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One Who Changes Everything - learning how to breathe


Anjuli_Bai
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In another thread it was mentioned how many things have to come together to create a dancer - so many "rules" for the classic ballet, so many muscles to learn to engage, an extensive dance vocabulary, plus of course a workable dance body and the outside support necessary to allow all this to happen.

 

In addition one has to be fortunate enough to have good teachers. In any dancer's history there is usually one or two who stand out. It doesn't have to be a teacher we had for a long time - sometimes it is only a class or two with this teacher which opens up a whole new view of what the dancer is trying to accomplish.

 

I had such a teacher and it is to him that I take the liberty of dedicating this thread.

 

Robert D. Rodham taught at San Diego Ballet in the late 1970's. Though not a member of the Company, I had the privilege of taking the morning daily Company class. Mr.Rodham (NYCB plus other affiliations) did not teach more than a few months in San Diego - but one very special day he opened a door for me to an entirely new way to think about dance. It changed everything.

 

He taught me to breathe my dance; to inform every movement with my breath. To make my breath a pulse beat, to use it for height in jumps, to make the rotations in a pirouette come alive, to suspend my dance in the air above me, to lengthen and attenuate movement - to make it all become a living thing - simply by learning how - and when - to breathe.

 

Do you have a special teacher - one who changed everything?

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We had a special experience - actually the lady in question could well have been a teacher. We were watching a ballet in the ROH's Linbury Theatre, just dd and I and a lot of strangers. DD had - for reasons I won't go into here - lost all confidence in her dancing and was doubting that she would ever go any further in ballet.

 

In the interval, a very elderly Japanese lady who was sitting next to dd turned to her and asked if she did ballet. DD nodded. This old lady said, out of the blue, "You are a beautiful tall girl. You will make good ballerina. You have a dream, you must stick to it. But if you want to laugh, you must laugh. If you want to cry, then cry. If you want to be alone, be alone. But you have feelings, and you must share them. You must show your feelings. You will dance."

 

Then the show started again and we couldn't find the lady afterwards, but everything she had said rang so many bells with me as dd loves ballet so so much but she's always kept it inside.

 

She regained her confidence after that though, and carried on. To this day, I have no idea who that lady was; a teacher? A former dancer? But some sort of mindreader, for sure. :-)

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Wow amazing story Spanner I wonder who the lady was? My husband went on for years saying to my daughter you don't appear to be breathing through your nose when you dance, turns out she couldn't she has terrible rhianitis can't spell that sorry. Once that problem was sorted, exactly what Anjuli is saying things began to significantly improve. The teacher my daughter has at the moment is wonderful and my daughter not only appreciates her she has a lot of respect for her.

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I remember Mr. Rodham showing me how to time my breathing with my pirouettes - the difference was amazing. Breath is life - and it brings the dance to life.

 

Nijinski did this with his fabulous suspended jumps.

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This is a lovely topic, and as a non dancer I can only speak for my DS's current teacher who is a constant source of inspiration for my son. All the boys in the class strive to please him, and he is quick to communicate his pride in them when they have worked hard and achieved. I have seen him teach and he does so with such a wonderful mixture of energy, authority, affection and encouragement. I will be sad when they move up into the next year. The right teacher can make a HUGE difference.

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The right teacher can make a HUGE difference.

 

You are so right! When my son was in elementary school (K through 6) he was so bored. I was always hearing "your son is bright enough to do anything - but he does nothing."

 

He was very outgoing and I found it easy to engage his interest but the teachers with all their resources couldn't seem to. Year after year their solution was to make him sit out in the hall. That was no punishment because he found it MUCH more interesting than sitting in the dull classroom. One teacher (female) told me she did not like teaching boys. Wonderful :(

 

In the midst of this - he had a teacher (male) - in the 5th grade with whom he had no trouble; suddenly he just loved going to school. He couldn't wait to go (imagine my surprise) and he'd come home very excited to tell me all the stuff that they did in the classroom that day. I went in during parent-teacher conference time and found myself in a classroom that simply reeked love. The love of a teacher who adored teaching. The classroom was a warm welcoming interesting place to be. So, this child - the same child who was so bored all the previous years - suddenly had no problems at all.

 

The next year - 6 - back to the troubles. This 6th grade teacher (another male) was such an embarrassment that the school district removed him from the class. But his replacement was no better.

 

I just love a teacher who teaches positively. Whoever came up with this idea that the student must be emotionally pummeled into achieving? Well, maybe it's ok in the military.

 

The difference between:

 

"That's wrong."

 

and

 

"Try it this way."

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We met an elderly lady on a train once, set sat across the aisle from us. My DD walked off down the train and she looked across and spoke to me. Turned out she was a "very ex" principal of a Canadian ballet comp she could tell my DD was a dancer and she said dreams were there to be followed not tossed away - we were very touched by her thoughtful words.

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I was told the same thing by the pianist who worked sometimes at my school. She said she knew I was a dancer and that I was good. If I'd ever received the least encouragement from the school, I would never have stopped.

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Anjuli,

 

I would love it if you could explain about the breathing during pirouettes, so I can show it to my dd. She says her teacher has never mentioned when to breathe during an exercise, and I think this would be a great help.

 

I shall do it, Taxi, but in another thread. I hope it will help.

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Thank you Anjuli!

 

Inspiration is a funny thing - sometimes all it takes is a single word.

 

A few months ago my dd had an injury (fortunately minor) and, after a mammoth search, we managed to arrange an appointment with a dance physio at a vocational school. Following the consultation, the physio asked my dd when she was going to audition for the school.

 

On the way home, my dd said that at long last she finally believed that she truly could achieve her dream to become a dancer, as the physio hadn't asked "if" she would be auditioning, but "when?"

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