Music for Dancers
Andy Wasserman specializes in the creation and performance of music that makes people want to dance, move and choreograph. He has spent decades in collaboration with a variety of dancers and dance companies in the capacity of soloist, accompanist, composer/arranger, recording artist and musical director.
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Andy composes and performs original musical accompaniments live and on recordings for dancers in the Jazz, Tap, African, Modern and Improvisational idioms for premier choreographers and dance artists that have included The Copasetics (Cookie Cook, Honi Coles, Bubba Gaines, Buster Brown, Ernest “Brownie” Brown and Gip Gibson), Savion Glover, Jimmy Slyde, Dianne Walker, Jane Goldberg, Jason Samuels, Sam Weber, Fayard Nicolas, Acia Grey, Brenda Buffalino, Katherine Kramer, Robert Reed, Omar Edwards, Dormeshia Sumbray-Edwards, Shelley Oliver, Van Porter, Ardie Bryant and Nicole Hockenberry among many others.
He has done extensive work as musical director and accompanist for Jazz Tap Dance Festivals. Additionally, in addressing this deep connection between music and dance, Andy created a course and book with accompanying CD entitled "Music for Dancers." It is suited for any dance style, but espectially to the medium of Jazz rhythm tap dance. Andy has taught this course at a number of dance festivals including The Rhythm Explosion (Bozeman, Montana), The New York City "Tap City" Festival, and the St. Louis Tap Festival.
Andy's piano accompaniment is seen and heard on the video documentary "Great Feats of Feet" as rehearsal pianist and in concert with the Copasetics. He played piano in the "Chocolateers Band" that backed up dancers Sandra and Gip Gibson, and was musical director for Jane Goldberg's tap dance shows, performing in New York City and at Jacobs Pillow. Andy spent over 10 years working as an accompanist on piano and percussion for numerous dance classes every week at leading dance schools in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts.
Andy Wasserman is currently available for collaborations as
- composer and arranger for choreographers
- performer of musical accompaniments for dance concerts
- producer of customized studio sound track recordings for dancers
- festival musical director for dancers, choreographers and dance ensembles
- workshop leader and artist-in-residence presenting his original course and book entitled "Music For Dancers."
The following excerpt from an edited thesis written by professional dancer and educator Ekaterina Kuznetsova describes the inspiration she received from attending Wasserman's five-day workshop series "Music for Dancers" and it's contribution to her process of choreographing a new project entitled "One" (2006, University of Alaska at Anchorage):
As with several other of my works that came before it, this project has served as a catalyst for several significant transformations in my life as a dancer, choreographer, educator, and a human being. Initial motivation for "One" came from my experience during the summer of 2005 at a dance festival called Rhythm Explosion in Bozeman, Montana. While there, I was inspired by many thoughts, ideas, and happenings, but the most critical experience in relationship to making "One" was a series of workshops in a course called Music for Dancers, created and taught by the festival's musical director, Andy Wasserman.
The nature of the class brought up the same old questions: Why do we do what we do as artists? What is truth as opposed to expression of truth? What is music? What is dance? Looking for answers to these questions could easily become a mindnumbing walk in continuous circles, but instead this journey truly took me to new territories of my being. I felt engaged conceptually, physically, and spiritually as a learner, artist, and person. It was an experience of awakening in many ways; an experience so powerful that I cried almost every morning during class.
For example, during our second to last meeting, Andy was talking about the concept of the rhythmic "down beat" and of ways to find it. He offered the following explanations: unity, the down beat of one’s life, relaxing into rhythmic gravity, or simply making a deep emotional accord - similar to what it feels like to fall in love.
Towards the end of that class, we just sat in a circle around Andy, eyes closed, listening to him playing a jembe drum. I remember feeling my body as a bridge – I felt a connection to the rhythm of the drum, to my heart, to gravity, to the sky, to love, to suffering, to everyone and everything around me. I saw a connected structure extending far beyond the physical limits of the room. I felt and heard my heart beat, as well as the pulsing of blood through my body. At that moment, I had no doubt about my intimate connection to the space above, around, and below me.
Immediately afterwards, I felt like a geyser of hot tears. In less than a few minutes, my past and present came together and somehow echoed the future. Perhaps, it was simply because I was more open and willing to listen that everything became relevant to my being. Every day since then, I seem to have been more aware of that circular energy – my connection to everything and everybody. It is like listening to the rhythm of a bigger heart that circulates the air and my blood, initiating movement inside and outside of my body. This is my dance, my music, and my life. This is why I do what I do as an artist, educator, and a human being.
Another concept that made me think critically about the “why” and the “how” of things was about the multiple dimensions of time. I had explored these ideas before as a dancer and choreographer, but I never had I thought about how these have influenced me as a person. For example, if the act of improvisation exists in vertical time, then what about memories, love, and wisdom? Do these have a time dimension? How do we know that time exists?
Engulfed by a new awareness of center, time, feelings, values, images, and sounds, I became more interested in human conversation. I wanted to listen more to myself, to each individual, and to the whole symphony of sounds that accompany my living day and night. Upon my return from the workshop, I began to pay even closer attention to how the relatively stable rhythms of my being (as, for example, my heartbeat, pulse, breathing, walking, and chewing) mixed in with random sounds of my everyday surroundings (such as traffic, rain, birds, human voices, TV, computer, printer, keyboard, water in the sink, footsteps, and garbage disposal). This sound collage became my continuous inspiration for creating movement by the time we started rehearsing for my dance entitled "One."
I found it very interesting that only two days after I decided to name this creative work "One" I learned about the metaphysical assumption that all being is one. This moment brought me full circle to that moment in Andy’s class when I cried my heart out because I heard something true inside and outside of myself.
Although I did not realize it at the beginning of the process, many ways of how I saw the dance come together formed in response to Andy's explanation of the downbeat. A few weeks before the premier of this piece, during a modern dance technique class, which I have taken twice a week for several years, I felt like I was hearing the music and seeing the movement differently, as if both had a different texture from what I knew it to be.
The form of the movement was no longer making physical sense to me. It was a somewhat frightening, yet exciting experience. I felt as if I had managed to find a small opening into another world to peek at another dimension of myself, the others, and the matter beyond physical objects.
That day, I left the class thinking about harmony. I described it in my journal as a feeling that comes when every shell falls away. Perhaps, love, like dance, is something that constantly exists, like a sculpture that is already there? What if falling in love and learning through love is our chance to see, evolve, remember, and truly find ourselves in connection to the world? These questions continue to stream open-ended, offering a richer pallet of ideas to live with.