Updated: Apr 10
I fully agree with Celia Sparger's comment (Anatomy and Ballet; 5th Edition) that it is a sad but undeniable fact that when “anything that is rare and precious becomes too easy to access, it is in danger of losing something in the process”. This quote awoke the realisation of where ballet started and how it has evolved to benefit us all… Or has it?
At one time the 'very few' of carefully selected physically perfect and gifted children where chosen for initiation for the almost secret and almost sacred Schools of Ballet, taught by Masters whose life was a dedication to the art of dancing and the art of teaching..."handing down its secret by demonstration, world of mouth, rare engravings and precious manuscripts”. This era of ballet represented a magical and spiritual escapism for the audience, leaving them spellbound. Today the ‘very few’ belongs to a lost era. Ballet has become a large enterprise; like a mature oak tree with many branches.
Progression for professional dancers has evolved to a point of athletic, aesthetic beauty. From taking the traditional steps, technique and works from our past we seem to have hit a peak. The choreographic advance in steps, technique, theme, expression and purpose has heightened requirements to exceptional standards within skill, agility, flexibility, strength, talent and strong mental capabilities to out-dance the competition - Just to get a job. Exceptional dancers are not so rare. Is this a good thing? (Let me know what you think).
Take a look at this trailer and see movements in athleticism Anaheim Ballet
Perhaps you are like me … I can watch hours of ballet work, but back to discussing ballet and anatomy :)
As you can imagine, sustaining these standards add pressure to training regimes and injuries become common. Performance endurance as a professional dancer is short lived. Physical complications later in life are high. It is essential now, more than ever, that teachers and dancers have the basic understanding of the structure of the body and science within the movements, especially those working with young students.
Dance teachers in today's society do not deal with the 'very few of carefully selected physically perfect and gifted children’, but with classes of children from various backgrounds, physical shapes and sizes with varying learning abilities. Knowledge and understanding of the structure of the body is essential.
An important issue with the evolution of ballet is its accessibility. Yes, it’s great that we can see amazing dancers and companies. Yes, I can watch for hours and appreciate their performances of work on YouTube. Yes, I get inspired to create work. But there are no filters to stop anyone trying the moves themselves. The fact is that ballet is widely accessible in the media, from printed word, YouTube, cameras, social media and open classes, to name just a few. It is easy but dangerous to access ballet movements and try them out. Ballet has been diluted to fit dancers in general. As Celia Sparger observes; “it is in danger of losing something in the process”.
General dancers that have gone through years of hard work, qualifying as teachers in multiple disciplines- as I did many years ago. I have to question is it enough quality and depth for safe teaching of this genre? Did my ballet teacher, who was not a Master, provide a diluted form of teaching? Therefore, am I teaching less of the process too?
This generality is happening everywhere in every genre of dance as it has evolved for everyone to access. Is this good or bad? (Tell me what you think about that, too below)
I am very much aware that teaching dance has its continual learning and educational avenues... if you pursue them. I am pleased I have retrained and qualified in many other avenues that complement my teaching. So I cannot emphasise enough that It is up to the teacher to advance their learning to sustain technique and standards that safeguard others, including business management, anatomy, child psychology, sport therapy to name just a few.
With anatomy, the significant key in teaching a student is to understand the bone structure, how the skeleton moves and the function of joints. Once this is understood the muscles take care of themselves. It is only when alignment is misplaced that stresses occur, creating injury.
Although this blog is on Ballet, this issue is relevant to all genres. Currently, I am in the process of creating a dancers' handbook that pieces together the jigsaw of subjects. The book Make Dance Your Business delves into the workings of a business, together with the qualities of a teacher.
What makes a good teacher
Competitive dance vs graded examinations
Exercises to maximise range of motion
Signs of injuries and what to do
The business management section includes:
Legal requirements on Health & Safety
Pensions, tax and self employment
Business strategies for studios
Business strategies for self employed artistes
In the book I deal with what I have found to be important. Regardless of your dance genre the book aims to help the dancer in training, the professional performer and the company owner. If you are interested in this handbook please sign up as I will send out previews to keep you posted.
A GOOD DANCE DEBATE
On another subject but one I like to debate; Can Ballet be a sport?
This video follows for a day ballerina Yuhui Choe, a soloist from the Royal Ballet. All this hard work to perform... Surely our elite should have more opportunities when they reach the top of their game.
We have amazing and talented dancers that work harder than athletes so I find it bewildering that our dancers cannot represent our country in competitions.
My previous blog on Dancer Vs Athletes last April outlines the comparisons.
What the vision is.
To set up an official organisation to provide professional dancers with the chance to train and compete to represent their country. It would also use a structured points system for technical movement, skill, strength, endurance, poise, agility and speed etc. This will be equalled by no other sport.
What do you think?
I appreciate your views on all the issues in this blog. Please comment below and help to make this platform another branch of the ever growing Oak tree for ballet, in addition to the art form. This will not diminish the performance of ballet but prove that dancers can be athletes as well as artistes. It can provide another avenue of achievement for them.
Support Stage Dance Sport - I would love to hear from British ballet companies and dancers. Any comments regarding this blog are always appreciated.
Until next time, keep dancing and stay healthy and happy :)
Email – email@example.com
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