May 2, 2013

Natural Dancer

Vacant eyes, furrowed brows and dead poses.. That doesn't sound like the ballet we all love so much. Yet, most of us have been guilty of committing one or more of the above. I have at times concentrated so hard on my alignment that I was en dehors with my feet but turned in with my expression. So deep inside my own dance-sphere that I forgot my "audience" entirely. Okay, I admit that it's easy to get lost in the music and in the moment, but that abandon should be a joy that's entirely visible to anyone looking. Even if it's only your teacher. Even if she happens to look in the other direction at the precise moment of your wonderful balance, triple pirouette and twinkling eyes. My own teacher always tells us to be generous with our dancing, in both our pliés and our personality. Don't want to look like nobody's at home, now do we?

The dead pose is another trap we sometimes fall into. Thinking "hold" when you should breath and elongate, and most of all, dance. It's so obvious - that's why you're there, to dance. But often there's a tendency to work through exercises, thinking about positions and corrections, pushing and working to get the legs higher, the core stronger, the back longer... And then we forget to dance. Movement becomes artificial, not art in motion. It can be a simple port de bras, a cambré to the side, like we did last time in class (and in every  class before). Our teacher Marie-Pierre was not happy with us. We were being static, like dead statues, when we should have been fluid, continuously in movement. She told us to dance, because if you really dance, ballet looks natural. Yes, ballet with all its unnatural turnout, extreme positions and épaulement dating back to Louis the Great.

Ballet - c'est dur, so hard - and yet we keep coming back for more. Why? It has to be more than work and staying in shape. It's living, breathing, dancing. The feeling of accomplishment when you finally grasp a difficult move, after not giving up. The sense of joy when your body leaps off the ground in a big jeté. The way your arms and fingers and toes become extensions of something bigger, something that can only be expressed through dance. And, finally, that moment when dance has become second nature and you  really are a natural dancer.





11 comments:

  1. I might have to share this with my whole adult ballet class! We are a week away from what for most of us, is our first recital, and our teacher's main correction is that we need to DANCE!

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    1. Great! You know, I read somewhere that once you are on stage, you're not going to be any worse or better than in class. That is, trust your body to know what it's supposed to do. You have practiced, the steps are ingrained in your muscles and you need to let go enough to simply dance.. Also: Toi toi toi & merde!

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  2. When I dance, I feel young and free again, nothing like the 34 year old that I am. In my mind, I am no longer an overweight nurse- I am the ballerina that everyone has come to see and admire. There's a quote ( and forgive me because I can't remember who it's by) that says "Dancers know how to fly," and there's so much truth to that.

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    1. I love that quote! :)

      And then I have to agree with Terez Mertes' comment further down.. At 34 years old, you're still a young dancer! And never mind the weight, it's how you move (and how you feel). Anyway, the body tends to adapt to dance. I lost my extra pounds after I restarted ballet, even though that was not my objective. I just love to dance. :)

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  3. This is a great post, thank you so much for writing it! Ballet is my passion but sometimes, as you've said above, I fall victim to dancing with a "vacant eye, furrowed brow, and dead poses". Sometimes all three at once! As dancers I think it's important for all of us to remember why we love dancing so much, and this lovely post has done just that!

    You have a great blog, and every time I see a new post I become instantly excited. Keep writing and dancing!

    ~A Fellow Ballerina

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    1. Thank you so much! I love getting positive feedback, in class and here :)

      I feel that it's often hard to let go, and to "just dance." There's so much to think about.. But I'm pretty sure we can all be rid of the dead poses and vacant eyes. As for the furrowed brows.. Not making any promises! ;)

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  4. I love your posts so much! They are so beautiful and intelligent and heartfelt.

    PS: and I am indebted to you for putting me on your blogroll. Reading your writing here galvanizes me not only to put more effort and heart into my dance, but my dance writing. Thank you!

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    1. Thank you, Terez.. you made me happy just reading your feedback. :)
      I'm looking forward to your next dance-related post!

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  5. Mary - I chuckled at this line of your:
    >When I dance, I feel young and free again, nothing like the 34 year old that I am.

    Because, at 50, I'd be inclined to say "... I feel young and free again, like I'm 34 again."

    Maybe that means there's a 64 year old out there chuckling at my own words right now. : )

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    1. Hahahaa! I had to smile at her age too.. But you don't stop dancing because you grow old(er). You grow old only when you stop dancing. Read that somewhere. :)

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  6. Hi Johanna! I had my first class back since last July! Last July, can you believe it!!! And the oddest thing, as much as it was super hard to just get through class - my entire body feels stiff and heavy - it was somehow all more natural! I didn't forget nearly as much as I thought I had and it was just such a joy to be back at the barre that I was really able to think more about moving and dancing than I ever would have expected. There was a real sense of relief, I think, and a sense of belonging that made me so happy to be in class with my teacher and my friends that dancing seemed the best thing to do!

    Yay!
    ~Lorry, Bead109

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