Kara Yoo Leaman (CBA ’20 & ’23) is an independent music theorist and a co-founder of the Dance and Movement Interest Group of the Society for Music Theory. She has published articles in Music Theory Spectrum, the Journal of Music Theory, and SMT-V: The Society for Music Theory Videocast Journal.
Project: Forty years after his death, George Balanchine’s ballets continue to be acclaimed for their exceptional musicality. While many people may agree, there have been few attempts to explore the bases for such judgments. What specific details cause a ballet to seem musical? What elements of the style or structure of a Balanchine ballet might cause dancers or viewers to value its musicality differently than that of another ballet? Are there different types of musicality? If so, do they share any core qualities? How do the qualities that create a sense of (any kind of) musicality interact with the enjoyability or memorability of dancing or watching dance? More broadly, what does it mean for choreography to be musical, and to whom? In consideration of what has already been said and written on these topics, this project will explore these questions further through in-depth studies of Western theatrical dance choreographies, starting with ballets by Balanchine and then expanding to works by other dance makers. Through collaborations with dancers, choreographers, stagers, musicians, and scholars, this project will bring together multiple perspectives to shed light on some of the many facets and types of choreographic musicality.
Kara Yoo Leaman was a 2019-20 CBA Fellow for the Study of Russia and Ballet. She examined George Balanchine’s choreographies to the music of Bach, Bizet, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky in order to explore Balanchine’s expression of musical artistry through choreography. During this time, CBA featured her work in the first Project Spotlight, available to view below.
In April 2021, Leaman published an article related to her fellowship project in The Journal of Music Theory. Read Music and Dance: Special Issue on Choreomusical Analysis here.