Music is my first language

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Categories: Dance is the Word, Learning

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Go to photo Dance for Parkinson's. Photo: © Belinda Lawley

Pianist Nathan Tinker is an associate musician with the Engagement Department at English National Ballet and has been accompanying the successful Dance for Parkinson’s class at Markova House for just over two years. Taking to the piano keys in the studio Tinker explained that the company “drew him in”.

With dance, you have a bit more freedom. You can adapt dance to music and vice versa. It was a new direction for me, but one that has been really rewarding. Nathan Tinker, Pianist

Tinker accompanies other classes on an ad hoc basis (I saw him play for a Youth Ballet Workshop earlier that morning), but Dance for Parkinson’s is his favourite.

It’s more of a family thing.

He tells me that he feels:  

(the participants) approach the music differently. As a musician that’s important, you want people to listen and to like it. It makes me feel like I want to play something really nicely. 

Nathan Tinker on Dance for Parkinson’s

‘Nice’ is a hugely understated way of describing Tinker’s playing ability. Danielle Jones, lead dance artist on the Dance for Parkinson’s programme, asks Tinker to ‘play a march’ as the dancers start entering the room and he immediately obliges, vitalising the space with every perfect, fizzy note. One participant, Ray, tells me that he loves fast music and starts to move to Tinker’s solo, freestyling unselfconsciously in time with the tune. It’s wonderful to see the energy that Tinker’s playing elicits and he gets a huge clap when he’s done.

I ask if being part of the company has benefited him.

Musicians are usually solitary animals so it’s nice to work as part of a team. Working here at the ENB has also helped me speak in front of people. It’s helped my confidence. 

It’s a point confirmed by the dancers he plays for, “His playing is extraordinary. We’re all fans”.

As Tinker leads the Dance for Parkinson’s class through a vocal warm-up, it’s easy to see why. His love for music and relaxed approach shines through as he uses a sunrise/sunset analogy to encourage members of the class to change the pitch and speed of their vocals. Another round of applause ensues.

Lastly, I seek out Tinker’s views on the relationship between music and dance.

They co-exist very very nicely, because music makes you want to dance and dancing seems to have a better voice through music.

This is underlined by watching Tinker work with the Dance for Parkinson’s team to plan the lesson. It’s a collegiate relationship and one that grows more interactive once the dancers enter the room.

Just before Tinker has to return to playing duty, this time interpreting the Coppelia Mazurka, I ask if it can feel a bit like being a translator?

He nods.

I know the notes much like a dancer knows their body –it’s what enables you to move fluently and to communicate with the audience. Music is really my first language. 

 By Lara Hayward