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Unseen difficulties of ballet?They make it look easy


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#1 xdoodlehead

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Posted 13 January 2014 - 12:28 PM

I know how ballerinas always dance on stage and make it look easy and effortless. But what are the unseen difficulties they are actually facing/ gone through? 

 

Of course, they go through hours and hours of practice and have to deal with injuries. But is there anything else they 'hide'?



#2 Amy Reusch

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Posted 13 January 2014 - 10:04 PM

One goes through difficulties on the way to it becoming easy, that's what all the hours of practice are about: to gain technique!

They hide that they're getting out of breath and they hide their uncertainties...

Otherwise they give give give instead of hiding...

After all, in the words of Martha Graham, movement never lies.

#3 sandik

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Posted 13 January 2014 - 10:32 PM

Oh golly, this could be a multi-layered answer. 

 

As Amy says, the goal is to be transparent.  But the process of getting there is full of lessons about what to show and how to show it.  From the actual mechanics of a step to the metaphorical aspects of acting, there are all kinds of things that are not revealed.



#4 mnmom

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Posted 17 January 2014 - 10:14 AM

The emotional and mental part of overcoming injury and managing the fear of injury is a large and unseen factor for every dancer. Especially after the first injury, it can be quite the struggle for a dancer to regain their confidence in the studio and on the stage. 



#5 Stage Right

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Posted 17 January 2014 - 01:52 PM

Injuries, right up at the top, problems with costumes, the fit of the pointe shoe, and whether it is hard enough/soft enough, properly broken in, etc., breathing, state of ones health, apart from injuries (for women, where they are in their cycle), the tempo of the music, especially if it is live, the condition of the stage floor, hunger, thirst…….

(from one who's been there, briefly).



#6 bart

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Posted 17 January 2014 - 04:22 PM

It's interesting that mnmom and Stage Right both mention thoughts about possible injuries first of all.   The possibility of injury -- with the consequent need for time off, rehab, and slow regaining of form -- is a fact of life in all companies.  Yet ballet dancing demands a look of insouciance -- something that is the opposite of looking as if you are careful.

 

5 senior dancers have been out with injuries this season in the company i follow most closely.  A couple of these are noted for going all-for-broke in everything they do on stage.  It must be extraordinarily difficult to keep in balance the natural wish to avoid injury and the personal artistic impulse to give everything you have.

 

Another thing:  dancing in a company is a collegial experience.  Dancers have to collaborate.  What's more, they have to look as though they enjoy and even adore working with one another.  Yet each dancer is in a sense competing with every other dancer -- for casting opportunities, publicity opportunities, and for one's job itself.  Budget cut-backs, the emergence of newer, younger dancers, etc., are part of this.  I guess all corporate jobs have these particular tension too, but it must be especially difficult in a world in which you are so often being scrutinized by the public.



#7 duffster

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Posted 17 January 2014 - 07:51 PM

The difficulty of being thrown on in a ballet (because of anothers injury) at the last moment. Not being sure of your stamina to do the required choreography, an unfamiliar partner with difficult lifts, very bright stage lighting that throws off your center of balance,an uncomfortable costume, a slippery stage, a heavy heart- from difficulties in your personal life.  One of the worst for me was performing with the flu( I had no understudy) in Raymonda- trying to look calm when I could hardly breathe.



#8 mnmom

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Posted 18 January 2014 - 07:07 AM

These are all really great examples. I guess it's why they say "The show must go on."



#9 bart

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Posted 19 January 2014 - 08:09 AM

The difficulty of being thrown on in a ballet (because of anothers injury) at the last moment.

Dancers seem to love telling stories about this particular experience, especially at companies like NYCB where it seemed (seems?)  to happen quite a lot.  In my experience, these stories are always told with humor, even relish, and are much enjoyed by all.  In retrospect, the most difficult experiences can take on a glow of pride and pleasure for those who have survived them.  tiphat.gif



#10 vagansmom

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Posted 19 January 2014 - 10:36 AM

Ah, yes, the illnesses: holding in vomit during your solo till you could get to the wings where a crew member or even sometimes a fellow dancer is holding a bucket for you, and then flying right back out there onstage, all the while maintaining that light insouciant expression Bart speaks of.



#11 Stage Right

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Posted 20 January 2014 - 11:37 AM

It's interesting that mnmom and Stage Right both mention thoughts about possible injuries first of all.   The possibility of injury -- with the consequent need for time off, rehab, and slow regaining of form -- is a fact of life in all companies.  Yet ballet dancing demands a look of insouciance -- something that is the opposite of looking as if you are careful.

 

5 senior dancers have been out with injuries this season in the company i follow most closely.  A couple of these are noted for going all-for-broke in everything they do on stage.  It must be extraordinarily difficult to keep in balance the natural wish to avoid injury and the personal artistic impulse to give everything you have.

 

Another thing:  dancing in a company is a collegial experience.  Dancers have to collaborate.  What's more, they have to look as though they enjoy and even adore working with one another.  Yet each dancer is in a sense competing with every other dancer -- for casting opportunities, publicity opportunities, and for one's job itself.  Budget cut-backs, the emergence of newer, younger dancers, etc., are part of this.  I guess all corporate jobs have these particular tension too, but it must be especially difficult in a world in which you are so often being scrutinized by the public.

Not just possible injuries, but current injuries, strains/pains that the dancer currently has but aren't bad enough to sideline them. Very good points made here, bart.



#12 canbelto

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Posted 20 January 2014 - 07:46 PM

I think another difficulty is finding a partner with whom you get along with, matches you physically, and with whom you have good chemistry onstage. Long term partnerships like Fonteyn/Nureyev, Ferri/Bocca, or Whelan/Soto are rare. Even rarer are the onstage/offstage partnerships. I remember reading an interview with Sergei Polunin where he talked about the fact that when he left the Royal Ballet, part of it was he was having difficulty with his female partners. They weren't getting along. After a disastrous rehearsal with Alina Cojocaru he left. 

 

Most co-workers with whom we don't really get along we can at the end of the day just pack up and go home. Dancers have to go onstage and pretend to love each other (many times) after maybe a whole day of arguing during rehearsals. 



#13 bart

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Posted 24 January 2014 - 05:27 AM

Re:  having to step into an unfamiliar role at short notice.  Tiler Peck (NYCB) recounts the following experience, in an interview conducted by Michael Popkin (DanceView, winter 2014):

 

 

 

I got my corps contract very soon after being an apprentice because I learned roles really quickly.  .... On my very first tour, I remember somebody went out of Stars and Stripes and they asked me, "Do you know it?   And I thought I did because Suki Schorer had taught the girls' short regiment in variations class but I didn't realize that there was a whole finale.  So I said, "Yeah, I know it," but it was the last ballet on the program and they had to teach me the conclusion right after company class that morning and then during the first two ballets before I went out and did it.  So I think they learned I was quick and I got nine ballets in four months and every time somebody went out they threw me in.

 

Clearly, being a quick study is a plus as you are on your way up.  Later in the interview, Peck mentions that she didn't get stage fright, "so [that] was one thing they didn't have to worry about.."  Another very useful talent.



#14 mnmom

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Posted 24 January 2014 - 05:47 AM

RE: "Clearly, being a quick study is a plus as you are on your way up."

 

Definitely! I can't tell you how many roles with little rehearsal my dancer's been thrown into with new partners unfamiliar to her or the role. This happens a lot to the younger dancers who are apprentices as they are essentially understudies.  Being able to pick up choreography fast, teach it to a partner, and perform under pressure are her norm.




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