innopac

"Marking" during practice

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Could someone please elaborate on what "marking" is? I have seen videos of dancers marking during rehearsals and have wondered if it is codified in any way and how dancers use it.

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Marking is sort of doing the steps half-way as opposed to "full-out." If a dancer has an injury, is conserving energy, or is just trying to get the steps into his/her muscle memory without actually doing them, s/he will mark them. This could mean substituting a relevé for a pirouette, a low developpé for a higher one, doing steps on demi-pointe instead of pointe, going through the motion of a jump without actually jumping, &c. To my knowledge, it is not codified.

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"Marking" is not dancing full out and indicating the movement. It can be anything from doing a 45-degree arabesque on demi-pointe (where in performance it would be a high arabesque on point) to performing a movement on the ground instead of in the air to using ones arms and/or fingers (such as twirling them to indicate a pirouette).

(Oops -- writing the same time as Hans!)

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Oh, I thought "marking" was when the dancer used his/her hands as a reminder of the steps.

Thanks, Hans.

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Oh, I thought "marking" was when the dancer used his/her hands as a reminder of the steps.

Thanks, Hans.

I would say that would qualify as marking to some extent as well.

When you are learning a piece marking is especially useful because it allows you to get the steps into your brain without having to do them full out as many times.

Also if you know part of a piece and can execute it perfectly, marking that part allows you to conserve energy so that you can concentrate on the part that is giving you difficulty.

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"Marking with the hands" definitely falls under the general head of marking. And marking isn't limited to dance. The first time I worked in an opera, I was surprised to hear the singers refer to "marking" their lines. Jimmy Cagney was famous for his very-low-intensity marking in rehearsals, then when rolling, he would come out at full intensity, sometimes scaring his fellow actors.

George Washington, who loved to dance, sometimes marked in confined ballrooms (he was 6'2", weighed 209 lbs. and had very long arms) by walking the figures of the dance, then marking the more complicated footwork of the steps by tracing it with his hands, just as today's dancers do in rehearsal. When the dancing got rough, Big George marked with his hands!)

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In opera, certainly singers mark. They can sing at a lower volume and/or transpose the music down an octave, for example. When an actor "phones it in" during performance or rehearsal when s/he's expected to perform, s/he will be told to stop marking.

One of my favorite operatic rehearsal clips was one that was shared by George Jellinek on his radio program, "The Vocal Scene". Maria Callas was in a stage/orchestral rehearsal of "La Sonnambula", I think in London. Everyone assumed she would mark, and if I remember correctly, she might have started that way, but then got carried by the music, giving the most glorious full-out performances of the sleepwalking scene ("Ah! non credea mirarti"), complete with the rapturous verbal responses of the maestro.

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Politicians "mark" their speeches too. If you've ever seen rehearsal footage they practice their speeches in front of advisers in a rather low-key tone, and decide which lines work best and which lines to throw out. I've seen footage of Kennedy, Johnson, Barack Obama, etc. all dong this.

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Many people in class also do the same. As a beginner, I'm not anywhere near being able to use the hand system. But I do find that minimal movement of arms, legs, torso, and head while the combination is being explained really helps.

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Marking can be a really big habitual trap. The more you mark, the more your performances are going to look 'marked.' A lot of Principal dancers in full-cast rehearsals will mark through their variations for different reasons, injury, stamina, etc..., while everyone else in the company must do everything full-out. Sometimes it is rather frustrating, but, in general, it makes you a more focused, clean dancer if you refrain from marking as much as possible. It is almost better to just stand and watch with your eyes as you learn a combination or exercise, rather than get confused, and mark the wrong arm, head or leg movement, and then have to re-teach your brain what the right movement is, in my opinion.

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I think that as far as class goes, it depends on the student and the combination. For example, I don't need to mark relatively simple exercises, but I do find it helpful for more complicated ones. The important thing is to never take your eyes off the teacher so you know you are marking the correct steps.

For professionals, if there isn't a day of rest between the dress rehearsal and performance of a full-length ballet, it may be absolutely necessary to mark their parts, although I agree that they should generally do as much as possible full-out. The corps would usually always dance full-out, partly because their steps are less taxing and partly because if everyone is marking, it is much more difficult to see whether they are together, in line, &c.

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