Arabian Dance, for elementary piano players. (See a new page, Arab Dance, for the same piece arranged for Intermediate students!)
It's that season of the year again, when the thoughts of little dancers (and big!) turn lightly toward -- The Nutcracker! What, AGAIN?!! Here in my town it seems that no sooner has a dance performance of Tchaikovsky's most famous ballet music wound down, but it's time to plan the next one. In reality, it is only every two years. For my husband, it's too often. But I love love LOVE the music of The Nutcracker!
Of all Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker pieces most familiar to young kids, "Coffee" or "Arab Dance" is the one most approachable for young pianists. Yes, it's repetitious. Mesmerizing. It may even put listeners to sleep. But for some musicians, it's the kind of music that winds its way around your heart and carries you to far-off lands.
I've never been happy yet with any of the arrangements available for students of Arab Dance, so I finally decided to arrange my own. This is the first of two versions: a "Middle C"-type arrangement (though it is far more difficult than those kind of pieces generally are).
I did a bit of extra notation work in this "Middle C" version as far as details go. I carried over from the Schirmer arrangement many of the dynamic markings just for those younger students, to help them DREAM as they are playing this evocative piece.
You have the opportunity to pronounce the deliciously fun Italian words "MOL-to espres-SIV-o, e can-TA-bi-le", which of course means "very expressive and singing!"
"Dol - CIS - simo", as you know, means "sweet, very!" and at the end, you have the fun of encouraging students to say "mor-EN-do sin' al fine," which means "Dying until the end." Then you can talk to them about the Latin root word of morendo: morte, or death. Words give kids power.
This is a new song in my studio, so initially I didn't have a real good idea how students would do with the odd hand coordination. (That's one reason for the excessive amount of fingering throughout this easy version, but especially in the first couple of lines. ) Now I can report that one young girl had no issues with the notes and fingering, but the timing was a bit of a challenge at first.
I think this piece will be REWARDING, but perhaps a struggle for some, even if the notes are familiar. I'm interested to hear how your students do with it.
One thing I advocate: LOTS OF PEDAL! That will create an atmosphere, even if the right notes aren't always there!
And don't forget to check out the intermediate arrangement of Arabian Dance!