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New levels of fitness


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#16 Colleen

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Posted 17 March 2002 - 12:17 PM

But if dancers aren't getting the proper repetition because of time or money constraints (or whatever the problem seems to be), shouldn't they seek other methods of ensuring their physical capabilities for getting through a ballet? And shouldn't dancers take some responsibility for themselves and not rely only on the 'great wisdom' of the ballet master to judge their physical fitness?

#17 Shirley

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Posted 13 March 2002 - 05:46 PM

I ,too, would be interested to know what Mr Stretton means by "new levels of fitness".

It seems that there are more dancers injured in the company just now than ever before and dancers are talking about the heavy workload that they have and how tired they all are.

Not an ideal situation to improve fitnes levels in my opinion!

#18 liebs

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Posted 16 March 2002 - 03:43 PM

And for the most part, we are talking about high school aged dancers. A dancer from NYCB told me that when she entered the company, shortly after Balanchine's death, the average age of the dancers was 27. Now the average age, she said, is 21. Whether in ballet or the rest of the world there is a big difference between being 21 and 27. I don't think most ballet companies are equipped to make up for the education their dancers didn't get from school ro family.

#19 Calliope

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Posted 04 April 2002 - 11:30 AM

I found this rather interesting:

At SAB's summer course, they have a "weight lifting for men" class that's required.

#20 Calliope

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Posted 13 March 2002 - 04:13 PM

I'm not sure exactly what Stretton said, but, I wouldn't say ballet dancers minds are "empty" nor their intellectual stimulation lacking either. Many dancers in NY are pursuing higher education and several at NYCB do internships during their layoffs. (Tom Gold is now participating in their fashion/costumer program)
But I do believe the ante's been raised on physical appearance. Even the NYCB Workout is taught at gyms across the country and a best seller on book/video lists. Which adds the fuel to the fire that ballet is mainstreaming itself. There seemed a time when ballet needed to defend its physical prowess and compare itself to athletes in order to compete for ticket buyers.
None of it excuses it, but I often wonder why dancers feel the need to sign up for a gym membership as well as the classes, rehearsals and performances they attend.
I think it's just the era we live in as society, not just ballet, but everyone seems to want a healthy lifestyle and to have a certain "look" albeit not always a healthy one.

#21 Calliope

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Posted 13 March 2002 - 05:07 PM

I always thought weight training was discouraged because it changes the shape/line of the muscles?

#22 Calliope

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Posted 13 March 2002 - 07:39 PM

But weren't those dancers then also touring far more frequently, with shorter seasons than they have now?
Not to diminish the intellect at all, but while time would allow people to go to Europe and visit museums, and have a life, it depends on who you're suurounded by and who's teaching you and what they're exposures are.
Also how you grew up contributes greatly, which I believe LeClercq had a great deal of travel in her youth.
Dancers now have such a make or break by the time they're 17 that the developmental years are spent in classes as opposed to outside. At best a minimal high school education is achieved.

#23 Calliope

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Posted 17 March 2002 - 07:04 AM

Just on the end of classes/rehearsals and endurance. I think if a dancer does a rehearsal full out, without just marking, it's a workout, but the stop and go rythmn isn't a real cardio workout. But neither are certain yogas and pilates which most of the women seem to favor outside of the classroom.

#24 Helena

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Posted 13 March 2002 - 08:33 AM

I too read those words of Ross Stretton with a sinking heart. Of course dancers have to be fit - that goes without saying - but I have a horrible feeling, possibly though not probably quite unfounded, that he thinks that fitness, gymnastics, virtuosity, are the point of ballet. He is far from alone in this, alas. The fact that I have seen the question, (on this board, I think) "Is ballet a sport or an art?" shows that attitudes are veering towards the idea of ballet as gymnastics in some quarters.

I would be curious to know whether people think this is the case more in some countries than others, or whether the idea started in one country. Is it an idea that was there in the past and is enjoying a resurgence? If you think, for instance, of Legnani's fouettes, it seems possible that it is.

#25 LMCtech

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Posted 03 April 2002 - 05:01 PM

So then what are you advocating?

#26 LMCtech

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Posted 04 April 2002 - 05:54 PM

That's good. I'm glad to hear that.

#27 LMCtech

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Posted 13 March 2002 - 04:49 PM

Part of the reason they sign up for gym memberships is that many ballet companies facilities no longer included weightlifting equipment for insurance reasons. Though it can be controversial, weight-lifting and strength training in general are essential parts of dance training and needed to stay healthy, but are often not offered sufficiently by companies (or schools) due to budgetary and space constraints. A strong dancer is a healthy dancer.

#28 LMCtech

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Posted 16 March 2002 - 06:13 PM

Alexandra, I'm going to disagree with you.

Ballet classes are essentially anaerobic. There is a lot of starting and stopping. The heartbeat rises high and often, but not for extended periods of time. Endurance is never fully developed. The dancer tires easily. Conversely, doing a full-length ballet (like Sleeping Beauty) is a trial in endurance. Where is a dancer going to develop the endurance needed for a role like that, when they are not getting it in class and only get the run the ballet full through once or twice if they are lucky. They will have to find it outside the classroom.

While weight-lifting used to be discouraged. It is now encouraged, especially for men. In order to protect their backs and shoulders and knees (and all the other things a male dancer strains when he lifts another dancer) they need to strengthen them beyond the ability to lift a 110 lb. ballerina. I will agree that weight lifting for females is not as encouraged, but there could be fewer injuries if the girls were stronger too.

With a properly designed program of weight-lifting, a dancer can easily gain strength without "bulking up" or loosing flexibility. I was involved in a reserach study in college that proved exactly this.

#29 BW

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Posted 17 March 2002 - 08:31 AM

Glad I finally got around to reading this topic all the way through. Seems to me, that there are two kinds of "fitness" being described in this thread: the physical and the intellectual.

I am the mother of a young ballet dancer. As luck would have it she likes to read...but with the level of school work - much of it a bunch of time wasting busy work - and the number of ballet classes(and the time it takes to commute to and from them!) there is not enough time left over to do much extra! It's more than annoying - it's maddening.

As a parent, one wants to offer their children as much of the world as one can...and I don't mean material things like cell phones, etc. We are fortunate to live right outside NYC, so we can try to take advantage of all that it offers...but it is hard to fit it in.

My daughter is young...and I can only imagine how much more difficult it will become as she gets older UNLESS there is a better way of combining education and her desire for following the path towards a professional ballet career is found or beaten out through the "woods"! smile.gif

I applaud the colleges and universities that have developed programs which allow professional ballet dancers, and others like them, the opportunity to continue their studies. But we need more!! As far as I know in NYC, the only one left is at Fordham - all hale the wisdom of the Jesuits wink.gif

In many ways it's our educational system that needs a total overhaul - and not just for dancers! The dearth of real teaching and learning is vast. I think the lack of "fitness" in the intellectual realm is epidemic - and not just in ballet dancers! By the way, I'd like to say that I, too, often find myself at a loss in certain areas such as Quantum Mechanics! smile.gif

#30 katharine kanter

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Posted 03 April 2002 - 04:36 AM

If you look at the sort of thing that passes for choreography at the moment, clearly, it does NOT call for high levels of fitness. an adrenaline rush is NOT fitness.

That is why people who attempt to dance a Bournonville piece, find it exhausting. Nikolai Hubbe himself said that when he was back in Denmark recently, he realised he had "no calves left".

Choreography, over the last thirty years, has mainly involved, for the woman, three steps: développé à la seconde, pas de bourée, and piqué turns. Then she gets to slide along the floor, or rather, I should say, is dragged along the floor, by one arm.

Choreography for the man has mainly involved tearing up the stage five or six steps at speed, and picking up or tossing a female. Occasionally, he might get to do a manege, but it will be fifteen identical jetés en tournant...

If it is Mats Ek, or Pina Bausch, both sexes get to froth at the mouth, wring their hands, and writhe. Again, amphetamines might help, but that is not my concept of fitness.

Stamina and cardiac capacity are developed by jumps and beats, and by certain forms of adagio work. The importance of lengthy adagio enchainements can be underestimated. There is, for example, a world of a difference, in terms of building one's respiratory and cardiac capacity, between slapping up a développé againqst one's ear and bunging the leg down, and powerfully developing the leg out to waist level, holding it there, and then carrying it down, or forward etc.

Many dancers have told me that the condition required to dance Bournonville, is higher than anything they would normally experience, whether in class, or in performance. They have said that they have a feeling of "not getting off the ground" in the jumps, and would RESIST any proposal to dance Bournonville, because they fear to be injured owing to poor condition.

I remember one American critic attending the Bournonville Festival in 1992. He wrote that in the adagio passages, in the 60s and 70s, he had always recalled the Danish ballet "moving forward from immobility to action, like huge tree trunks suddenly uprooted", or something along those lines. By 1992, he said, that feeling had quite vanished, in favour of something more skitterish, flitty. I find that image perfectly expresses the problem.


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