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Is ballet the foundation of all dance styles?


Gingerbread
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This was something I mentioned at the end of another thread but really it needs to have its own thread... so here goes...

 

I have always been led to believe that keeping up the ballet, even though DD might never end up as a classical dancer, is a very good idea. It provides a good foundation for other types of dance. My DD does tap & modern/contemporary as well as classical ballet..... at the moment, her focus is on the ballet, but that could have a "shelf life" if you see what I mean. She is also keen on drama, and good at it too. What's more, her most valued ever experience (despite also having done EYB, various summer schools, reached finals in various RAD competitions etc etc) will always always be her time doing panto in Aylesbury no less, a few years ago. Which of course involved a variety of dance styles and nurtured her love of performance.

 

what I would like to ask anyone out there, is this:

I have read various articles / seen TV programmes where professional ballet dancers have moved on from ballet to other types of dance, or at least experimented with other dance styles. Many of them seem to say that rather than ballet being a useful foundation, they have had to "forget" their ballet training in order to master the other dance form. For example, ex Royal ballet Adam Cooper in the Sunday Times this time last week, says of his role in Singing in the Rain "You're going against everything you do as a ballet dancer." And Darcey Bussell in that Christmas documentary I seem to remember was talking about having to forget her instinct to turn out, in order to do some routine or other.

 

So by focusing 90% on the ballet at age 13, is DD potentially reducing her chances of success in other performance areas later on? (it goes without saying that the self discipline that ballet promotes is a worthwhile goal in itself).

 

Thank you for reading this, sorry if it's slightly garbled! Does anyone have any thoughts please?

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Interesting point! I can see that as an adult, having done nothing but ballet for many years, someone like Darcey B having to work against the ballet in order to master tap and ballroom. I do think as youngsters though it is important to keep up the ballet for help with modern, jazz, broadway and especially contemporary. Obviously if one wanted to become a hip hop or tap dancer it's less important.

 

We were at the CAT Taster Day at The Place recently and they really emphasised the need for regular ballet classes, but then many of the CAT students go on to Central, LCDS, Rambert etc.

 

If you look at Theatre Arts/Musical Theatre courses, is ballet on all the syllabi?

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Laines and I am certain the other Musical Theatre schools have a very strong ballet course, infact part of the audition at Laines is a full ballet class. I know that there are a few girls from Royal Ballet School and Elmhurst who have chosen to go on and train at Laines, so that gives you an idea of the ballet standards there.

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All through the years when I took ballet class (40 yrs) there was always a large contingent of dancers from other disciplines: modern/contemporary, tap, mime, street dance, ballroom, etc. Also present were athletes, singers, actors, musicians, an orchestra conductor, and public speakers. As a concert pianist told me - he wanted to know how to walk across a stage and how to take a bow to the applause. Opera Diva Dame Joan Sutherland explains in her autobiography her embarrassment in donning tights and leotard but also the necessity of it to learn how to move on stage.

 

So - how does this affect when one has to "forget" one's ballet training - such as turnout- to move on to another discipline such as modern/contemporary? It's like learning to read a language using Roman script and then trying to learn to read a different script such as Greek - or even Hebrew (which reads from right to left). Learning to read in one script doesn't stop us from learning to read in another script - in fact we can take with us the basic rules. The script may look different and even the grammatical setup may be different - but the skill set needed is the same.

 

Ballet teaches the dancer how to put together what the brain wants and what the body can offer. That ability is what tells Adam C. or Darcy B., to "forget" ballet. They know what they must do because of ballet.

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I don't think that there is much correlation between ability in ballet and ability in tap. Some ballet dancers make fantastic tappers (look at Wayne Sleep) whilst others find tap really difficult. My dd certainly did.

 

However ballet does seem to form an excellent foundation for modern, contemporary and jazz. My opinion is that you can tell a jazz dancer who was classicaly trained in that the lines are cleaner and technique crisper but that is my personal opinion only.

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One of the reasons why my DS chose to finish his training with Tring was to broaden his range of dance styles in order to improve job opportunities. It wasn't easy but the fact that he got all the way to the final 7 in an audition for purely contemporary dancers speaks for itself.

What I noticed as a dance teacher myself is that he and the other"ballet bods" did not look as out of place doing jazz as the "jazz bods" did doing ballet.

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Hi all,

I was reading this with interest, as our school says the same. There was a girl at our school who quit ballet but continued her other dance class, tap,modern theatre and national

and the teacher suggested she took it back up after a couple of years, she did and her marks started to improve again after having fallen slightly.

Both my dd's do ballet tap modern and national and are part of the youth programme at our local theatre . One of my dd gets amazing marks in all her dancing i don't find one hinders the other, it always amazes me how she goes from ballet and tap which are so different, yet my other dd who also gets great marks in all struggles a little with her tap. So i think it depends on the individual person as to what they are capable of.

I also believe the different styles especially ballet give them a deportment and gracefulness you don't get just anywhere. My dd's wer in a christmas show at their theatre of Annie and i had many people pick them out and say what lovely dancers they were and how they could tell they did dancing. Even in ballet the acting classes have help hem to express themselves more in the ballet.

My dd's are 12 and i don't think you are reducing her chances for later on but enhancing them as i would think it shows good discipline and she does tap and contempory aswell so shows a good all round knowledge of dance. ( I hope so as one of my dd's want to look into auditioning again soon).

Sorry to waffle on just my opinion hope it helps. :)

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She's had to take it up again, SpannerandPony, for part of her drama course at Lincoln and she has found that it's easier, and is being coached by a girl that helped teach it at her mum's dance school, but it doesn't come as easily to her as ballet did. That said, she's as good as the others, but there's a world of difference between professional dancers and actors who dance, as "Black Swan" showed.

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I recently came across a report which was the result of research into the development of dance talent by Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Dance and Music. One interesting finding was that students who did the most ballet were deemed less creative and less expressive. The research was based on young people involved in CAT programmes and presumably they all did some ballet. So maybe the amount of ballet you do is the key factor. Professional ballet dancers presumably have done so much it is a struggle to move in a different way.

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I recently came across a report which was the result of research into the development of dance talent by Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Dance and Music. One interesting finding was that students who did the most ballet were deemed less creative and less expressive. The research was based on young people involved in CAT programmes and presumably they all did some ballet. So maybe the amount of ballet you do is the key factor. Professional ballet dancers presumably have done so much it is a struggle to move in a different way.

 

I think a key question is the definition of "creative and expressive." Seems to me there's lots of creativity and expression in how the role of Juliet is danced - or Giselle - or the Lilac Fairy or or or...

 

As for moving between the genres even those steeped in ballet (in additon to those named above) have done so quite successfully: Baryshnikov, Guilliem, Tsiskaridze, and many more.

 

It seems to me, that it is easier as a ballet dancer to move into other genres, than for other dancers to move into ballet.

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http://www.trinitylaban.ac.uk/media/574723/trinity_laban_cat_report.pdf

 

Not quite sure what they meant. This is a link to the original document. It might be of interest to quite a few people on this board. And of course it is very encouraging in the sense that it states that most of the qualities that constitute a talented dancer can be trained!

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This is a very interesting report, but needs to be read in context. I have copied over their definition of creativity below, which seems to apply to improvisation tasks - an integral part of much contemporary training. It is also used by many contemporary choreographers - when creating a piece, they ask the dancers to produce their own phrases of movement.

 

This rarely happens in classical training, although I am a big fan of free improvisation to music in classical classes too. However in one ballet company where I was employed, at an audition for the following year there were over 100 candidates for 3 places. The numbers were gradually whittled down and the final dozen had to just a few minutes to prepare a piece of classical free improvisation. This was the decider! (It was held on stage and members of the ballet watched from the back of the auditorium.)

 

"Creativity in dance includes ideas or inspirations which begin as cognitions and/or physical impulses. The ideas, when allowed to flow, develop in many different directions to reveal something new and may lead to a distinctive dance movement or piece. The creative process involved in shaping a final product includes discovering, playing with, channelling, selecting and discarding ideas and movement material. Typically, dancers blend their own ideas, personal voice and life experience with learned art form knowledge, any tuition given, and other dancers’ ideas and input."

 

Like any skill, this sort of creativity improves with practice, so I can't agree that ballet dancers are less creative, just that they have usually had less time to develop this area.

 

Going back to the original question, I agree that a strong foundation in ballet will help in other dance disciplines.

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My daughter is currently in the first year of a northern contemporary CAT scheme. Having studied mainly classical ballet until this, I know the creative part of the scheme is her least favourite part of the training as she fells less confident with it. I'm sure these skills will develop over time and i thoroughly agree with Pas de Quatre that it is the opportunities to be creative rather than the skills that ballet dancers lack.

Her classical skills certainly benefit her immensely in the rest of the training. :)

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All through the years when I took ballet class (40 yrs) there was always a large contingent of dancers from other disciplines: modern/contemporary, tap, mime, street dance, ballroom, etc. Also present were athletes, singers, actors, musicians, an orchestra conductor, and public speakers. As a concert pianist told me - he wanted to know how to walk across a stage and how to take a bow to the applause. Opera Diva Dame Joan Sutherland explains in her autobiography her embarrassment in donning tights and leotard but also the necessity of it to learn how to move on stage.

 

So - how does this affect when one has to "forget" one's ballet training - such as turnout- to move on to another discipline such as modern/contemporary? It's like learning to read a language using Roman script and then trying to learn to read a different script such as Greek - or even Hebrew (which reads from right to left). Learning to read in one script doesn't stop us from learning to read in another script - in fact we can take with us the basic rules. The script may look different and even the grammatical setup may be different - but the skill set needed is the same.

 

Ballet teaches the dancer how to put together what the brain wants and what the body can offer. That ability is what tells Adam C. or Darcy B., to "forget" ballet. They know what they must do because of ballet.

Anjuli this makes perfect sense, thank you very much for the analogy... I see what you mean. I am not going to worry that DD is doing too great a proportion of ballet in relation to other dance. Her ballet is a great launch pad for all sorts of life skills as well as dancing..... (although she was criticised by a games teacher last summer for her style of long-jump - apparently it was "too balletic" :D - I don't find this cause for concern however)!!

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Hi all,

I was reading this with interest, as our school says the same. There was a girl at our school who quit ballet but continued her other dance class, tap,modern theatre and national

and the teacher suggested she took it back up after a couple of years, she did and her marks started to improve again after having fallen slightly.

Both my dd's do ballet tap modern and national and are part of the youth programme at our local theatre . One of my dd gets amazing marks in all her dancing i don't find one hinders the other, it always amazes me how she goes from ballet and tap which are so different, yet my other dd who also gets great marks in all struggles a little with her tap. So i think it depends on the individual person as to what they are capable of.

I also believe the different styles especially ballet give them a deportment and gracefulness you don't get just anywhere. My dd's wer in a christmas show at their theatre of Annie and i had many people pick them out and say what lovely dancers they were and how they could tell they did dancing. Even in ballet the acting classes have help hem to express themselves more in the ballet.

My dd's are 12 and i don't think you are reducing her chances for later on but enhancing them as i would think it shows good discipline and she does tap and contempory aswell so shows a good all round knowledge of dance. ( I hope so as one of my dd's want to look into auditioning again soon).

Sorry to waffle on just my opinion hope it helps. :)

That is really helpful because it is pointing out the obvious thing that I hadn't even thought of - that everyone is different anyway!! :)

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I recently came across a report which was the result of research into the development of dance talent by Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Dance and Music. One interesting finding was that students who did the most ballet were deemed less creative and less expressive. The research was based on young people involved in CAT programmes and presumably they all did some ballet. So maybe the amount of ballet you do is the key factor. Professional ballet dancers presumably have done so much it is a struggle to move in a different way.

could this possibly be anything to do with the focus on RAD ballet curriculum and exams in this country, whereas it might be more useful to have a greater emphasis on artistry, dramatic interpretation, free classes etc (i.e., syllabus free not free of charge) across the week at the local dance school?

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Professional ballet dancers presumably have done so much it is a struggle to move in a different way.

 

I would be surprised if contemporary choreographer Wayne McGregor, for example, took that view, given the way that the Royal Ballet's dancers ate up his "Chroma" and all that has followed. And the same has been true, I believe, with the classically-trained dancers from San Francisco Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, and the Bolshoi.

 

For what it's worth, my own observation is that classically-trained dancers accumulate a vocabulary that they can adapt to most contemporary styles. Offhand, I'm thinking of Guillem in "In the middle, somewhat elevated," Rojo in Mats Ek's "Carmen," and Yanowsky in the "Agon" pas-de-deux .... and almost anyone doing something by Cathy Marston!

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Well, here's a foray from me into "Doing Dance".

 

As a child I did tap then moved on to ballet and modern (as I had been told that doing ballet would strength my other disciplines, which I found it did). When I went to University I started ballroom and Scottish country dancing. The ballet training was, as one might imagine, incredibly useful for the Scottish dancing, as I had the turnout and the elevation, but with ballroom it took a while to train my legs not to turn out when waltzing (for example). Having said that, I had no issue with moving from turned out to parallel from one evening to the next. And, whilst I was having to do different things below the waist, the ballet training meant my epaulement (which is very important in modern ballroom as it's pretty much what gives the sway) made what was going on above the waist much easier.

 

It was very clear in the competitive ballroom dancing world which dancers had some form of ballet background.

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