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Finding some choreography easier to learn than others...


DavidW
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Hi everyone!

 

Just thought I'd share some thoughts that came to me following a performance this weekend, and see if anyone has the same experience.

 

In the run up to a mini-gala by a group I dance with, I was preparing three pieces: a variation for Rothbart in Swan Lake, the Precious Stones Pas de Cinq from Sleeping Beauty and the Wheat PdD from Coppelia. Unfortunately, in the final rehearsal before the performance one of the other dancers ruptured his achilles (thankfully the surgery the following day was successful and he is on the mend - though it will take many months of physio) and I got informed that instead of doing Rothbart's variation I would be replacing him for the Pas de Trois from Swan Lake... eek! 

 

Thankfully I knew the two other dancers in the Pd3 well and we set about learning the choreo. It was all a bit crazy and we had about 45 minutes to learn the adagio before having a run through of it on stage. We then had a 2 hour rehearsal the day before the performance to work on the variations and coda and only about 20 minutes before the performance to practice bits and pieces (one of the dancers couldn't make the dress rehearsal). Obviously it was all a bit crazy and I spent most of those days studying YouTube videos (we were basing it off the ABT version with Cornejo, Reyes and Cornejo). However by some stroke of magic we got through the whole thing (adagio, 3xvariations and coda) without any mistakes - wish that could have been said for the other two pieces...

 

And that's the thing - I found the Pas de Trois choreography *so* much easier to learn than the others, in particular the Precious Stones. I honestly think I was more confident about getting the Pas de Trois right than the opening/closing sections of Precious Stones (that I'd been working on for ages)! Anyone else find some choreography "goes in" much easier than others?! I guess it's even stranger that both pieces are derived from Petipa...

 

I wonder if it could be to do with the fact I was more familiar with the music from the Pas de Trois, or the fact that I think the choreography for it has a bit more musicality. Whatever it was, it was a bit strange!

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Hi David W....very interesting post and will give some thought and get back to you.....just got in and bit knackered from ballet class followed by work on allotment!

But I will say for now if you connected to the musicality of the choreography in that piece that's at least half the answer but sometimes strange things do happen when we have to learn things under a bit of duress the adrenaline kicks in and sharpens up the memory!! Also you mentioned knowing the other dancers doing that piece well......did you know the dancers in the other pieces equally well.....because this could have played a part too. Anyway will have a think as do have some experience of performing and glad you got through it all.....without mistakes....fantastic :)

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I think the choreography iself has something to do with it - how it flows.  The same choreographer might well choreograph something which just "makes sense" to the body, while in another piece the choreography is not as intuitive vis a vis the music. 

 

I also think "when" we learn choreography matters, too.  Our daily body/mind clock is important.  I like to do the daily crossword puzzle in the newspaper.  At certain times of the day I am much better than at other times.  Sometimes I almost get it done - except for a few stickler words - and put it aside.  A couple of hours later, I glance at it - and wham - I finish it as fast as I can write.  The answers seem so obvious!

 

So - body clock is another component.

 

On the other hand, I've had the experience of dancing with a high fever.  My mind was totally somewhere else - and because it was elsewhere it stopped "checking on" the body - it just let go.  As a consequence I did a triple attitude turn on pointe with a flawless finish.  My body obviously knew how to do that, but my mind with its doubts, hesitations, checklist, etc., can get in the way.

 

We are strange creatures - a bit too complex in my opinion. :)

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Guest chinafish

On the other hand, I've had the experience of dancing with a high fever.  My mind was totally somewhere else - and because it was elsewhere it stopped "checking on" the body - it just let go.  As a consequence I did a triple attitude turn on pointe with a flawless finish.  My body obviously knew how to do that, but my mind with its doubts, hesitations, checklist, etc., can get in the way.

 

I've managed to do a double pirouette en pointe, once. Ever.

I know my body can do it. I know the theory behind it. I have even done it once. But ever since then I always fall out of it. I could feel my posture going too (the hunchback always creeps in). I think irrational fear as a big part to play, and thinking too much about it is probably "killing" it...

 

Maybe I should try pirouetting one day when I have a high fever!  ;)

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Guest chinafish

Sorry, back on topic.

 

I think it also depends on who has taught you. Sometimes the way that you are first "exposed" to a piece of choreography makes a difference. I think that first impressions when learning choreography accounts for a lot of how much "sticks". If the teacher has a similar "brainwave" as me, I learn choreography much more quickly.

 

In the case of when the teacher is the choreographer, sometimes the choreographer would do things naturally where I would find incredibly awkward. I find it difficult when this happens as I have to overcome my own awkwardness to make the movement natural.

 

Well done on getting through the performance! It's such an adrenaline high when you get it right isn't it? And it makes you so much stronger as a dancer that you know you can pick things up quickly and just go for it.

 

Fish

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I've managed to do a double pirouette en pointe, once. Ever.

I know my body can do it. I know the theory behind it. I have even done it once. But ever since then I always fall out of it. I could feel my posture going too (the hunchback always creeps in). I think irrational fear as a big part to play, and thinking too much about it is probably "killing" it...

 

Maybe I should try pirouetting one day when I have a high fever!  ;)

 

Have you heard of a book called The Chimp Paradox by Dr Steve Peters?  He's the sports psychologist behind the British Cycling team.  He talks about different parts of the brain including the Chimp (instinct,raw emotion) and the Computer (cold,logical) and how to use them effectively.

 

It's actually a much lighter read than I've made it sound!

 

Meadowblythe

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Chinafish have just posted a very similar pirouette observation on the Going back to Ballet thread earlier this morning!!

 

and Meadowblythe ....that book sounds really interesting thanks :)

 

David W

Did you have a preference for any of these three pieces looking at it coldly so to speak re music steps etc.? Before you started to actually practise the pieces? Sometimes one resists learning a bit the steps you don't like doing so much or have difficulty with executing.

Sometimes you can see a piece on Youtube or see another dancer doing for real and think

I like that or

I don't like that so much(for me too many pirouettes etc)

HOWEVER when then actually go to learn find you may end up having an affinity with the one you thought you wouldn't like so much! I had this experience recently in a workshop.

I still think the feeling of it flowing with the music for you is a big key.

Even with set pieces from Grades there always seems to be at least one dance sequence that you find harder than the rest....even if its not technically harder etc. In class people say "oh I really like that one" while you've been gritting your teeth through it and then you like another one which they don't etc and usually each can't see why the other has a problem!!!

I

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Can you give us a link to the Beauty Pas de Cinq?  I'm not quite sure what you're referring to and if I see the choreography I might have some idea why you found it harder!

 

I would just say that I have seen the Swan Lake pas de trois and its variations taught to students in short courses and they found it easy to pick up (performing it is another matter!).  The choreography is quite straightforward and not what I would call "tricky" technically or musically.  If you were taught it clearly and well, I could see why it wouldn't be too hard for an experienced dancer such as yourself to pick up quickly. As I say I am not sure which piece of choreography you are referring to in Beauty, so can't comment.

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Hey everyone - nice to know I'm not alone!

 

This is the Sleeping Beauty Pd5 we we working on - here's the gold variation and the whole thing is available in its 5 parts on this user's youtube channel: 

(In actual fact I used this slightly adapted version: 

)

 

And here's the Pas de Trois 

 

I do think that in some sense I 'prefer' the Pd3 over the Pd5 both musically and choreographically and that probably played a part in picking them up. Also definitely think adrenaline helped - I guess my brain thrives off being under pressure (certainly true for my academic work). 

 

Thanks for all the thoughts everyone - some really interesting points have been raised (and I'll definitely look for that Chimp book meadowblythe!)

 

David

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I am not surprised that you found it hard to pick up!  Talk about tricky!   And fiendishly difficult technically!  I thought that music was actually used for a girl's fairy variation, but I may be mistaken, because I can't find it now!    I do prefer the version danced by Duncan Lyle (he's gorgeous!).  Flows more and less steps crammed in.

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