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How Dance Translates to Everyday LifeA dancer's life


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#1 curiousballet

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Posted 02 November 2008 - 08:59 PM

Pls. forgive me if I am posting in an incorrect category.
I am really interested in the lives of ballet dancers outside of the training. I wonder about how their art pours over into their everyday life.
For example:
How and what are are some physical gestures and consciousness of body and space and relationship carry over into an average day and interaction.
ALso what sorts of things do they notice in other people through their postures/movements that they may not be so aware of if not for their art and training.
How do they express themselves physically towards other people when they arent dancing.

I am a visual artist and so I am very curious what an artist who relies on physicality is like.

Thanks.

#2 jonellew

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Posted 02 November 2008 - 10:39 PM

Fascinating query, especially from your point of view as a visual artist.
In my experience with dancer-friends and as a dancer, I can say that dancers have a great consciousness of their physicality in everyday life, and that they are especially perceptive of the physicality of others. I remember reading a quote from some dancer who compared his/her body to a racehorse, and I remember understanding that feeling, in a good way. There is just a heightened awareness of what each muscle is doing, all the time. I also remember, as I stopped dancing, that the change in muscle awareness really felt like atrophy.
In my head, even today, having not taking a class in three years and not having performed in who knows how many, emotions are connected with dance movements. I have little flashes of releve and saut de chat. And the muscle memory is so strong that I can do them, on a whim, in my living room or whatever. I hope no one's looking in the window, though!
There is also a quote from one of the dancers in Etoiles, the documentary about Paris Opera Ballet dancers: the dancer says that when she was little, she wanted to be a nun, but she was too physical, so she ended up in ballet. So it's the same kind of total offering-up, only it's the body, not just the soul.
I hope others can fill in all the gaps I've left and offer more. :)

#3 Ostrich

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 04:51 AM

How and what are are some physical gestures and consciousness of body and space and relationship carry over into an average day and interaction.


Standing in 180 degree first position while doing the washing up or bending down to pick something up off the floor without bothering to bend their knees :wink:

#4 Ray

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 05:58 AM

Posture is what people seem to notice about dancers (present and ex), even before they spasm into gargouillades to run for the bus. And yes, picking things up w/out bending knees (guilty as charged!). As Maria Tallchief used to say, "I LIVE in fourth position!"

#5 bart

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 07:05 AM

Thanks for introducing this great topic, curiousballet.

Jonellew, thanks for your response.I love the following and wonder how many others reading this thread have experienced it.

In my head, even today, having not taking a class in three years and not having performed in who knows how many, emotions are connected with dance movements. I have little flashes of releve and saut de chat. And the muscle memory is so strong that I can do them, on a whim, in my living room or whatever. I hope no one's looking in the window, though.


As a non-dancer, just starting his 4th year of ballet class, the ballet-dancer's walk is the first thing that came to mind. Not the exagerrated stage walk of princes or toreadors, but the erect, unaffected, serene, apparently effortless, bounce-less, slouch-less, jerk-less walk you get accustomed to seeing on the sidewalks of cities like New York and London. One my the great delights of my ballet classes has been learning how to reinvent my walking, which had gotten rather sloppy and ... shall we say, elderly. I also appreciate having learned the ability to sense the placement of toes and feet on the floor and the concern for proper placement of the torso. Dancer posture is so different from the drdill-sargant posing (chest out; chin up) we were taught in high school gym.

Other things that make ballet-trained dancers recognizable, even when they're long retired (and even in those who've gotten a little heavy):
-- a degree of turn-out while standing;
-- subtle gracefulness of the hands;
-- shoulders down when raising the arms.

You can observe this on the street, in the market, in the gym, anywhere.

#6 curiousballet

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 07:08 AM

Are there things you notice about other people that may be very telling of them?

#7 Hans

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 10:30 AM

One thing that bothers me when I go to nightclubs where there is dancing is how inelegant everyone looks! I also found that after I started ballet training, I had to be very careful to avoid the ugly 'duck walk' that so many dancers have--not only is it unattractive, it is actually bad for the knees and ankles. I also notice how slouchy people are--rounded shoulders, heads and stomachs poking forward, and if they have what are commonly called hyperextended knees, they usually sit back into them, which isn't the greatest idea.

As a former dancer, I can also relate to having perpetually stood in 4th position, and there is something else dancers and former dancers sometimes do, or rather don't do--they often don't move their arms when they walk because they are taught from an early age to keep their arms still or move them in a particular way when their legs are doing something else.

#8 dnznqueen

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 03:35 PM

maybe not necessarily a physicality, but i do notice first how women's hair is done- once you've learned how to do a ballet bun or twist your hair up into a clip for class, you kind of can't do it any other way!

#9 carbro

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Posted 07 November 2008 - 12:00 PM

You can stretch feet, toes and ankles discreetly in public. :)

I was much more aware of my overall alignment when I was taking class, and jonellew's word, "atrophy", perfectly describes the loss of both tone and keenness of sensation that happened when I had to stop.

#10 Paul Parish

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Posted 07 November 2008 - 06:11 PM

I find some steps to be actually useful in real life -- when I have to stop suddently, like stop walking, because someone crosses my path -- I often do a kind of balance on the spot, or else -- if there's a split second less time -- the last step becomes a sort of pique, a perch, just to hold the place till I can move and to step aside, to get out of the path, just out of instinct I do pas de basque.......

Also chasses are a good way to get to your theater seat if people are already sitting down -- step-together-step, going sideways, works great....they have to look at my butt, but if they've pulled their feet back, I dont step on them, and I'm out of hteir way pretty fast....

#11 bart

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Posted 07 November 2008 - 07:20 PM

One thing that bothers me when I go to nightclubs where there is dancing is how inelegant everyone looks!

To me, too. Howvever, I find myself wondering whether there's some sort of "new elegance" in youth culture -- antithetical to, let's say, Astaire and Rogers -- which these young dancers feel they are expressing. Do they, on some level, find this beautiful? Or are they consciously representing a kind of "anti-elegance," i.e., a repudiation of old aesthetic ideals?

You can stretch feet, toes and ankles discreetly in public. :lol:

I have found myself doing all of this -- though I sometimes move into releves and even rond-de-jambes which probably does not constitute "discretion." :)

chasses are a good way to get to your theater seat if people are already sitting down -- step-together-step, going sideways, works great.....

Absolutely. When moving to one's seat at dancer performances, however, I suppose one could risk the more showy but risky glissade.

#12 papeetepatrick

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Posted 07 November 2008 - 07:30 PM

I find myself wondering whether there's some sort of "new elegance" in youth culture -- antithetical to, let's say, Astaire and Rogers -- which these young dancers feel they are expressing. Do they, on some level, find this beautiful? Or are they consciously representing a kind of "anti-elegance," i.e., a repudiation of old aesthetic ideals?


This interests me, because my impression is not that they are doing something so much 'antithetical' to A & S or anything else, but that they don't use the words like 'beautiful' much, it is as if that is an outmoded word. It doesn't have the value it once had, and 'cool' has come to reign supreme. They might use 'elegant' for some kinds of haute couture that the rich ones wear, but it's mainly not very interested in anything understated --or at least that's part of it, and part of it is the decibel level which started in the 60s and is now the norm--but I still can't deal with it at all. I don't go to anything but jazz clubs and cabaret, though.

#13 carbro

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Posted 07 November 2008 - 08:27 PM

I just thought of something a little more concrete and practical, along the lines of Paul chasse-ing past theater patrons.

When classes were crowded, we had to physically announce our intention to go with the next group (five, six, seven, eight . . . ) by filling the whole upper body with energy. This skill translates well on crowded sidewalks, especially when the tide pushes against you. Make yourself big and powerful, and you can make the sea of humanity part, at least a little.

#14 Paul Parish

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Posted 07 November 2008 - 11:23 PM

Oh yes, Carbro! -- I do that too = and to cut THROUGH a crowd (I noticed myself doing this back in 1970 when I was rushing through London crowds to get to Covent garden, I'd twist my shoulders in fourth arabesque and slice my way through thickets of people -- didn't know the name for it, but I'd seen dancers go Epaule a lot at the Royal ballet, and I just started doing it -- hand in front of your nose, way out in front of you, and you can get through....

Also, I tend to turn out a little as I come downstairs, and since it's the one time in real life when you lead with the toe, it naturally turns into something like glissade, in that rhythm....


I just thought of something a little more concrete and practical, along the lines of Paul chasse-ing past theater patrons.

When classes were crowded, we had to physically announce our intention to go with the next group (five, six, seven, eight . . . ) by filling the whole upper body with energy. This skill translates well on crowded sidewalks, especially when the tide pushes against you. Make yourself big and powerful, and you can make the sea of humanity part, at least a little.



#15 bart

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Posted 08 November 2008 - 05:58 AM

When classes were crowded, we had to physically announce our intention to go with the next group (five, six, seven, eight . . . ) by filling the whole upper body with energy. This skill translates well on crowded sidewalks, especially when the tide pushes against you. Make yourself big and powerful, and you can make the sea of humanity part, at least a little.

Interesting. You see this just before performers go onstage. They grow in size and life-force, somehow.

Oh yes, Carbro! -- I do that too = and to cut THROUGH a crowd (I noticed myself doing this back in 1970 when I was rushing through London crowds to get to Covent garden, I'd twist my shoulders in fourth arabesque and slice my way through thickets of peoplepractical, along the lines of Paul chasse-ing past theater patrons.

I can see a very interesting film documentary emerging from all this. Percussive score. Shots of people in the streets of Manhattan or London negotiating their way through crowds. Occasionally, a freeze-frame captioned: "fourth arabesque," "glissade," "grand battement, "frappe." I bet you could find some dramatic "pas de poisson" as someone throws himself into a subway door just before it closes. Or, and I don't know what the name is, that famous Prodigal Son jump, one leg extended, the other drawn up forward and under, to be used when leaping over subway turnstiles to avoid paying the fare.

So much of life seems, in retrospect, to be choreography. Planned or unplanned.


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