Monks and ballet: an unlikely (but fruitful) combination

Have you ever wondered what monks look like while dancing ballet? Well search no further, because the answer lies just below.

What a surprise it was to have this opportunity to choreograph a ballet on the monks of Plum Village.

I won’t say too much, because the video speaks for itself, but suffice it to say that I had an incredibly pleasant experience rehearsing with the monks during the meditation retreat. It helped me see a lot of what we do from a different perspective from the way we often approach work in the studio. These are things I want to take with me in the future, dancing or not.

A few insights from this experience:

  1. Ballet is super hard! Even the simplest ballet steps take time to learn, even for monks who are quite aware of their bodies.
  2. The process is just as important as the result. The time in the studio was incredibly enjoyable, and that led to a fun show. I was nervous going into rehearsals with the monks the first day, but the brothers’ welcoming and positive attitude calmed my nerves immediately.
  3. If we put less pressure on ourselves to be perfect, we can be more present and accept where we are in the moment. This is much better than beating ourselves up for not meeting our unrealistic expectations. The brothers were extremely good at accepting the current limitations of their physical understanding (accepting reality as it is is their lifelong training, after all!). And this acceptance helped them learn more quickly.

I also learned that I have the ability to put something like this together, and I got some good feedback from the group. This boosted my confidence for anything similar that might come in the future. Most likely I won’t be choreographing any ballets on monks in the near future (darn!). But being able to competently manage groups of people, especially with regards to movement, seems much more plausible.

I wasn’t supposed to be in the show, but our eighth member wasn’t able to participate. The show had to go on, however, so temporary monk number 8 with a beard and hair had to fill in 😉

So without any further ado, please enjoy Waltz of the Monks!

In case you’re wondering, the hand gesture at the end is the monastery’s version of clapping. It was borrowed from sign language as a way to keep the calm atmosphere of the retreat but still appreciate the performance.

I’ll be curious to know what you all think. Should we start touring with an all-monk ballet company? Let me know in the comments 🙂


13 thoughts on “Monks and ballet: an unlikely (but fruitful) combination

  1. Amazing! You nailed putting together their routine!

    And I love the idea behind the hand gesture at the end instead of ‘clapping’…

    I find my younger students in class get a little crazy with the clapping. This might be a cute idea to introduce to keep the ‘calmness’ of the studio… hmmm


  2. I laughed, I cried, and I was impressed with all the dancers. What a great idea and definitely a tour to Oregon City is a must! Love you Judy


  3. What fun! This made me laugh with so mug happiness! I’m so glad someone got this on tape! I enjoyed seeing everyone’s smiling face while they performed including yours! Thanks for sharing this gift of movement with them and with us!


  4. Without reading your written words before I viewed the dance, I thought , wow there is one monk that is really a good dancer! Lucas taught him well . Haha !! Then I realized. it appears that you all had a playful and wonderful time.


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