New Ballet Teacher: “Ladies, I know you are all women but you don’t need to be all girley! Ballet looks light and delicate but that is an illusion. Ballet is intensity! You are ballistic missiles.”
There’s an interesting opposition of calm and intensity in ballet. NBT constantly emphasizes the need to keep the energy moving even when moving slowly and deliberately. Just because something is graceful doesn’t mean that it is devoid of a controlled energy.
“Ladies, grand battement is no joke, there are professional ballerinas who can take a persons head off with that kick… and I’m not kidding. Whomp, get that pointed foot up there and then hook, hook your foot. Let’s go.”
I almost felt like perhaps we should huddle or something first. In round one, my correction was to bring my arm back just a bit and make sure to go right directly behind it with my leg. This almost had me rolling my eyes at the poor man thinking, there is no way my leg is getting anywhere near my chest level held arm. But guess what? Whomp, pretty close to right in front of my nose and whomp right past my elbow. I still have a little trouble to the derrière but in time.
The revelation wasn’t how high I could or couldn’t get my leg up but how and why is was getting propelled up there… fluttery and floaty ballet is an illusion, it’s strength and control, it’s discipline.
Discipline, another thing that lured me into ballet as a practioner and not just an observer. I appreciate discipline and those that choose to parktake in endeavors that require work. I fully understand that real freedom comes from a strong and rigorous background whatever your field. As a researcher, I get to freestyle because my knowledge and skill set is rock solid. When I was a baby-searcher, I had to play by the rules, show my work, what I was doing and how I got there. But now, I get to play, I get to invent and create – not for lack of discipline but because of it. My work is still scientifically sound, it’s just not basic.
But I’m still a baby-dancer and I need to embrace the basics as a way of knowing and being, learn all the rules, and allow the discipline to be imprinted on my mind and on my body. I can get there, there will be plenty of time to be all girley later on.
“The revelation wasn’t how high I could or couldn’t get my leg up but how and why is was getting propelled up there… fluttery and floaty ballet is an illusion, it’s strength and control, it’s discipline.” That’s a great insight! And encouragement for us beginners who see others and think, oh it’s so easy for them. It may be easiER, but for all dancers it is power and strength and work (I don’t mean “work” negatively, just neutrally) with the sheen of grace and effortlessness. LOL, I think of this especially even when I’m just doing arms or randomly walking during class… it’s all “look how relaxed I am… but controlled!”
Jeff, your timing is impeccable! I just had a conversation with my teacher about simple vs. easy… next blog post!
It’s all a part of being ballet, even when resting, it’s “rest” with purpose. As you say, relaxed but controlled, it’s all about staying focused. My teacher likes to spend some time in class doing visualization, singing through the exercises, things like that because disciplining our mind is just as important as disciplining our bodies! oooooh… blog post! 🙂