Monday, September 30, 2013

Reflections on the TWB Open House

I've been reflecting on the conversations I had at The Washington Ballet's Open House yesterday.

One of the questions I asked was whether there was a lot of competition between dancers in the company.  One responded that there was a fair bit between the women, but not as much between the men even though there were more male dancers in the company. Perhaps that's because there so many more women wanting to become professional dancers. I don't know.

I also had an interesting conversation with a woman who was one of the students in the classes I took at another school. They have only three levels of adult classes: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. She found the beginner class to be a bit too basic for her tastes, but the intermediate class was far too hard. She seemingly has accepted that she'll be in the beginner class as long as she takes classes at that school, and that it's just the way things are.

My reaction is far different. I would push myself into the intermediate class anyway and learn whatever bits and pieces I could until I could handle the whole class. In fact, I took their intermediate class once about a year ago to see just how much harder it was (barre was OK, but I sat out after the first half of center work). The only reason I'm not pushing myself into my current school's advanced beginner class is that I feel like there's so much to learn in my current classes.

Perhaps that's what the student meant last week when she said I was competitive. If so, then guilty as charged. I just don't want my fellow students to feel like I'm in competition with them.

Another thing I noticed during the Open House was what I focused on during the Giselle excerpt. When I watch ballet I've usually paid the most attention to the women. There are several reasons for this. One is that I'm wired to prefer the female form. Another is that most ballets give the women the best and most challenging parts, and I love to watch their pointe work.

The Giselle excerpt had some great dancing by some really talented women, and I really enjoyed their dancing. The more I learn the more readily I can identify the steps and challenges, and the more I appreciate how hard it is to make it look effortless. But when the men danced, I watched their technique. Where are their feet placed. Where is the weight distributed across their toes. How did they move to make their dancing powerful. I don't think I'd ever really paid attention to those details before.

One of the things I sometimes find myself doing during turns is allowing my weight to shift to the outside of my foot. Watching a woman do a turn wearing pointe shoes tells me nothing about how her weight is distributed, but I noticed that some of the men do the same thing at times. I'm not sure if that would be considered an error in technique or not, but it's reassuring that I'm not the only one who does it.

I was also reassured by the sight of one of the male dancers standing in the corner on demi-pointe practicing petit battments. Oh, how I hate those things!

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