Dancing on the Keys: Bringing Joy to Piano Practice

For Christmas, we bought an electronic keyboard because our eldest son said he wanted to learn to play piano.

I have always wanted to play piano, but have never played for long enough to get past the physical confusion that arises when my left hand and right hand are asked to play different things at the same time. My husband also has some projects that might benefit from having a MIDI keyboard at home. Since three of us were likely to use it, we bought a better quality instrument than we would have done if it were just for our son.

And, having spent the cash, I feel obliged to practice.

I started playing through the lessons that we bought for our son. So far, it is all material that I had mastered two decades ago but haven’t played since. It is coming back quickly. By the end of next week, though, I will be starting the material that I never mastered: chords in the left hand on beats 1 and 3, and dotted half notes and dotted quarter notes in the right hand melody. My body clenches just thinking about it.

And so, I added a new element to my practice this week. An active pursuit of fun. I have thought of my fingers as dancing on the keyboard. Thinking of playing as dance has shifted my physical connection to the instrument. My fingers caress keys they used to hit. My shoulders release. My torso gets involved.

From my earliest childhood, I have danced from the heart. Even during my years of serious ballet training, I never lost the passion of improvising by myself in my living room. The years of legal training and practice were bad for my dancing, but even then the impulse was there. And then, I discovered InterPlay: a community and practice that invites me to dance with my biggest body-mind. I reconnected with movement that starts with my breath and ends beyond the reaches of my physical being.

Now, I am bringing that energy and impulse to my piano playing. If I feel myself tightening against the challenge or mentally straining for a passage, I take a deep breath and remind myself to dance. Practice has become a joy. If I come to the keys exhausted at the end of a long day and let my fingers dance on the keys, I am rejuvenated. I reach a state of oneness with the keys even as I struggle to find the notes for a simple melody.

The muscles of my torso, shoulders, arms, and hands are adjusting to the movements required to play and there is a physical tiredness after a long practice, but my heart is open and my spirit high.

Who knows how my piano skills will grow or stagnate, but I am starting to believe that if I bring this energy of playful dance to my practice, even the discovery of what my limits are could be fun.


About Kate Arms-Roberts


Posted on January 13, 2011, in Interplay. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Very cool – even inspiring. Remember that practice is not perfection – and its all practice!!

  2. Just got to read this now, Kate – I love it! Let your fingers dance & be playful, and joyful music will follow. Allow your fingers to explore the keys, as in a walk-stop-run. And above all, keep having fun!

  3. Kate Arms-Roberts

    The new addition to my practice is improvisation while the computer is booting up. I am using teacher software as my instructor at the moment. The MIDI keyboard turns on instantly, but the computer takes time to boot. So, I have been really letting my fingers play on the keyboard and improvise while the computer gets ready. I hadn’t thought of it as a walk-stop-run, but it is.

    Now, I am trying to remember which game my kids were playing the other day which I realized was a variation of walk-stop-run. I noticed the parallel and thought I should blog about it, and then I forgot about it.

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