Dance Accompaniment is one of the lesser known fields in music where the musician(s) provides music to accompany dance. The more known or visible aspect of this field occurs in a performance setting where the music can be provided by a solo instrument, an ensemble or an orchestra. However, a huge part of dance accompaniment happens off stage - during the training and rehearsals of the dancers. This page will be discussing this off stage aspect of dance accompaniment, specifically for classical ballet or contemporary/ modern dance.

In this setting, dance accompaniment can be further divided into two aspects - accompanying for technique classes and accompanying for rehearsals. In both scenarios, the piano is most commonly used although sometimes percussions are also used to accompany modern technique classes.

During technique classes, the teacher or ballet master/mistress devices a series of short exercises to either train or warm up students or professional dancers. The class can range in length from an hour and a quarter to two hours and usually consists of about fifteen or more exercises. The accompanist's role is then to provide suitable music for these exercises. As it is common for the facilitator of the class to devise the exercises on the spot, the musician must be versatile enough to produce these music almost instantaneously. Hence, the accompanist must either have a wide repertoire of suitable music coupled with the ability to adapt them accordingly to the exercise's needs, or to be able to improvise suitable music for the exercises. Furthermore, the accompanist must have an understanding of ballet terminology and more importantly, a firm grasp of the relationship between music and dance.

During rehearsals, the accompanist is to assimilate the actual performance music with usually, a piano. This can be acheived by playing from reduced scores but very often the accompanist has to make some alterations to highlight musical elements that the choreography needs, which may not be present in a conventional reduction. The accompanist may also be needed to play under the baton of a conductor, in order to negotiate a tempo and eventually to familiarise the tempo for both the conductor and the dancers. This is to ensure a smooth transition from rehearsals to stage performance especially when an ensemble or orchestra is involved in the performance.

The accompanist hence has to possess a varied array of skills - competent technique to be able to play reductions, ensemble skills to work with dancers and the conductor, improvisational skills, a wide suitable repertoire, a knowledge of ballet terminology, a grasp of dance and music relationship and very importantly, an empathy for dance. It is probably because of the last few skills which are not easily transferrable that led to the field's absence in most schools. This absence in turn caused aspiring musicians not to know about dance accompaniment as a possible career path thus leading to its obscurity.


Ho Wen Yang is an accompanist, a musician and a composer, specialised in collaborating with dance, with his electroacoustic works. He is also a computer programmer who combines both technology and music in his works to create music or interactive sound installations. He possesses a Bachelor in Computer Engineering (Hons) from the National University of Singapore and a Masters in Music (Piano for Dance) at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) in conjunction with Scottish Ballet, with the support of the National Arts Council (Singapore), Postgraduate Arts Scholarship, British Council (Singapore) IELTS Scholarship and RCS Postgraduate Scholarship.

As a Classical Ballet and Contemporary Dance accompanist, Wen Yang has accompanied for many institutions and master-classes, including Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT) and the prestigious Genée International Ballet Competition, held in Singapore 2009, London 2010 and Glasgow 2013. He also held the position of Principal Accompanist at the School of the Arts, Singapore from 2007 to 2015. In contemporary dance accompaniment, he employs an arsenal of instruments - piano, guitar, flute, percussion through effects and live-looping technique.

Besides accompaniment, Wen Yang has composed, performed and collaborated in various dance and inter-disciplinary art performances. His collaborations and compositions include works performed by SDT (Sometimes I Think I Remember by Jeffrey Tan, performed in Esplanade’s da:ns Festival, 2008 and 2010), Frontier Danceland (Flux of Time by Ms Low Mei Yoke and Christina Chan, Raw Moves (Autopus and Free by Ricky Sim) and Project Y, Scotland (Astray by Diana Loosemore). He was also one of the composers for Returning, the opening work of Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) 2015, directed by Mdm Goh Lay Kuan, which has garnered positive reviews for the music.

The improvisatory and interactive nature of dance accompaniment naturally led to his interest in audience interaction and improvisation. He featured some of these works in 2011, as part of the Esplanade at the Concourse – Piano Lessons Series, where he explored improvisations and audience interaction. His original initiation with Sherry Tay Loop Theory, which involves audience participation, motion-tracking technology, music and dance, was awarded the Substation Performance Art Open Call 2011. This technology which was conceptualized and programmed by Wen Yang, was revived and revised to materialise as an interactive sound installation sound x movement, for Run Another Way with Raw Moves in 2014.

Wen Yang is a firm advocate of collaboration, improvisation and dance accompaniment and has held workshops on Music for Dance in Singapore, including an invitation by the Singapore Management University for their annual piano festival - Klaviesta 2011.

His current research interest is in unguided interactive sound installations and electroacoustic live manipulation with SuperCollider.


[+/-] Details of Accompaniment Experience

2015Part-time Accompanist at the National Ballet of Canada
2015Part-time Accompanist at National Ballet School of Canada
2015Part-time Accompanist at DanceTeq
2015Part-time Accompanist at Ontario Ballet School
2007 - 2015Principal Accompanist at School of the Arts, Singapore
2012 - 2013Part-time Dance Accompanist for Modern Ballet programme and Musical Theatre at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Sep 2013Commissioned Variations and Semi-Finals Class Pianist for Genée Ballet Competition 2013, Glasgow
2012 - 2013Contract Dance Accompanist for Education Department of Scottish Ballet
2004 - 2012Part-time Company Pianist at Singapore Dance Theatre
Nov - Dec 2010Contract Dance Accompanist and Music Research at Royal Academy of Dance, London
Nov 201020th Century Variations Pianist for Genée Ballet Competition 2010, London
2010, 2011Boston Ballet (Classical Ballet Auditions in Singapore for Summer Programme)
2010Cloud Gate (Contemporary Master Class at the Esplanade, Singapore)
Sep 200920th Century Variations Pianist for Genée Ballet Competition 2009, Singapore
2008, 2010Ballet Star Gala (International Ballet Gala Company Class at the Esplande, Singapore)
2006 - 2008Part-time Dance Accompanist at Cheng Ballet Academy
2005 - 2008Part-time Dance Accompanist at Singapore Ballet Academy
2004 - 2008Contract Dance Accompanist at Lasalle-SIA College of the Arts
2007Bill T Jones (Contemporary Master Class, Singapore)
2007, 2009Rosanna Seravalli (Classical Ballet Master Class at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore)
2006 - 2007Contract Dance Accompanist at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts
2006, 2008, 2009, 2011Han Kee Juan (Classical Ballet Master Class, Singapore)
2006, 2007Gary Trinder (Classical Ballet Master Class, Singapore)
2006Armgard von Bardeleben (Contemporary Master Class, Singapore)
2005Irek Mukhamedov (Classical Ballet Master Class, Singapore)
2005Royal Ballet (Company Class at the Esplanade, Singapore. Swan Lake)
2001 - 2004Part-time Dance Accompanist at Crestar Learning Centre (Marine Parade), Singapore


[+/-] Details of Dance-Music and other Interdisciplinary Collaboration Experience

2015Composed music for Flux of Time - Milieu 2015, choreographed by Ms Low Mei Yoke and Christina Chan. Performed by Frontier Danceland and Ding Yi Music Company.
Reviews - 1, 2, 3
2015Composed music for Returning, directed by Mdm Goh Lay Kuan as part of the opening programme of Singapore International Arts Festival (SIFA) 2015. Music for Malay Contemporary and Contemporary sections choreographed by Osman Abdul Hamid and Low Ee Chiang respectively. Music Directed by Julian Wong and performed by musicians on classical Indian, Chinese, Malay and Western instruments. Dance performed by independent dancers and artists. For more information (here).
Reviews - 1, 2, 3
2015Composed music for Running Study, choreographed by Christina Chan. Performed by students of Lasalle College of the Arts in Tipping Points and graduation performance in 2015
2014Designed and programmed interactive sound installation, sound x movement, for Run Another Way, curated and directed by Ricky Sim. Performed by Raw Moves in 2014
2014Composed and performed music for Free, choreographed by Ricky Sim. Performed by Raw Moves in 2014
2014Composed/Designed and performed music and sound for Drawing Parallel, a dance-visual arts-music collaboration initiated by Visual Artist - Tang Ling Nah in Jan 2014
2013Composed music for Astray, choreographed by Diana Loosemore. Performed by Project Y, Scotland in 2013
2012Composed and performed music for Autopus, choreographed by Ricky Sim. Performed by Raw Moves in 2012
2011Appearance as young artist accompanying contemporary dance on Okto Channel's A.M.P (Arts, Music and Performance) Episode 1, aired on 7 February 2012
2011Co-Initiator, Music Director, Sound Designer and Programmer of Loop Theory, Awarded Substation Performing Arts Open Call 2011
2011Improvised in collaboration White Space. Dark Matter (a curious cat) conceptualised and initiated by Li Yong Wei
2011Composed music for movement choreography during Arts in the Community 2011 project by National Arts Council, Singapore. Facilitated by Li Yong Wei
2011Composed and performed music for Docent Variations, choreographed by Faye Lim and Bernice Lee. Performed at Tisch School of the Arts Graduation Ceremony
2008Composed music for Sometimes I think I Remember, choreographed by Jeffrey Tan. Performed by Singapore Dance Theatre in 2008 and 2010
2008Composed and performed music for Back to 50s, choreographed by Singapore Ballet Academy. Performed by Singapore Ballet Academy for their 50th Anniversary concert
2007Composed and performed music for Scenes de Danse, choreographed by Rosanna Seravalli. Performed by Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts for their open-house and graduation concert
2006, 2007Improvised and performed music for Dance Appreciation Series performances, performed by Singapore Dance Theatre


[+/-] Details of Other Music Experience

2015Technical director and Live audio processing for 2015:Time:Space (more information), a collaborative work between composer and e-luthier Dirk Stromberg, composer Dr. Robert Casteels and visual artist Andrew Thomas, presenting new electronic instruments, voices, celempung, live audio processing to visuals featuring urban and rural scenes of Singapore.
2014Finalist in Transatlantyk Instant Composition Competition, Poznan, Poland
2012Performed on the piano in "Raices 2012" with The Philharmonic Winds. Program included Concertango by Luis Serrano Alarcon, for symphonic winds and jazz trio
2011Initiated and performed electroacoustic music improvisation collaboration, ZYY with Su Yin Koh and Zhong Ren Koh at Substation’s Tribal Gathering of the Jawbenders Gagging Sessions
2011Composed and performed solo piano (and electroacoustic) at Piano Lessons as part of the Esplanade at the Concourse Series. Performance included elements of improvisation and audience participation
2011Invited to hold a workshop on "Dance Accompaniment and Improvisation" as part of the Singapore Management University annual piano festival, Klaviesta 2011
2011Performed on the keyboard in Russell Watson La Voce
2008 - 2009Sound Engineering projects for the Singapore Dance Theatre
2002 - 2007Conductor of Raffles Winds, alumni symphonic band of Raffles schools. Appeared in concerts "Coda" and "Coda 2" in 2005 and 2006

Articles/Posts on Dance Accompaniment

Studio Sidekicks - by Ross LeClair
Striking a Chord with Live Accompanists in Dance Class - by Sheri
In the corner behind the mirrors - ballet pianist. Interview with Nataly Dirvuk and Gill Civil - by Inta Balode
The Art of the Dance Accompanist - by Performer magazine
A former piano student carves out a unique life as a dance accompanist or is it "Freeway Gypsy?" - by Shirley Kirsten
One with the Music: Accompanying Dancers Part One - by Nichelle
One with the Music: Accompanying Dancers Part Two - by Nichelle

Courses on Dance Accompaniment

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (in conjunction with Scottish Ballet) - MMus, PgDip Piano for Dance
Royal Opera House's Jette Parker Young Artists Programme
The Danish National School of Performing Arts
University of Arizona School of Music - MMus
Shenadoah University - MMus
Canada's National Ballet School Musicians' Mentoring Program

Blogs/Websites on Dance Accompaniment

Jonathan Still's Blog
Karen Maclver's Blog

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