Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ballet Isn't Just For Ballerinas

One of the hard truths we deal with at the ballet club is that (gasp!) not everyone is into classical ballet.  While some dancers see ballet as a breathtaking and graceful art form, others think it’s stodgy and boring.  Some don’t like the rigid technique and repetitive barre exercises and… maybe classical music isn’t their cup of tea…

Today, modern and contemporary dance is becoming more and more popular.  One might say that this form of dance feels and looks less rigid and dancers are certainly encouraged to explore movement rather than adhere to a strict set of steps--this does not mean that modern and contemporary dance does not require technique! They have their own set of techniques but in comparison, ballet technique is very specific.  You’re either turned out or you’re not - there’s very little gray area.  Contemporary dance technique is more fluid and forgiving to dancers with different strengths--and some might find the music to be little more interesting or relatable.

While we understand the appeal of dance forms other than ballet, we also feel that the benefits that classical ballet classes can provide could only enhance your technique for all forms of dance.  Barre exercises are like strength training.  All of those plies will strengthen your inner thighs and help with your overall stability and jumps.  Relevés will strengthen your ankles and help you prevent injuries.  Tendus will work the tiny muscles in your feet to create that beautiful pointed foot.  Correctly placed développés will create beautiful lines with your legs.  Also, the emphasis in holding your core with proper body placement will make your balances and turns that much stronger.

Working in the centre is where you can finally start applying all the techniques that you so painstakingly practiced at the barre into actual movement and dancing. For example, an adagio combination allows you to focus on your performance quality while a waltz combination is a great way to practice your turns.  You can jump your heart out in petit and grand allegro and work on agility and precision in your footwork.  While all of these exercises done in class will have a classical ballet focus (we are the Caltech Ballet Club after all), the fundamentals can be applied to any other forms of dance.

These fundamentals can only expand your vocabulary for choreography.  Some dancers may not always want to perform someone else’s choreography--instead, they might want to create their own movements, either for a performance or for personal enrichment.  One of our members came to us with that in mind: she studied classical ballet through high school and focused more on modern dance in college.  After a few years of not dancing, she decided that she wanted to get back into dance, specifically with an interest in choreography.  However, she found that she was severely limited in her movements without a strong core and plié.  Although she was reluctant to attend ballet class as she personally preferred modern movements, she eventually bit the bullet and began attending ballet class regularly. Soon enough, she found that the techniques she learned actually increased her range of motion and abilities rather than restrict them and found that she can create much more interesting and intricate choreography.  

We’re not in the business of converting people from other dance forms to classical ballet.  We just think that the benefits all dancers gain from classical ballet classes can’t be ignored.  Even if you’re a modern, contemporary, or jazz dancer, you’ll find that you’ll jump higher, turn cleaner and be able to hold that extension for far longer if you just take an hour a week to work on your technique in ballet class.  Happy dancing!

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