More Limericks, Learning tools, & Laughter- Ms Mary E's 4th guest blog! Never a dull moment at Ballet4life! (also sighting of said orange balloon has been confirmed- see below)
Welcome back to the new half term and a fresh onslaught of dance blog merriment for all you thrill seekers in tights.
Limerick number one for the “mature” dancer ( that’s me) still furious with a body that refuses to do what it used to be able to do:
The adage is now a big ask
For old dancers not up to the task
Your technique’s shot to hell
Despite training so well
And arabesque seems a thing of the past
Item two for anyone interested:
Getting heels firmly down in plié
Is the burning hot tip of the day
If turning’s your thing
Or your jumps need more spring
Then just do it! It really does pay.
While it’s fresh in my remaining brain cell I want to share another revelatory moment with you. You might already have this one down, but it was massively exciting for me. It was Beatrice Ghezzi again, in her General Level class Friday lunchtime ( teacher rotation on this one, Beatrice’s turn). A teacher from way back once said clearly to me, “you need more tension in your arms” and it seems to have slipped away from me. I didn’t properly understand it then but when watching videos of myself dancing it is pretty obvious actually. During this Friday class, Beatrice spoke to us all about “LONG arms in first and from bras bas to first always." She also advised that this informs a better soutenu turn with a more sustained finish and she’s so right. The concept of softly curving arms has misinformed my approach to port des bras I think and today I took Beatrice’s advice and ‘made’ my arms strong and longer feeling, with more tension. This worked really well for balancing adage movements in the centre. The feeling became more powerful, like owning the space and being more scaffolded.
As a dancer, you never stop learning and Ballet4Life is the place to be for this.
I was thinking about the performative element of dance class. We learn technique. We learn combinations of steps/ movements. But the way it all comes to life is often through musicality and artistry. Artistry might have connotations of grandeur for some, but it’s really quite simple. Phrasing movements to make sense of the music is something we strive for. To make it come from the soul. We strive to make it look beautiful or compelling. I wonder, why do we do that? Partly because it is joyful. But is that “showing off”? “Showing off” has long been regarded as a put-down, especially in childhood. Oh dear. “Making a spectacle of yourself” is another one.
Why must people be so crushing to children? Beats me. Weird ideas about humility perhaps.
So we learn what? To retreat into the shadows and stifle our natural human creativity.
In my humble opinion, showing off and making a spectacle of yourself can be generous-hearted and life-affirming things to do. I’m not suggesting we burst into a ballet class wearing a sequinned bikini and tap shoes. There are many ways to perform and there is a time and place....
Our teachers refer to the “audience” during class. “ The audience per se doesn’t exist in real terms unless perhaps we are preparing for a B4L showcase. The audience in class is our teacher but it is also the mirror. The audience in class is ourselves reflected in the mirror.
We are actually performing to ourselves ( and hoping the teacher might notice a few of our better moments!) This is a splendid thing to do.
We have no idea how we are perceived by others but dancing in class is an opportunity to express parts of ourselves that we know and love, without fear of judgement. And there we are, fellow dancers, locking onto that sublime synergy of music and movement. Don’t hold back! Sometimes giving the performative element can push you to extend your ability.
Scared of “going wrong” and looking like a wally? Don’t be. We all go wrong and look like wallies. Who cares? But think of this: when will you be ready to give it a bit of performance? When’s the golden moment to be? Life is short. You are your own audience and you must love yourself dearly, laugh and try again. No one has paid for a ticket to see you!
For that hour and 15 or 30 minutes, we are performing, albeit in a class context. I am reminded of a lyric in a song from "Chorus Line:" “ All I ever wanted was the music and the mirror and the chance to dance for you”. Please please understand that these are my thoughts and not gospel by any means. Confidence is usually hard-won in life and I know that very well. Sometimes you just have to go for it. One of the things I love about Ballet4life is that it is always a super super supportive and respectful environment. It’s insisted upon. Thus people develop so very much better.
Photo: Ms Mary in ballet class last week. Image is copyright of Ballet4life.
Since I last blogged I have been positively drowning in culture, for which I am enormously grateful. I have seen the most wonderful one woman play at The Vaults Festival, the English National Opera’s ‘Carmen’ at The Coliseum and Viviana Durante’s Company dancing a triple bill tribute to Isadora Duncan at the Barbican.
I saw a thrilling production of "Carmen" at Sadlers Wells years ago with my Mother and it became quickly apparent that it was to be a slightly seductive show. I glanced nervously a few times across at Mum but she was enjoying it ( oh the magic of theatre!) The pièce de résistance was to “Toreador” when a specially trained white stallion stepped proudly onto the stage, mounted by a picador. He was joined by a flamenco dancer and they danced together, horse and woman. It was very beautiful.
The production by ENO last week was racier. Carmen is a wild and crazy gypsy who makes her way in life by seducing men. This Carmen actually managed to take her knickers off on stage whilst belting out a really complex aria. Outrageous!
See you at the barre xxxx
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