The past few months have been an enjoyable exploration of putting down into writing the thoughts and the thought process that I go through during my days in the studio. I hope you all have enjoyed it as much as I have.
But I realized, there’s just one thing missing: a two-way conversation.
I suppose I haven’t said anything very controversial, so many of you might not have a strong urge to participate in the comment section – maybe I should change that. 😉 But when I first created the site my hope was to start discussions that would catalyze readers to start their own conversations – whether amateur dancers with professional dancers, ballet ignoramuses with ballet connoisseurs… whatever. Something with a life of its own. Obviously I have some work to do on that front.
So, in this post, instead of me talking to/at you, I’m going to invite you all to ask questions about the ballet world. What are you curious about in the life of a ballet dancer? Maybe you are a dancer – is there anything you want to know about Les Ballets de Monte Carlo, where I work?
I mean it too, I really would love to hear from all of you. If you’re following this blog, there’s a reason behind it. Here’s your chance to explore your interest in the topic a little more deeply.
Ask me/us anything: nothing about the ballet world is off limits here. Want to know how much ballet dancers make? Sure. Whether ballet dancers fall in love with each other easily? Good question. If you’re a dancer: Want to know what kind of work we do at Les Ballets de Monte Carlo? Where we tour? Ask away. This blog post is your blog post!
(And in case you haven’t noticed – I’ve decided to take the plunge and buy the domain http://www.corporalculture.com just to get a little more fancy. Woohoo!)
28 thoughts on “Corporal questions: Ask me anything”
Loved this post 🙂 I used to do ballet but I don’t anymore, I am still a dancer though 🙂 Would love it if you could check out my blog 🙂
I have never danced, though my mom danced for over 20 years and its still so clear that its one of the things she will love forever. she and i recently started doing yoga and i have noticed she is incredibly flexible despite not having dance or even streched for at least 5 years. i played soccer for 10 years and can barely do a split! i guess my question, if it makes any sense, is do you see a connection in yoga and dance? have you ever done yoga to help with your dancing? I really don’t know if this makes sense, sorry.
also. i love your blog and i really admire your passion. not everyone can find this much passion, at all in their lives. ❤
Absolutely there’s a connection between yoga and dance! Many ballet dancers do yoga (or pilates) outside of their workday, because it helps them strengthen other parts of their bodies and gives them another approach to movement.
On a more basic level, both yoga and ballet require a strong connection to the ground (this is true of any physical pursuit), both develop flexibility, and both require a strong mind-body connection. I have done yoga (at one point regularly, about once a week) to help with my dancing. One of many ways to cross-train.
It makes sense that your mom is still flexible – we often say “once a dancer always a dancer”! Soccer doesn’t stress flexibility quite as much though, so don’t worry that you can’t do a split – if you keep on practicing it will come.
thanks for your answer!
i think its interesting that both dance and soccer are rigorous sports (if you consider dance a sport?) that both require so much training, but yet they affect the body so differently. for instance, i can’t do a split for the life of me, while my mom can. but my mom doesn’t have very good hand-eye coordination and can’t throw or catch a ball at all! though both sports, definitely teach the body strength and self-discipline. Sadly, i cannot play soccer anymore, because among other things, i had several brain injuries while playing about four years ago. it greatly saddens me, because i wanted to go pro. however, i still love the sport in that i watch games still and might even begin coaching!
As for yoga…i used to not like it so much, because i disliked the thought of “sitting and doing nothing” which i realize is the wrong way of thinking. because now, i do it 3-4 times a week, and i am so much more connected to my body and i already feel my leg strength coming back. (after my injuries, i didn’t even exercise for almost a year). And while i am not that flexible (yet) i have amazing balance! some poses i’m like….”wait. my body can do that?” it’s really an amazing thing.
anyways, sorry for blabbing and going on a tangent, but i totally understand how yoga can help with dancing.
again, thanks so much for your answer! 🙂
one last note….the yoga is also helping me and my mom bond over something we both enjoy, and believe me when i say that hardly ever happens ❤
I’m sorry you had to quit soccer! Good thing you have yoga then – and that’s great that it has helped your balance. And funny thing about your mom: most ballet dancers have, in my experience, horrible hand-eye coordination. It’s always funny to see someone so graceful be so uncoordinated when it comes to throwing a ball 😉
But if there’s one thing that’s more important than anything else, it might be the fact that it brings you and your mom closer.
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haha that’s actually funny that you noticed that! i will have to tell her that it seems most dancers have little-to no hand-eye coordination. and yes, you are right about that last part. 🙂
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Are you in love with ballet music as well as the movement? I’m not a professional dancer but I love to dance and for me, music is everything. If I don’t feel it, it’s going to show through my body. So, do ballet dancers have a passion for classical music ballets? If not, do you have to fake it?
That’s a great question! I often enjoy the music from the get-go – it’s rare that choreographers choose classical music (modern music is another story) that isn’t really beautiful or interesting. Although it’s true that sometimes there’s music that isn’t especially inspiring.
And at that point you have to dance on 🙂 but the thing about our work is that you work so intimately with the music, that at a certain point you end up loving it because you get to know the intricacies of a piece after hearing it hundreds, if not thousands of times. Pieces like the Rite of Spring by Stravinsky, which can be really rough on the ear at the beginning become beautiful because you get to know them and understand them.
Other pieces, on the other hand, get me moving right from the start. We’ve been rehearsing a ballet with music by (the artist formerly known as) Prince lately, and since I love me some good funk, I can help but move when I hear it. That certainly helps me get in the mood.
But to get back to your point, if we’re not inspired or don’t end up becoming so – and we can get inspired by the choreography or concept of a piece even if not the music – it will show through our bodies too. And at that point there’s no faking it that will inspire the audience to love what’s happening onstage. But yes, at the end of the day, even if we’re not inspired, it is our job to go out there and perform for you. Hopefully we can find something to give 🙂
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Okay, I am taking the plunge, and asking you a question that may have occurred to many ‘ballet moms’ (and dads) as they saw their children mature through the discipline that is ballet. Our childhoods were very different, as you know, but I still remember coming upon a scene of you with several female ballet classmates, watching something or other on the TV downstairs…you were all draped comfortably on or alongside each other, like a pile of puppies, I remember thinking. I could not help but wonder how natural it seemed for all of you, and being somewhat envious. Had my mother entered the room when I was in such close proximity to a boy at that age, he and I would have sprung apart instantly, cheeks blushing, though we had not actually done anything even remotely sexual. So my question is, how is it to grow through adolescence with such familiarity with your colleagues, physically? Does your training allow you to be more at ease with your body, by yourself and / or in relation to others whom you embrace and interact with so closely on a daily basis?
You can always count on mom 🙂 good question though too!
Yeah, I would say that since our training involves physical contact with each other we naturally become accustomed to touching each other. So that becomes a part of the culture, although of course there are varying degrees of comfort in ballet culture. I have friends that kiss on the lips (nothing sexual, can you believe it?) to greet or thank each other, while others are a little more conservative with their physical intimacy. But our comfort with this physical relation to one another translates outside of dance culture as well – sometimes our ways of relating to others can be too intimate in the minds of the rest of the population and so occasionally some can be offended. (I’m mostly talking here about jealous boyfriends/girlfriends).
All this within the boundaries of respect, of course. Any dancer can tell if an action is made out of respect, as opposed to lust or objectifying; groping is completely unacceptable.
But that doesn’t mean that every dancer is at ease with their bodies. One of the undercurrents of ballet culture is a dislike of (or at least an insecurity about) one’s own body. So our comfort with physicality between us doesn’t necessarily translate into an acceptance or happiness with one’s own body.
Would you describe some of the differences of being a dancer in Monaco and in America? I am interested to hear your perspective. Some ideas: creative process, professional relationship to colleagues, contact to audience, social life, quality of life. Thank you for your input, and for your excellent articles!
Thanks Lucy! And you reminded me to take a look at your new(ish) version of the blog. Consider yourself followed 🙂
Man – differences… that’s a big question. Well you probably already saw the article I wrote about differences between European and American ballet companies, but if not: https://corporalculture.com/2016/03/10/five-differences-between-american-and-european-ballet/
Monaco’s ballet company is a pretty unique place. I can’t compare it to all American companies, but I can do my best to compare it with what I saw to be an American ballet company culture. Here in Monaco we have an artistic director who is also the choreographer, and during the past 3 years, about 90% of the performances we’ve done have been his work. The dancers here are generally easy-going and respect one another, which can contrast with an uptight-ness that I’ve seen in some American dancers. We have a beautiful historic theater that’s associated with the beginnings of ballet in America – this is where Diaghilev housed his Ballets Russes after all. Weather’s great pretty much year-round… I could go on, and I know I’m not getting into specifics, but I’m happy to answer if you want to dig in, just tell me more specifically what direction you’d like to move in 😉
Thank you Lucas! It’s so exciting to hear about your experience! It’s true that the historical importance of theaters in Europe are a big inspiration.
Thanks for linking the article! I hadn’t seen that one. And you make some excellent points. I’m always thrown for a loop when a European company schedules performances of Nutcracker in July; very weird.
Can you describe a bit of your experience wirh social life as a dancer? Are your friends mostly within the company in Monaco, or can you meet people within the city? How does it differ with your experience in the states?
And how about healthcare? Do you have access to good physical therapy? I have found that in Europe, PT is pretty much equivocal with massage, and if you want ultrasound or actual treatment, you need to push for it.
Let me know what you think!
Sure, social life… A large majority of my friends here are dancers with the company. I live somewhat of an unusual lifestyle for the company, since I live in Nice, a 40 minute commute from the studios (most people live right next to them). So add an hour and half to already full days, and you don’t have much time (or energy) for social life. Luckily I live with my girlfriend! You can meet people in Monaco, but I prefer to meet people in Nice. More my speed 🙂
We have one chinese-massage therapist that’s always on-hand, and an osteopath that comes around once a month, but no physical therapy program like I was used to seeing in the US. That being said, we do have access to good sports therapy treatment in case of serious injuries right down in Monaco. But we could use an upgrade on the PT program 😉
Asking people for input is a great way to get some new comments — and it may also give you ideas for future blog posts! 🙂
My question for you is this: what is the most challenging thing about being a ballet dancer? I’m an amateur ballroom dancer, and I dance with another amateur partner. A challenge for me is that my partner tends to be less competitive than I am. Obviously there would be different challenges for higher lever dancers, and I’m curious what it is that you face 🙂
Interesting question. I’m curious to know in what way you mean that your partner is less competitive than you. Is this in terms of motivation? Of willingness to practice? Who are you competing with?
For ballet dancers we obviously have many challenges. But one thing that I consistently see amongst me and my fellow dancers is an expectation of always being 100% on top of our game. Often we’re so harshly self-critical that we beat ourselves up when we have a rough day, an extra punishment beyond what is already happening to us in that moment. I’m actually in the middle of compiling several different accounts of what it means to be a dancer and the challenges that come about with this life. So stay tuned – that way you can get six different answers to your one question!
I am a high school aged dancer who, after training seriously for many years, realized that dance was not my life’s calling. I took the time to explore other aspects of my life and cut back the rigor of my dance schedule, and I know that I made the right choice. I’m happy. At the same, though, there are definitely days when I see my former classmates perform, or I watch a variation being performed online by someone my age who is much more talented, and I struggle with the idea of not being good enough. Part of the perfectionist drive that ballet instills in us is still in me, and it raises a unique kind of introspective pain. There’s a longing there because I still love ballet. This is something that I think only those who have danced will fully understand. My question, then, is do you agree with the idea that you can love ballet and still not make it your career?
I know that this is fundamentally and logistically true (after all, plenty of former dancers still remain present in the ballet world by attending performances and supporting the companies) but so many people quit dancing when they decide that their professional goals are no longer accurate. In a way, I think that they sometimes feel pressured to. Can you speak to the idea of the competitive mentality in the ballet studio- this idea that creeps in that the only way to have value to a school is to be willing to dance five or six days a week and to commit to little else besides dance? How can we as a dance community be more accommodating and socially supportive of those who love dance enough to keep training (and not have to transfer to a recreational program) while also recognizing the fact that some competition and selectivity is necessary and motivational for continuing pre-professional students? With so few company contracts available in relation to the proportion of hopeful students, I think that addressing the, “You stopped dancing as much, you must not care as much anymore” issue is an important one. And it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Students should feel free to nurture their outside interests if they choose or feel called to without being forced to sacrifice their technique level. But how can we feasibly make both things happen?
I know that this was a long comment (probably the longest on the page) but I’m curious to hear what you think. This is definitely a complex and frustratingly abstract question to pin down- so much so that I am hoping to do a semester long, independent study on the psychology and sociology surrounding the dancer’s experience. Feel free to speak to the topic any way you like- from personal experience, as a prospective classmate of someone in such a scenario, or from the dance teacher’s perspective. The more responses, the more helpful! Thanks for hanging in there through a long entry, too. 🙂
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Hi Michaela, I really appreciate what you’ve shared here! I think the topic is worthy of an entire article, and I would be interested in exploring it more in depth. However, right now, I’m away at a meditation retreat! I have very limited time that I spend on the internet, so I won’t really be tending to my blog. But I appreciated the time and effort (and later on, the research) you put into this question so much, I didn’t want to leave you hanging. I’ll be back in about a month, so feel free to contact me again around then. Until then, good luck. I’ll be interested to hear what you find 🙂
Thanks so much for your reply! Since I wrote my last comment, I have actually been given a position as a teen ballet teacher. I’m teaching once a week to recreationally-focused students, and I love it. If and when you do write an article about the topics we’d discussed in January, I’d definitely love to share it with my director and to apply what you have to say to my teaching. I think it’d be a big help. Thank you again for taking interest in my studies!
Alright Michaela! Congratulations. I just got back less than a week ago, so I’m working on getting everything in order, but if you’re subscribed to the blog, you’ll get an update as soon as any new articles are out. I hold your questions and insights high on my list of priorities 🙂
Michaela, I wanted to make sure: is it ok if I include your comment in my next blog post? If I don’t hear from you soon, I will post it and you’ll probably see it then, but I just wanted to check with you here first 🙂 let me know if you see this.
Yes, that would be fine! Thanks for checking, though. Can’t wait to read your post!
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Do you have any photos you might want to include in the article? If so, please send them to the Corporal Culture email account!
Total dancer question: Do you have (or know of) any funny/memorable partnering stories? Any cringeworthy fails to speak of? I, fortunately, do not have any, although I did end up partnering with my former dance teacher for a Nutcracker this past December. (He is old enough to be my father and I was obviously a bit nervous in rehearsals because I respect him very much. Nonetheless, it worked out fine and he was both professional and a good influence on my dancing.) What advice do you have for younger dancers based on pet peeves from a male dancer’s perspective?
Hi Hong Wen! Unfortunately I don’t have the time to respond right now (see my response to Michaela) but I absolutely have stories – this could also be a fun/interesting topic to explore. Knowing how to partner well, both physically and emotionally, is quite an art in itself. For now, I’d say try to keep on learning, and each time you see fear in you, face it! Feel free to contact me in February again 🙂
I’m a 17 year old ballet dancer who’s really confused about her future in dance. I started ballet as a kid doing a weekly class from ages 5 to 8, but I stopped in order to do musical theater and focus on my academics. I didn’t start ballet again until high school and I’m averaging about three hours a week of a ballet. I really do love ballet and I only just got my pointe shoes this week, but I’m not able to dance as much as I want to due to my rigorous curriculum (all of my classes are International Baccalaureate courses). I really want to focus on ballet in college/university and take daily lessons, yet I have no idea of what sort of programs to look for. I’m not looking to become a professional, but I would like a program where I can improve and perform without having to spend outside of my tuition. Do you have an ideas or advice?
*any ideas or advice