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Books on performance technique


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Does anyone know of books on performance technique for dance? I have purchased "Dance Imagery for Technique and Performance" which is good so far.

 

My dd has been participating in ballet competitions to improve her performance skills. She is naturally introverted so the performance side doesn't come easily. I'm not convinced that simply getting on stage is the answer. She has definitely benefited from the experience. It sure helps to learn how to cope with any situation you are faced with - i.e. slippery floor, small stage, difficult lighting etc. But, it hasn't given her the skills to project herself more. 

 

She plays piano at a high standard and finds it much easier than her first love, ballet. She is struggling to translate what she knows about expression and dynamics in music to dance. Most of it is her lack of confidence and shyness.

 

I've searched amazon and the internet looking for dance performance material and can't seem to find anything. There are several books on performance for musicians and I'll probably buy one of those but thought I'd see if anyone knows of dance related resources.

 

thanks :)

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What about a summer school to help boost confidence and give her new skills?

Has she ever done EYB? Performance skill is a big part of that.

Regular trips to the theatre should help too, don't know of any book though, sorry!

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Thanks Aurora,

 

yes the EYB summer program looks fabulous! My dd saw it earlier but we can't attend. She is going to Prague Masterclasses and Joffrey program in Florence. We are in Australia, so it is rather a big deal to travel to Europe. We seriously considered the EYB but it was too short to make the trip worth the airfares.

 

We know she needs drama/acting lessons but is currently at ballet each weekday from lunchtime until evening, plus all day Saturday so there isn't any time left over. Plus we live in the country and travel nearly 1 1/2 hours each way to the studio......... I'm considering drama holiday programs but we won't be able to do that these school holidays as we'll be in Europe.

 

Thank you again.

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I found, as a student, that musicality in music at first seemed quite different to musicality in dance. I always thought I was naturally musical as my mother was a music teacher and my father a drummer, but my musicality marks in dance exams as a child weren't as high as my parents thought they should've been. Our understanding of the terms (as novices to dance) were different. 

 

It wasn't until I started competing in festivals that I understood how to project fully. While a lot of the performance in festivals can be over the top, once I began to emulate the style of others, I began to feel it and develop my own natural musicality. Oddly this then translated across into my music and I began to feel the phrasing and dynamics of what I was playing, move more, and 'use my face' , which gained me more marks in music exams! I am also a natural introvert, yet when dancing I almost take on a different persona - Once I had 'unlocked' this freedom I really began to love the feeling of truly going for it, letting go and DANCING!

 

I think it's important for young dancers to 'feel' phrasing and dynamics. Some useful exercises can be found by looking at Dalcroze Eurhythmics online. Other things that are sometimes neglected are the use of head and eyeline. If you ever watch teachers or experienced dancers watching other dancers, especially if they know the choreography, they will often be 'dancing with their head'- this is because as they internalise the music and movement, as they are usually sitting, their head and upper back is still free to move as if they were dancing it themselves .

 

An exercise that my young dancers HATE (because the feel ridiculous) is to do a port de bras exercise to the music without using their arms, and to imagine they are using them. This encourages the use of head and upper back. Sometimes I make them do this with their eyes closed too, to further heighten their listening. With a pianist, you can take this task a step further by asking the pianist to REALLY accentuate the phrasing, by slowing down at the end of phrases, pausing/suspending at highlights etc. 

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drd - I love that idea of doing ports de bras with just the head.  My dd says she can mark an enchainement just by using head and épaulement. To make pupils improve the feeling of ports de  bras I often make them do it sitting cross legged - sitting up tall they have to use their backs & core properly and can concentrate on eyeline too.

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I remember that when I was training , I used to think that I was projecting , whereas I was only dancing with good technique , and very correctly. I played the piano too, and this was much more natural , so I can relate to that. Now, as a teacher , For me , the performance skills came very late , and I see this in my own DS .But it does come . EYB and NYB have been great for my pupils , also watching or participating in competitions, despite there being elements of these that I dislike . Teenagers are very self conscious and I am sure that if she genuinely loves dance , then eventually she will start to share that love with her audience . Videoing my DS really helped him too.

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yes, tutugirl, we've just started videoing recently. The aim was for her to see how she performs. She analyses the videos and gives herself intricate corrections on technique :) She seems to ignore the performance side, finding it embarrassing. We're getting there slowly. 

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How about getting her to choreograph something for herself and one or two friends that has a story line - Then present it to you or a group of friends and family.

My DS loves this and then they spur one another on in the expressions of the characters and storyline and they learn from each other how to make it a believable performance / story without words.

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I love BillyElliotts advice and think this could help. Learning things from books will be much more difficult. I also love drdance's doing the port des bras without the arms!

 

However that ability to project does take time for some people and I sympathise because as a young person I was very shy and introverted to and got annoyed that I didn't really project what I was feeling with the music.

 

Now having lost some of those earlier inhibitions(though not completely) which comes with life experience...for me anyway...I feel very much more freer in my dance than I ever did as a teenager. But I have also done a lot of other dance styles since then including Indian dance which uses the face a lot and from the other end.....5 Rythms dance which isn't technique based at all .......but definitely helped to enable me to bring what I wanted into the dance. But feeling more internally confident is what will help and this is a developmental thing and may take time.

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Does your DD do much in the way of ballet appreciation? When my DS first went to vocational school his teacher was astounded to discover he didn't even have a favourite dancer, and knew almost nothing about the great classical ballets (he hadn't been doing ballet very long at the time). Ballet appreciation is a major part of his school's teaching so they spend ages not only looking at different performances but discussing different interpretations, motivation for the characters etc. Now DS listens to ballet scores on spotify, can recognise the score and pinpoint the specfic dance of a huge number of works and is always sending me youtube clips of his favourite dancers in particular roles. I am sure this must strongly influence his understanding of the characters and hence his interpretation of the role and how to project it. After all how can you act a role if you don't understand it yourself? And this means in the context of the whole ballet- not just someone telling you to do the dance in a particular way. Of course as far as I am concerned some ofo the classical ballets are unbelievable tosh (shhh- don't tell)- Giselle in particular makes me want to slap the eponymous drippy heroine and tell her to get a grip- so this wouldn't work for me (exploring the story just makes me feel hugely irritated) but it works for DS and he's the one dancing!!!!

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When I was dancing I always imagined myself wrapped in the music.  This didn't start when on stage but in the classroom - every class - barre and centre.  The "performance" started with the first plié.  In the classroom the audience lived in the mirror.  I made sure that my class/performance - though I might be standing in the eographic center of the room/stage- was directed to every quadrant and corner of that mirror just as one should project to the entire audience not just those directly in front of you.

 

As for musicality, I think it helped that I never used umpah-umpah music either for my classes or for my students.  I used orchestral music, voice, drums, opera, popular, classical, baroque, etc.,  always diverse with lots of pauses, flourishes, and color.   Music with color produces dance with color.  And it produces a dancer who truly listens to the music and thus wrapping themselves in it - dancing from the center of the music becomes the dance.  The audience feels that and participates.

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Thanks everyone for your helpful advice. It was lovely to wake up this morning to all these posts! They are better than a book :). I'm taking notes so we have a bunch of things to work on.

 

CeliB, yes, she is VERY much into ballet appreciation. From the time she was 3, she has loved to watch ballet any way possible, preferably live but if not, video will do. She hated kids tv like Play School but would watch a full length ballet. When she was 4, her teacher showed her a video of Darcey Bussell at RBS, she decided from that time that she wanted to be as good as HER! There has been no let up on that dream since (dd is about to turn 16).

 

She chose to do Giselle act 1 variation for her 'variation' competition dance after watching Myriam Ould Braham performing so beautifully with POB (live). The main reason was that she loved her gorgeous interpretation. It feels to her that she is dancing with a lot of expression and she is surprised when she watches a video of herself that it doesn't come across that way.

 

Thanks for all the tips - some helpful things to work on.

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She chose to do Giselle act 1 variation for her 'variation' competition dance after watching Myriam Ould Braham performing so beautifully with POB (live). The main reason was that she loved her gorgeous interpretation. It feels to her that she is dancing with a lot of expression and she is surprised when she watches a video of herself that it doesn't come across that way.

 

I don't think it is at all unusual for the dance to "feel" a certain way to the dancer and yet look on video quite differently to the dancer.  I felt that all the time.   I would be very excited about how I had performed the dance but when I looked at it on video it looked DEAD.  However, I noticed that when I looked at the video years later it looked more as I remembered dancing it.  I once saw a documentary of Natalia Makarova who discussed how disappointed she was with what she saw on video of her dancing.

 

There are a couple of things to think about......

 

Though the theatre might be quite large - too large for the audience to really see the dancer's eyes and facial expression, all the same the eyes must always have focus - not staring - but focus.  Focus of the eyes, well, lends focus to the entire body.  As Gelsey Kirkland said in a master class I observed her teach: look at something with interest (focus/meaning) and the audience will want to see it, too.

 

Another thing....the dance - even a legato piece - should have places the dancer has chosen to bring to the fore - highpoints.  It is at those places that one lingers for a nano-second longer.  Pick the places in the dance you want to show to the audience. 

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Somewhere in Margot Fonteyn's autobiography she talks about very good advice she was given.  (Possibly by Robert Helpmann?)  That every movement must reach the back of the highest row of the balcony.  Just like in speaking, diction must be clear to make the voice carry.

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Somewhere in Margot Fonteyn's autobiography she talks about very good advice she was given.  (Possibly by Robert Helpmann?)  That every movement must reach the back of the highest row of the balcony.  Just like in speaking, diction must be clear to make the voice carry.

 

I remember that  in Fonteyn's autobio, but in a slightly different way.  I think it was during the transititon from Sadlers' Wells to the ROH.  It seems that Fonteyn - already the company's prima ballerina and hope for the future - was not "connecting" with the audience in the much larger venue of the ROH.  Everyone was very troubled by this seeming inability of Fonteyn to "connect."   I remember it as Ashton (but I surely could be wrong) who sat in various seats and watched Fonteyn as she rehearsed on stage.

 

He realized that she was moving as if she was still in the smaller space of SW.  His advice was to "linger awhile."  What he meant was that it took a moment longer for the emotional content as well as the physical impact of the dance to travel that extra distance in a larger performing space.

 

My memory my be faulty as to the detail....but it was excellent advice. 

 

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Much along the lines of CeliB's thoughts. When my dd was little (much younger than yours) she was very shy and although she loved her dancing she was very introverted almost seeming afraid to take up too much space. As time went on she became quite frusrated as other dancers who she felt were perhaps not as technically secure as her were being chosen for performance opportunities etc while she was not. We started to watch festivals and other performaces by children of a similar age and she would pick out those dancers she felt 'stood out' and try to identify what it was that they had that the others didn't - smiles, bigger movements, better use of space etc and then dd taught herself to emulate these traits and her determination to succeed made her realise she had to be the one to volunteer to stand at the front rather than hiding at the back. Videoing and watching back to analyse performance is used frequently at dds school. My middle daughter (non-dancer) skates recreationally and is very shy. Her coach is always telling her to make her movements bigger but she is scared people will think she is 'showing off'. The other week we filmed her( just to show her grandmother) and it wasn't till she watched herself that she realised how timid she looked.

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