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Dance Aptitude


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#1 SanderO

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Posted 15 February 2009 - 05:19 PM

Obviously some are more skilled in dance than others and the best probably become professionals and hone their skills level to divine heights which we all can enjoy in performances.

I was wondering if those skilled with an obvious aptitude for dance and movement can dance in any style without much difficulty? Can ballet dancers pick up salsa, or meringue, or other popular styles in a flash? I would think so. Once you are a pro at movement it all becomes easy, perhaps not to excel, but it's a aptitude for dance. No?

#2 Helene

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Posted 15 February 2009 - 06:41 PM

Are you talking about actual social dancing or competitive social dancing?

Ballet dancers are trained to pull up, to turn out, to point their toes, and to carry their upper bodies high off their waist. That does not always translate easily into other dance forms. Maybe someone can remind me where I read this, but when one of the NYCB corps woman who had just danced the Rosenkavalier section noted that it was not easy to then lead a social waltz at a NYCB gala party: performing it onstage and with "civilians" wasn't easy, and (officially) non-competitive social dancing is the realm of civilians, no matter how practiced. I know that when PNB did a Quijado piece with a lot of hip hop influence, only one of the women did not look balletic, and several described in post-performance Q&A's how difficult it was to absorb the style in such a short period of time.

There are a number of aspects that help, like extension and holding one's center in lifts. I just read an article by Eurosport commentator Nicky Slater, who competed with Karen Barber in ice dance and were Britain's #2 to Torvill and Dean, and he wrote that because Jayne Torvill was a championship level pairs skater before she swtiched to ice dance and partnered with Dean, she knew how to hold herself in lifts and to jump, because she could do a modified jump entry into them and could hold her body through intricate positions, it allowed Torvill and Dean to do innovative lifts ahead of their time. I would think those aspects would translate from ballet. However, there are also issues of timing and carriage, and the way ballet dancers hold themselves, particularly their upper bodies, doesn't always transfer directly into social dancing.

#3 Hans

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 09:12 AM

The short answer is that some ballet dancers are good at many types of dance, and others are not. I'm terrible at social dancing, for example, because it requires improvisation, which ballet generally does not. However, I know some ballet dancers who can also do tap, jazz, hip-hop, you name it.

#4 dnznqueen

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 04:20 PM

I grew up taking class in multiple forms of dance before deciding on ballet...don't ask me to go out "dancing" though- I'm usually the wallflower. Improvisation and variations on steps are not common to ballet.

#5 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 05:37 PM

Well, I was recently at a party benefit after one of the performances of MCB DQ, where the majority of the dancers were. At one point the DJ came down his boot and started creating a choreography with some salsa music. I saw many dancers trying in vain to follow the simple steps sequence, while many of the regular attendants at the party, me included, quickly started doing the routine. (Or maybe it was the rythm...?)

Note: (And this is coming from someone who can't do a miserable plie, BTW... :D )

#6 Helene

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Posted 18 February 2009 - 05:50 PM

PNB's Lindsi Dec lists salsa dancing as another type of dance she enjoys in this interview.

#7 SanderO

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Posted 18 February 2009 - 07:35 PM

These answers surprise me as I had always thought that professional dancers are movement "geniuses" and would be able to adapt to all sort of rhythms and movement forms, timing whatever. I was referring to all the other forms of dance when I started the thread, social dancing, jazz, tap, you name it. I can understand that any genre takes some dedication and training and some more than others for sure, but trying to imagine my favorite ballet geniuses as looking as if they have two left feet doing a merengue is hard to wrap my mind around. YIKES

#8 aurora

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Posted 18 February 2009 - 07:43 PM

These answers surprise me as I had always thought that professional dancers are movement "geniuses" and would be able to adapt to all sort of rhythms and movement forms, timing whatever. I was referring to all the other forms of dance when I started the thread, social dancing, jazz, tap, you name it. I can understand that any genre takes some dedication and training and some more than others for sure, but trying to imagine my favorite ballet geniuses as looking as if they have two left feet doing a merengue is hard to wrap my mind around. YIKES


the center of gravity and type of movement is totally different in many types of dance. particularly as regards hip movement, which is NOT a part of ballet but is a part of many other dance genres.
That said, certainly people who are trained in dance are much quicker at picking up combinations and steps--as you are used to doing so.
I recently started a new dance form (belly dance) which has almost nothing in common with ballet. That said, every teacher I've been to has been able to tell I have dance training.

#9 Helene

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Posted 18 February 2009 - 10:44 PM

I was referring to all the other forms of dance when I started the thread, social dancing, jazz, tap, you name it. I can understand that any genre takes some dedication and training and some more than others for sure, but trying to imagine my favorite ballet geniuses as looking as if they have two left feet doing a merengue is hard to wrap my mind around. YIKES

It's not a matter of two left feet or lack of coordination. It's a matter of being able to let go of ballet training to move idiomatically in the dance form, and, for some ballet dancers, to be able to improvise on a grand scale out of earshot of his/her partner (ex: when talking someone through a role that they've had little time to rehearse because of an emergency, or getting them back on track when they suffer from vapor lock). Ballet dancers do improvise -- Mara Vinson said in a post-performance Q&A that she had a foot cramp during "Diamonds" pas de deux and did a balance on the other foot, probably startling Seth Orza, her partner (and I think I recognized that moment) -- but not to the same extent as a rule, although they do in a number of Forsythe works. Even then, the vocabulary is limited, and the improvisations that I know of are not partnered, although they are intricate and dependent on the rest of the corps.

A classic set-up is an imitation of a ballet dancer trying to "get down". It's like when an opera singer does cross-over: does it sound overly formal and operatic, or does it sound like Eileen Farrell, who sang opera and jazz equally idiomatically? Are the accents right? Is the movement going in the right direction with the right emphasis, usually down instead of up? Cant he women follow? I saw Baryshnikov do many works with White Oak, and he still looked like a ballet dancer, although he turned it down considerably. He could dance with an increasingly heavy Mark Morris, and my attention would be riveted to Morris, or to Rob Besserer.

#10 sandik

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 12:30 AM

A classic set-up is an imitation of a ballet dancer trying to "get down". It's like when an opera singer does cross-over: does it sound overly formal and operatic, or does it sound like Eileen Farrell, who sang opera and jazz equally idiomatically? Are the accents right? Is the movement going in the right direction with the right emphasis, usually down instead of up? Can the women follow?


This is a good analogy. I've watched lots of ballet dancers attempt the standard modern dance repertory -- some are able to make that shift and others are not. The same goes for other crosses (into jazz, or tap, or social dance, or the myriad kinds of world/ethnic dance styles).

#11 LiLing

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Posted 20 February 2009 - 01:24 PM

I think some of the ability to move outside the confines of classical ballet technique has to do with early training. Dancers who had classes in other forms during their student years, such as modern, Spanish, jazz etc. in addition to ballet tend to be much more able to move outside that box.
There is also the part played by natural ability. There are many aspects to dance talent, and even professional dancers have their individual strengths and weaknesses. Some are "quick studies" able to pick up movement very quickly, others not so much. (This can be one reason certain corps dancers get a lot to do.) Some pick up on stylistic elements visually, others need to analyze them from a technical point of view. Sometimes it has to do with a dancer's mental attitude. It can be hard for some professional dancers to stick there necks out (no pun intended), and risk not looking good, so they may be very inhibited doing any form of dance they don't feel confident in.


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