switch tempo or meter and could be applied many ways to whatever you are working on with your students. Also included are seven “Dance-a-Story” arrangements. In these, the music changes and progresses in a way that suggests a plot or sets a scene. Two sample stories are included in the album notes and a general outline is offered for the others but, the music itself will encourage your own creativity.

Although this is most certainly music for young dancers, I appreciate that the musical cues and changes are subtle and that the compositions have an elementary sophistication compared to some of the “baby ballet” albums out there. Because of this, the CD could be functional for children’s classes well beyond the preschool years, extending the usefulness of this album.

Ballet Studio Inspirations: Volume Two and Volume Three

Richard creates from a colorful palette of musical hues. His compositions for dance classes are expressive. It is easy to find inspiration in the material for the choreography of exercises because he paints attractive landscapes of sound. But, it is the lyrical quality of the songs that also make these tracks enjoyable to dance to. They encourage the student to perform the exercises rather than just complete them, which makes a teacher’s job easier in the long run.

Volume Two includes 14 compositions, beyond the 31 barre and centre selections, which are recommended for pointe work. And overall it has rather lengthy tracks, particularly for barre. As a result, this CD is probably more appropriate for advanced students than beginners. Containing an hour and 20 minutes of music, the disc offers plenty of selections to mix and match for different lesson plans. What I found unique about this album was its delicate orchestrations. Though the piano is the focus, there are textures added beneath which suggest the richer dynamics of an orchestra without overpowering the dancers during class.

Volume Three, on the other hand, is special for its purely piano sound. Recorded on a Concert Series Grand while corresponding class exercises were performed, this album more closely resembles the experience of having a live musician at your disposal, a luxury that few dance studios enjoy. Though in the notes it suggests that the music was composed to compliment a pre-professional level ballet class, I feel that this CD might be more adaptable to varying levels than the previous disc. The shorter tracks have much to do with this. The compositions, consistently featuring 64 bars of music, also seem more symmetrical overall.

On both discs, it is helpful that the selections are ordered and titled according to how they might be utilized in a class. However, the compositions could be easily rearranged (perhaps on your iPod or mp3 player) according to preference. I also appreciate that the liner notes include the time signature of the piece, how many bars (measures) are available, and note changes or breaks in pattern. Knowing these details can make choreographing exercises a much smoother process.


As Creation Unfolds: Part Three and The Garden Within

While the first three albums are definitely designed for class use, these two albums include longer compositions more suitable for creative or improvisational dance, or composition. Again, I visualize landscapes as I listen to Richard’s work. Most tracks have a contemplative quality.

As Creation Unfolds Part Three is the shorter (i.e. fewer songs) of the two albums. However most of its tracks are well over four minutes long. A favorite on the disc is “The Newborn Fawn.” Its skipping rhythms make it the most dance-y of the compositions and, as the shortest track, it could certainly be used for a lilting ballet in your next recital. “Woodland Nymphs” is another standout. I instantly recognized this one as a great fit for a creative dance class. Beginning with gentle pauses and gradually increasing in tempo, I picture children making shapes and exploring in a scarf dance. Incorporating several changes in texture, the music seems to have “events” that could easily be turned into a story dance.


The Garden Within

On The Garden Within, the selections “Oh What Wonders” and “Gently Guiding,” in particular, produced movement images and motifs in my mind as I listened. Their lyrical melodies and slightly more stirring tempos make them relevant for phrases or class choreography. My most pleasant surprise came at the end of this body of work, however. The final track, “Moving Forward” is underlined with percussive elements. This, coupled with its Asian-inspired gongs and chords, give the song a Cirque du Soleil vibe. What I find most compelling, however, is the tempo fluctuation in the piece. Of all the tracks on these two albums, this is my favorite.

The Garden Within and As Creation Unfolds Part Three are both filled with lovely compositions. They are a pleasure to listen or meditate to, making them ideal for relaxation, yoga, or stretching (inside or outside of class).


All CD cover images are the photographic work of Kim Fiocca.

I am pleased to be giving away…

* THREE Music for Movement & Imaginations CD’s
* THREE Ballet Studio Inspirations: Volume Three CD’s
* THREE The Garden Within CD’s

NINE individuals will win one of these CDs!

Winners will be randomly chosen from all entries using

Winners of the Richard Maddock CD Giveaway Announced!

This is just a quick announcement to say thank you to all who participated in Dance Advantage’s first giveaway! Nine winners have been chosen, contacted, and confirmed.

Congratulations to…

Amanda D., Heather, and Isabelle - winners of Music for Movement and Imaginations!

Mary Susan, Karen, and Sarah - winners of Ballet Studio Inspirations: Volume Three!

Amanda L., Jill, and Angel - winners of The Garden Within!

I am so happy to be sharing this great music with you!

If you did not walk away with a CD this time, be sure to check out Richard’s website (click the image below). You can preview many of his tracks and make purchases online. Plus he’s got even more new music on the way, so bookmark his page! Also, stay tuned here. There will be other chances to win in the future as I explore opportunities to give away free stuff to readers! Yay (look out Oprah lol)!

Nichelle Strzepek

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