April 7, 2011

Late Starts..

I intended this blog to be about "Flexibility and the Adult Ballet Dancer", but that one is still in the making. The opening sentence goes something like this: I am not naturally flexible. However, people can change.. There. A teaser for my next blog. If you have any pre-comments or questions, feel free!

For this blog-post I am still on the memoire-track of my own dance-story (Check out Nichelle's excellent site for different ways to write your own: Dance Your story.) I started to write this blog mid-dance, so to speak. But there is so much back-story, and so many experiences I carry with me everyday and to every class. It's not baggage, but the back-bone of my dancing and my love for ballet. So I hope I still have your attention..

You probably already know that I was a late starter to ballet, along with everyone else in my beginner's class. We newbies concentrated on learning the basic building blocks: proper placement, clean line, organic movement and musical phrasing. My teacher, Jill, a very elegant dancer, had originally been trained in the Cecchetti method. It is more of a no frills, no flowers  kind of style, very clean. During summer she also took classes in New York, and I suspect that there were plenty of influences from the likes of David Howard (click for video on youtube) et al. I loved the music she used: in addition to the typical classical ballet scores we danced to music from the American Songbook - all arranged for ballet class. She was a soprano singer in her own right and that musicality came clearly through in class. Jill had a real talent for phrasing movement to music, and gave challenging barre exercises, with changing accents and tempi. Never boring.

Her style of teaching was not the most academic classical ballet, and as such it was especially popular with modern and jazz dancers, and us adult recreational ballet dancers. Technique was never forced at the cost of anatomical proper placement, which is a very safe introduction to ballet. The only drawback was that "safe" was "super-safe", still leaving plenty of room for individual abilities. I learned only much later to push myself just that little bit further, and to find my own maximum turn-out, heel-forward, highest extension etc. But there is a time for everything. Learning proper placement and musicality from day one, was the best gift any teacher could have given us!

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