Back to the Basics: Five Tips for Polished Dancing

5-Tips-For-Polished-DancingBallet is an intricate, complicated style of dance. Whether training begins at a young age or later in life, the technique is challenging and requires not only great strength of the body, but of the mind, as well. Sometimes, successfully memorizing combinations and releasing the distracting thoughts of the day is a triumph in itself.

At times, the details of the steps may overwhelming. However, by focusing on five key points of ballet technique, your dancing will look polished and clean, even if you muddle up the ronde de jambe combination!

Five Tips for Polished Dancing:

Keep your core tight.

In every movement of every combination, keep your core tight. By pulling your abdominals up and squeezing your glutes together, your dancing becomes a strengthening exercise, in addition to artistic expression.

Fix your gaze slightly above eye level.

A small increase in eye level can do wonders! Try to avoid looking at the floor, which creates a shy, unsure effect. Your upper body presentation will instantly improve, as well as your self confidence.

Release tension in your hands.

Achieving a lovely, gentle hand position is tricky, especially when holding muscle tension in your hands. Try this easy fix: touch the tip of your middle finger to your thumb throughout  the combination. The tension leaves automatically!

Use your back to support your arms.

While performing quick footwork at the barre, your arm in second position may gradually begin to droop. Use your back muscles to support the position, rather than letting your arm grow tired. A strongly held arm completes every position.

Relax and smile!

While a giant smile might come off as a little extreme, maintaining a happy, pleasant expression captures everyone’s attention. Remember, dancing is supposed to be enjoyed, so let the joy shine from your face!

Sometimes, tiny changes bring about grand improvements. By integrating these five tips into your class time, your dancing will look clean and polished!

Image by Gabriel Saldana modified using Creative Commons permissions

Guest Post: Performing Character Roles

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 Party Scene in Birmingham Ballet’s Nutcracker

Adult ballet students often find themselves cast as party guests, mothers and fathers, royal court members, and villagers. On the surface, these can seem like “little” parts. But, as veteran performers know, character roles are challenging, rewarding, and worthwhile–not to mention being important to the plots of story ballets! Mikko Nissinen, artistic director of Boston Ballet, told Pointe Magazine, “In a character part, the dancer doesn’t have the technical framework of a traditional role to fall back on. It’s all acting. People really have to go deep into their emotional side, and it takes guts to get out there and do that.”

Ideas for Preparing for Character Roles…

Think about the “who, what, and why” of your character –what motives them, how they respond to different situations, and why they respond this way. If your character doesn’t have a name or back story, create one yourself.

In her video Becoming a Character – NutcrackerKathryn Morgan, a former New York City Ballet soloist, says that you should ask yourself the five key questions that actors are taught to inquire about their characters:

“Who am I?

“Where am I going?”

“Who am I going to meet when I get there?”

“What do I want?”

“What extent am I willing to go to get that?”

Morgan also advises that you consider, “What is the music telling me?” She says, “The music is your guide to your character.”

Watch movies with characters similar to one you’re going to play. 

When New York City Ballet soloist Georgina Pazcoguin was preparing for the role of Carabosse in The Sleeping Beauty, she turned classic childhood films for inspiration. She told Pointe Magazine, “I called my dad and asked him to send me tapes of every Disney movie that had an evil witch! I took a lot from 101 Dalmations’ Cruella de Vil in particular.”

The first year that I was cast as the feisty, flirtatious maid in the Nutcracker party scene, I used Audrey Hepburn’s Eliza Doolitte from My Fair Lady as inspiration for interpreting my part. Like my character, Eliza is working-class, spirited, romantic and enjoys dancing and chocolates. I also liked Eliza’s animated body language and I tried to imbue some of that energy into my performance.

If your character’s personality is more open to interpretation, such as a party parent or royal court member, period dramas or movies and tv series from the fantasy genre might be a place to find a character to inspire yours.

Remember, you don’t have to directly mimic every aspect of a film character, you can just take elements of their personality, expressions, and body language that you like best and that work well for your role.

Watch performances of ballet character parts on YouTube, DVDs, or live if possible.

Do strengthening exercises like Pilates. Movement is part of acting and greater strength will improve your overall movement quality. This will help your performance even if your character doesn’t dance or isn’t supposed to be graceful. American Ballet Theatre director Kevin McKenzie explained to PlaybillArts, “Character performances must be defined by energy—by how the dancer moves.”

Film yourself rehearsing at home. Experiment with different expressions, reactions, and gestures. See which ones you like best.

Have fun! Character roles are great opportunity to explore your dramatic side and become more fully immersed in the fairy tale onstage.

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Photo by Rachel Hellwig.

~Resources~

Pointe Magazine: Quite A Character

PlaybillArts: In Character with ABT: Exploring Character Roles in Ballet

Becoming a Character – Nutcracker | Kathryn Morgan:

Rehearsal of Carabosse for the Royal Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty:

Poll: What Content Should We Post More Of?

Polling Station

Since we’ve recently gone through a transition, I want to get an up-to-date feeling for what I should be posting more of: interviews, tips, how-tos, etc.  Please take a second to fill out the poll below. I will still keep doing blog type posts on a regular basis, but I’m looking to do more. If you have any specific how-to or tips posts, ie. you want to learn more about tendu tips or grand battements, leave me a note in the comments! Generally my tips or how-tos come from something I personally struggle with and do research on, but if you’ve got something you want to see, let me know. If you’ve got something you want to share, feel free to send me an e-mail (info at adultballerinaproject dot com) about contributing.

 

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