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glissade

The Gymnastification of Youth Ballet

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Instagram .... Facebook .... Snapchat: all celebrate the isolated pose with high extensions and maximum flexibility. It is infinitely harder on these platforms to demonstrate musicality and artistry. 

 

To show musicality and artistry, a dancer needs space. A fixed camera on a mobile phone does not allow this movement in space to be captured. Therefore, the celebrated image is a position, not a movement. The true art of ballet is an art of movement between positions ... movement in space and time.

 

I strongly believe that social media use among young dancers today is reducing the art of ballet to a 2-dimensional, static representation of gymnastic poses. 

 

I am very happy to be persuaded otherwise .... if anyone has stories to tell of how musicality and artistry are recognised above gymnastic flexibility and high extensions.

 

 

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I couldn't agree with you more. I saw a face book dance competition recently that required you to send in a photograph of your child dancing. The idea was that the best dancer would win. If it had said best photograph I could understand but it specifically said something along the lines of, vote for the best dancer.  How on earth can you tell how good a dancer is by a photograph. Quite a few people did point that out fortunately.

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Hi @glissade,

 

I agree with you 100%. And when you have an artistic dancer it is SO hard to keep them focused on that aspect. There is a whole periphery of social media industry, which is definitely pulling attention away from what matters. There are now "ambassadors" - children with large followers, who are being given free clothes so they can model them on line.

There is definitely a trend towards hyper-flexibility in dance generally. I know some young dancers who value this attribute very highly.  This is where our cultural architects like the Royal Ballet, English National Ballet have to stand firm (which I hope they do). 

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Posted (edited)

I think that practices in society can change and evolve over time, and technology will always be a significant enabling factor.  At one time, nobody danced on point (abnormal or unconventional range of motion, hyperextension, new strength... relative to conventional thinking). Eventually point work was adopted as an aesthetic ideal (a social construct).  Human performance limits vary over time.

 

Poses concocted and contrived for a photoshoot are not the same as dancing.

Still shots of a move or performance are merely isolated moments in time, so are not the same as dancing either.

Fortunately video is equally as widely available.

Poses have been painted and, with the invention of photography, documented for more than a century.  I don’t see the point of blaming technological advancements.  Soon we will have virtual reality and other cyber supplements to human experience that will surely have an impact on all art forms, not just ballet.

 

Training and education in ballet must move with the times because digital imaging and social media are here to stay. New technology is introduced regularly; (the cost falls, see Moore’s Law). 

 

Teachers (and parents) play a critical role for helping ballet students to understand visual representation media in ballet appropriately, what it is and what it isn’t, what it means and what it doesn’t.  How to interpret and judge.  (Similarly, we teach our young how to be discriminating, savvy and discerning when reading written material.) Whether teachers and other influencers and mediators take up the responsibility for addressing this newly emergent necessity, a kind of literacy and capacity to judge correctly, remains to be seen.

 

Instead of cursing the incoming, crashing tide (insidious technology is ruining ballet), maybe we could learn to ride a surfboard?

 

Consumerism and free enterprise we are also stuck with (aka technology-enabled business models).  It’s also about who has the power and control over our kids’ media.

 

Edited by BeaverElliot
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I totally agree, having a DS who is flexible but not particularly good at gymnastic type moves. It worries me that this hyper mobile extensions will damage the young dancers for the future.

Legs are simply not made to go certain ways!! 🙈🙈🙈

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Posted (edited)
13 minutes ago, MrsMoo2 said:

I totally agree, having a DS who is flexible but not particularly good at gymnastic type moves. It worries me that this hyper mobile extensions will damage the young dancers for the future.

Legs are simply not made to go certain ways!! 🙈🙈🙈

 

Kids in sports and ballet, to go beyond recreation, nowadays have to start younger, train for longer, sacrifice more, and expend more resources than ever before in order to reach the upper echelon.  They all need willing, supporting adults behind them, some of whom earn their livelihoods by catering to the market demand, in order to attain the highest levels.  Facility has always been a critical factor in ballet success.  Medical evidence gathered a generation from now will tell us whether fostering hypermobility was rational or not.

Edited by BeaverElliot

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Trend is definitely towards extreme flexibility and wearing very dead pointe shoes to fake the feet! Personally think a lot of it is quite ugly but there have always been fashions, at least we’ve moved away from the ultra skinny I suppose. I see many more video clips these days so not sure I agree that musicality etc is less considered than in previous days when we had mainly just photos

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4 hours ago, BeaverElliot said:

 

Kids in sports and ballet, to go beyond recreation, nowadays have to start younger, train for longer, sacrifice more, and expend more resources than ever before in order to reach the upper echelon.  They all need willing, supporting adults behind them, some of whom earn their livelihoods by catering to the market demand, in order to attain the highest levels.  Facility has always been a critical factor in ballet success.  Medical evidence gathered a generation from now will tell us whether fostering hypermobility was rational or not.

The thing with hypermobility is that either you are, or you aren't. For those (ie the vast majority) who do not naturally have hypermobile joints, then enouraging this extreme stretching and over-extension in youngters causes untold damage. The true effects of which may not become apparent in the individual for many years.

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Posted (edited)
On 18/04/2019 at 05:46, taxi4ballet said:

The thing with hypermobility is that either you are, or you aren't. For those (ie the vast majority) who do not naturally have hypermobile joints, then enouraging this extreme stretching and over-extension in youngters causes untold damage. The true effects of which may not become apparent in the individual for many years.

 

Agreed that hypermobility is an uncommon trait (which has always been the case.)

 

But who, exactly, are we saying is ‘encouraging’ unsafe practices to occur?  Can we say who is driving up ‘untold damage’?

 

Isn’t it up to adults to guide youngsters, and responsibly?  Don’t parents and teachers monitor young dancers?

 

When more crimes are being REPORTED more often (instead of going unreported) so that the number of reported crimes appears to be higher, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the RATE of crimes being committed is actually going up. It could just mean that we’re hearing about the phenomena more than before (i.e. the prevalence of our awareness has expanded).  So there can be a fallacy of reasoning.  

 

With more people dancing today than ever before and also using social media, it’s inevitable that we will see more things being presented than in the past.  It may well be that safety is in fact RISING as more awareness of the potential for injury becomes common knowledge in the dance community.  Who is to say? Without study and analysis it is conjecture and speculation.

 

Do we have any actual evidence that certain types of images appearing more often is directly causing (or is even correlated to) higher frequencies of unsafe activity to take place?  Is there any way to substantiate the expressed concern that the occurrence of certain imagery is indeed leading to (or is necessarily bound to lead to) a degradation of the art form?  Does art imitate or reflect life; or does life imitate or reflect art?

Edited by BeaverElliot

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Some good points....key one I think highlighting that evaluation & studies need to be conducted.... maybe a good topic for a dance degree thesis?

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10 hours ago, BeaverElliot said:

 

But who, exactly, are we saying is ‘encouraging’ unsafe practices to occur?  Can we say who is driving up ‘untold damage’?

 

Isn’t it up to adults to guide youngsters, and responsibly?  Don’t parents and teachers monitor young dancers?

 

Who is encouraging it? Well, the dancers themselves to have a tendency to compare themselves to others and what other people are capable of, and I have seen an awful lot of competitive stretching going on at auditions during the warm-up in the waiting area. Many teachers ecourage extreme stretching - not so much in ballet I don't think but certainly in other discplines, particularly on the comp circuit in freestyle, acro and what often passes for 'contemporary'.

 

Who monitors it? Most parents will put their faith in the experts and assume that the teachers know what they are doing. 

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For the questions about measurement - the evidence is there:

 

Just take a browse through Instagram under hashtag #ballerinasofinstagram. You'll soon find some pretty extreme flexibility in pelvis and spines on show.

I think a lot of it is coming over from the "modern" dance world, which is picking up gymnastic techniques. Try the hashtag #stretchitoutladder.

 

The schools that encourage it have videos on their facebook pages of violent and excessive stretching - often in modern dance classes. I'm not putting them up, but they are there.

 

Other schools are starting to speak out against it -

 

 

I believe that the festivals are starting to crack down on too much "acro" appearing in routines. 

 

 

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I know my Dd is MUCH more knowledgeable  about good/ safe  practice in stretching than we ever were back in the day! She understands about a thorough warm up,  various muscle groups, the balance of strengthening and stretching, the potential  dangers of static stretch, diet, to name but a few. She’s also well aware through experience of auditions and summer schools, that a few crazy pictures don’t add to much when it comes to the real thing!

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Unfortunately there are some dance schools who are willing to use very aggressive over stretching techniques and post them on Instagram. And on young children also.

 

I'm particularly frightened of the box splits with band round feet and then pulling the band from behind to extend the stretch behind the bodyline and the over splits on chairs.

 

I don't know if it's more common than 20 years ago but potentially it increases the incidence of such techniques as kids whose dance schools stretch safely are now exposed to these techniques and try them at home etc....

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Posted (edited)

Anecdotal ‘evidence’ seems to suggest that acro tricks are on the rise, as is the frequency of hyperextension imagery. So we’re seeing and hearing about this a lot more lately, whatever this fad implies. Children being impressionable, adults (parents and teachers) need to be well informed and guide wisely,  as with many aspects of online culture and physical training.

 

Dance training and competing are not really regulated or policed for safety per se, whereas for youth sports training and competing, safety standards do apply, so far as I am aware. There may well be best practices, leading practices and good practices for dance safety (along with practical common sense, which sometimes isn’t so common), but adoption and adherence to same are purely voluntary, with no sanctions for non compliance, aren’t they?

 

Are competitions generally business, profit-making ventures?  Some people are receiving pay to organize them?

 

Is it now time to consider instituting specific safety regulations for juvenile training and competition beyond what already occurs (e.g. RAD)? Establishing evidence-based standards; certifying and licensing teachers with mandatory safety education; auditing and whistle blowing? Financing the overhead (by all dance parent consumers) to cover the costs of administering such a scheme?  Should dance parents be advocating for such reforms because of all the perceived harm, scattered, expressed concerns and any reported incidences?

 

It’s the dance parents’ responsibility to be well informed consumers of education and recreation services for their DD/DS. Perhaps an educational campaign would be helpful.  The more responsible parents would make the effort (or are already doing so) while the less responsible ones would continue to make poor decisions affecting their children.  It’s the group of ‘undecideds’ in the ‘middle’ who might be persuaded to choose more wisely than not.

Edited by BeaverElliot

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Posted (edited)

BeaverElliot :"It’s the dance parents’ responsibility to be well informed consumers of education and recreation services for their DD/DS. "

You have made many valid points in the course of this thread, BeaverElliot - and thank you for that. However, I'm not convinced that parents have necessarily either the background or expertise to become the ideal "well-informed consumers" that you suggest they should be.

Edited by glissade
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Posted (edited)

... which is why I suggested that an educational campaign might be worth looking into, glissade.  For if not the parents looking out for the interests of their kids, then whom? 

 

This program applies to students.

https://www.royalballetschool.org.uk/train/dancer-training/healthy-dancer-programme/

An information program for DPs could be conceived.

Edited by BeaverElliot

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Posted (edited)
39 minutes ago, BeaverElliot said:

... which is why I suggested that an educational campaign might be worth looking into, glissade.  For if not the parents looking out for the interests of their kids, then whom? 

 

This program applies to students.

https://www.royalballetschool.org.uk/train/dancer-training/healthy-dancer-programme/

An information program for DPs could be conceived.

 

This ABT health program...

     https://www.abt.org/training/teacher-training/national-training-curr/the-healthy-dancer/

has a book that can be ordered online...

     https://www.abt.org/explore/shop/#buyhealthydancer

 

In both cases (RBS, ABT) a significant investment was committed to improving health and wellness outcomes for young dancers.  The knowledge and expertise exists, but it isn’t distributed broadly (thus an information campaign is necessitated). There have been many books published about wellness for dancers, that are mainly geared to adults; but a few exist for juveniles too. 

Edited by BeaverElliot

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To be honest, BeaverElliot, I'm not sure that the programs the RBS have in place for their students have any relevance to the children outside of their school. Especially so when selection for eg. their Summer and Easter intensives relies on photos.

 

I think that a far fairer way of selection would be to include an element of free enchainement in auditions. Professional dancers need to be able to process, learn and produce sequences of dance positions quickly and under pressure. Hours spent perfecting one position or even one dance for a competition do not equate with the requirements of a professional career.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, glissade said:

To be honest, BeaverElliot, I'm not sure that the programs the RBS have in place for their students have any relevance to the children outside of their school. Especially so when selection for eg. their Summer and Easter intensives relies on photos.

 

I think that a far fairer way of selection would be to include an element of free enchainement in auditions. Professional dancers need to be able to process, learn and produce sequences of dance positions quickly and under pressure. Hours spent perfecting one position or even one dance for a competition do not equate with the requirements of a professional career.

 

Parents should (learn to) be highly suspect of questionable ‘selection’ methods and processes, yes?(!), what is a legitimate audition or not. It’s market economics (free enterprise transactions) you’re noticing at play: parents make demands on behalf of their kids; people (of varying ethics) oblige them and satisfy their needs by supplying the desired experience.(Where does fairness have to come into any of it?)

 

Someone so-called seeking a professional career will injure themselves young; not a smart strategy.

 

Maybe (hopefully) this gymnastification takeover you claim is taking place will be a passing fad.

 

If paediatric or sports medicine practitioners identify an uptrend in dance injuries, then eventually studies will be made and recommendations implemented towards education and banning injurious practices, is another course that could ensue if the rising social costs (medical care) justify eliminating preventable injury.  Or I suppose an injured dancer could sue their studio.

Edited by BeaverElliot

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Beaverelliot unfortunately for most British students they will be dependent on the NHS (state health service) which does not have well developed sports injury services on the whole. Also dance related injuries are not seen as a priority in a heavily rationed service.

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