On dancing and the pursuit of perfection

Not too long ago, a friend aptly noticed that I often refer to our goal as dancers as “reaching as close as we can to perfection.” He wanted me to unpack that statement. What does that even mean? Are we talking about technical attainment? Power or finesse? Maybe something else?

As Steven put it, we’re transitional beings… we’re of this world, and whether we like it or not, perfection is not an option. Such a thing is an illusion.rainbow-background-1149610__180

But having a personal idea of perfection does present a way forward. It is the needle on our compass. What are we reaching for in ballet if not an ideal?

The fact that perfection is unreachable doesn’t mean that our work is meaningless. No, we’ll never reach that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but we will see many things on our journey. Continue reading “On dancing and the pursuit of perfection”

Five differences between American and European ballet

Are you a ballet dancer in America interested in hopping over the Atlantic and getting a job dancing in Europe? Or vice-versa? Do your homework first, and have an idea of what you’re getting yourself into. The professional dance world in Europe, while similar to America, is of a different breed, and it does’t always favor the same skills that are accentuated in the states.

Although Petipa originated much of classical ballet, things split off at a certain point  between US and European classical dance. While it may not be fair to lump all of European dance into one group, there are some commonalities that most European ballet companies do not share with America. This is evident in company repertoire, but also in the way they work internally, and each ballet company reflects the cultural environment that shaped them. I’m going to try to shed some light on the most obvious of differences between these two continental dance cultures.

Continue reading “Five differences between American and European ballet”

Correcting the crowd: how group feedback affects us

How do you inspire a group of dancers to live up to their full potential?

One of the most important skills to learn as an artistic director, ballet master, choreographer, or teacher is learning how to speak to and manage the group. All  bosses have to do it. Organizing a large group of people can be hard at times, and learning the skills necessary to pull the best out of that group can be a long, hard process.

One of the most important tools that can be used is group feedback.Photo on 12-21-15 at 8.07 PM Just as the coach of a football team needs to be able to call the team together to inspire them to action, so does the person at the front of the room need to be able to gather the dancers together to “course-correct.” It might be to suggest a way of approaching the choreography, it might be chiding the group for a lack of focus, or it may be an inspirational talk to boost spirits. It may even be all three at the same time. Group feedback can be used for many different outcomes, but the main idea is to focus the whole group on a particular issue or desired approach.

The principal questions here are: what makes group feedback succeed at its intended purpose? And how can it be used to inspire dancers to work better or harder? Continue reading “Correcting the crowd: how group feedback affects us”

You suck at dancing and it’s your own damn fault (part 2)

 

In the first part of this article, I tackled the false idea that many of us (whether dancers or non-dancers) often have, which is that “you suck at dancing”. If you missed it, find it here. If not, read on.

The second myth I want to take on in this article is this: it’s completely your choice to (and definitely your fault that you) dance the way you do.


This is perhaps the most prominent illusion in our world today, and all sorts of notions about self, willpower, and self-worth are wrapped up in it. Continue reading “You suck at dancing and it’s your own damn fault (part 2)”

You suck at dancing and it’s your own damn fault (part 1)

Okay, now that I have your attention: no, I’m not serious. In fact there are two lies in that sentence, both of which come from our own illusions about our selves and about our objectivity. Although both sides of this thought are wrapped up together, I’ve decided to split this post into two parts in order to tackle these two prominent myths we tell ourselves on their own terms.

Most of this article will be directed to those committed to making dance their profession, so I apologize if it becomes esoteric or uninteresting for you. Regardless of who you are, though, there should be something applicable here!

These two ideas contained in the title come to me relatively often in class, and I know it comes to many others in my profession. This is what we think when we mess up, and say to ourselves “I should be able to do that thing I can’t do! I’ve done it well before. What’s wrong with me?”

We feel like we should be able to do anything which we can envision and which we’ve done in the past, and do it well just for having thought it. Take pirouettes for example: how many of us base our sense of accomplishment pretty much solely on whether we are turning well in one class? If we turn well, good class. Turn badly, shitty dancer.

This is the first myth I’d like to take on. You do not suck at dancing. Continue reading “You suck at dancing and it’s your own damn fault (part 1)”

Introduction to the blog

Hi everybody!

Thanks for tuning in to my first post – I thought this might be a good chance to give a brief introduction to myself and to the reason I created this blog.

Most of you (hi mom!) already know me : I grew up in Portland, Oregon, started dancing at age 5, went through the school and subsequently the ranks of Oregon Ballet Theatre, and then at the age of 25 moved to France to dance for Les Ballets de Monte Carlo. And here I am; my history is relatively unimportant as to this blog. The importance to me is only that it’s one story in a world full of unique paths to and through the professional dance world.

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We each have a story to tell, and with each of our experiences comes a different viewpoint on what we do, why we do it, and how we move forward in this world. This blog is intended to do two things:

  1. be a sounding board for me to explore and discuss my ideas about the dynamics that we encounter as professional, classically-based dancers.
  2. be a place where dancers and people interested in our world can discuss their different perspectives on the issues in a dancer’s daily life.

For those of you that are amateur dancers, dancers from other backgrounds, or students of dance, I don’t intend on leaving you out. I definitely want to hear your opinions and insight, which will surely help sharpen and fill out this discussion of what we do. But since the world that I know and have lived in is that of classically based, full-time dance, this is the platform that I’ll use to dive into this murky world.

The world of dance can be a complicated one. We can’t, by necessity, work like other modern day organizations, and this has both upsides and downsides. My hope is to explore these idiosyncrasies by trying to take a bird’s eye view of the issues that we encounter in and outside of our workplace, presenting my take on those issues, and inviting discussion in the comments afterwards.

Please help spark discussion by commenting if you feel inspired or have your own opinion to share. This blog is an attempt to paint a fuller, more well-rounded picture of what we do. We each need to hear alternative viewpoints to our own in order to help shape our judgment and make us more understanding of the things which make us impatient or unhappy. This is a large part of the reason I am starting this blog.

In the coming weeks I’ll try to release a few posts exploring dancer volition and culpability, the use of language in the studio, a dancer interview or two, and hopefully some lighter stuff as well. We don’t have to go deep all the time 🙂

If this sounds interesting to you, please subscribe by clicking “Follow” at the bottom of the page, and you’ll be automatically sent an email once a new post is up.

What do you want me to write about? Tell me in the comments.

Dancer lift off!

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