Born and educated in the UK, Kit was a professional Classical Ballet dancer for 20 years. He worked in various countries around the world including Portugal, France, Switzerland, UK, S. Africa, Australia. He retired when hw was 37 and took up a teaching career and moved to Sydney, Australia where he have lived the next 25 years. 8 years ago he became an examiner for the Royal Academy of Dance, London and now – as well as teaching – travels extensively, both Nationally and Internationally.

Tell us a bit about your history with music.
I learned the piano ‘on and off’ from the age of 6 to 15, but was never very good – I never practised! In the 50’s, it was a luxury to have a record player, so the only music I got to hear was on the radio or on a ‘reel to reel’ tape recorder my parents used at parties – one of those strange events that adults did in that period, where one played music and danced strange things called ‘Knees up Mother Brown’, the ‘Hoky Coky’ and the ‘Conga’. At 12, I was given a transistor radio by a rich relation, so I avidly listened to Radio Luxembourg, Radio London and Radio Capitol, all playing the latest ‘pop’ music. The Beatles, Stones, Four Seasons, The Byrds, etc. The latter two were illegal radio stations and had to broadcast from a boat in the North Sea. When my parents became a bit more affluent they lashed out and bought a ‘Stereogram’. By this time, I was well into my dance training so got to hear plenty of music and joined the local library, I could only rent out classical music though. I saved up my money and bought myself the first Philips cassette player available on the market – it cost me £27 (US$52), I thought I was SO cool!
What role does music play in your life?

I couldn’t live without music in my life. Naturally, being a dancer it was extremely important. , I don’t have a favourite genre, although I probably prefer Classical more than others as it is part of my profession. I have a wide and various taste, enjoying Classical music, embracing all it’s forms, Pop – both new and old, Jazz. Having travelled at lot, I have been introduced to many different genres from a young age, the eclectic sounds of Spanish Flamenco, the melancholia of Portuguese Fado, the strange intricate melodies of Arabic music and the vibrant African Drums. I became a lover of ‘World’ music long before it became a popular genre.

Listening to any of those sounds can take me back to a place or a point in my life that I can remember vividly. I can tell what mood I’m in by the music I listen to. If I’m listening to Classical music I know I am happy and content within my life, If I listen to Pop music, continually, I know that I am feeling restless and need a new direction. When I don’t listen to anything at all though, then I’m in limbo!

What challenges do you face in your music related profession?

As a boy, when I was training one never used recorded music and we always worked and trained with a pianist or sometimes, a drummer (for contemporary work). Even when we learned pieces from the repertoire we never used a recording, it was also very hard to find a recording of most Ballet music and if you did it was rarely at a danceable speed! Once, I joined a company it was also the same situation and one always performed with an orchestra. One only ever used ‘taped’ music if it was a piece an orchestra was unable to play due to various complications or it was electronic, large sums of money often changed hands in order to get permission to use it. Overseas – Europe, it was a bit easier, the laws were slightly different, so recorded music was used more, but the choreographers always had to choreograph to fit the speed of the music or the dancers had to make it ‘fit’ the music – not always an easy thing to do. We always rehearsed with ‘reel to reel’ tape and the repetiteur had to keep copious notes in order to find the correct place in the tape if we had to go back and re- rehearse a particular part.

Working with an orchestra has it’s advantages, it always creates a tremendous atmosphere, but the sound varies depending on the position and shape of the orchestra pit and some conductors – no names mentioned, can be erratic speed wise, especially if they have forgotten to check who is dancing that evening!!

Although working with recorded music was ‘commonplace’ by the 70’s, one rarely changed the speed of a recording, because it changed the ‘pitch’ and that was undesirable on the ear. In the early 80’s, various machines arrived on the scene to change the speed, without changing the pitch, but music management were reluctant to let dancers know this or else All the company dancers would want their speeds adjusted! This is still something that doesn’t happen much as till now it’s never been very easy.

Over the years, competitions have slowly become more and more popular and nowadays in certain parts of the world all dancers take part in Dance Competitions. Here, Solos (dance routines) are choreographed using any style of music one wishes to use, they are usually a specific length and invariably edits and speed changes need to be implemented or if it’s a ‘song and dance’ routine then pitch changes are often required.

How does Anytune help you with those challenges?
All of the above was impossible when I began choreographing, but since the introduction of affordable computer software this has become much easier. It’s only now though with the advent of the tablet PC, that it has become really easy to take an iPad into the studio and use a programme like ‘Anytune’ to quickly and easily adjust ‘speed’ and ‘pitch’ for a students song or dance routine.
Would you like to share any websites or other references?
Only to say that ‘Anytube’ is an excellent to programme to slow down video in order for students to be able to watch steps/dances/solos or listen to songs at various speeds to assist them in the learning process. This programme can easily be used by company dancers/students to easily re-learn ballets/solos. When learning a new role at the time that I was dancing, we used to have to go back over a section endless times in order to try to see what the movement was, it used to bring the rehearsal to a halt sometimes! Now when I teach a solo I find it an invaluable and essential tool.

About Kit

KitLethbyKit Lethby ARAD PDTC (Dip)

Former Principal/Leading Dancer with: Scottish Ballet, Australian Ballet, Basle Ballet, PACT Ballet.

Royal Academy of Dance Vocational Graded Examiner, Freelance Teacher, Former Associate Principal, Ecole Ballet Studios.