By Nina Pinzarrone
There are important terms relating to changes in tempo that teachers need to know:
• accelerando: to get faster gradually.
• rallentando and ritardando: to slow down gradually.
• ritenuto: to slow down immediately.
• stringendo: to get faster and faster, compressing and squeezing the music so that it sounds rushed, like a pas de bourrée couru.
• allargando: gradually slowing and broadening, making the music sound more majestic and stately, like a polonaise.
• a tempo: a return to the original tempo after a tempo change.
• rubato (or “robbed time”): the expressive shaping of the music within a musical phrase. Rubato was commonly associated with the Romantic period of music and the work of composer Frédéric Chopin. Some notes in the phrase are hurried or lingered over for musical effect and later compensated for so that overall the phrase does not deviate from the basic tempo.
Many dance teachers demonstrate an exercise in a faster tempo than they want it to be danced. Theoretically this saves time, but when working with a pianist, time can be wasted. Since musicians are aurally wired, the tempo you set first becomes what the accompanist hears first. Show the exercise in the tempo you want it to be danced for a few bars, then speed up to save time. With accompanists who are new to dance, explain that in class they need to keep a steady tempo throughout a piece and ignore the ritardandos and accelerandos written in the score.