Education: going beyond classical tradition.Professional ballet dancers today must meet demands that are greater than ever. The repertory presented within one performance can require an extraordinary degree of versatility, with movement ranging from traditional classical ballet Noun 1. classical ballet - a style of ballet based on precise conventional steps performed with graceful and flowing movements
ballet, concert dance - a theatrical representation of a story that is performed to music by trained dancers vocabulary to the latest fusion of ballet, jazz, and modern. The corps de ballet corps de bal·let
The dancers in a ballet troupe who perform as a group.
[French : corps, corps + de, of + ballet, ballet. is no longer background ornamentation ornamentation
In music, the addition of notes for expressive and aesthetic purposes. For example, a long note may be ornamented by repetition or by alternation with a neighboring note (“trill”); a skip to a nonadjacent note can be filled in with the intervening ; nowadays each member of a company must be a technician, and expectations of technical prowess constantly increase. In addition, competition is brutal and careers are short.
I no longer believe that classical ballet training alone adequately prepares a student dancer to meet these extraordinary demands. Dancers ultimately will be more successful if their training develops a broader range of skills than those provided by a purely traditional approach. What are these further skills, and how can they be developed in a fashion that will enhance the results of classical ballet training?
As the artistic director of the National Ballet School The National Ballet School of Canada is located in Toronto, Ontario.
The National provides a full-time program which combines classical ballet training with academic education from Grades 6 through 12 at its boarding school. (NBS (National Bureau of Standards) See NIST.
NBS - National Bureau of Standards: part of the US Department of Commerce, now NIST. ), my primary objective is to educate healthy, questioning artists who will expand classical ballet as an art form. I believe that this goal can be achieved. Improving and augmenting traditional training will ensure that some questionable practices of classical ballet training are not automatically perpetuated.
Today the typical classical ballet dancer is exceptionally bright, committed, and physically gifted; motivation, intelligence, and a passionate love of dance are common characteristics. As with Olympic athletes, these young people are prepared to discipline themselves to an extent that observers can find quite moving. But their passion for excellence is a mixed blessing mixed blessing
an event or situation with both advantages and disadvantages
mixed blessing n it's a mixed blessing → tiene su lado bueno y su lado malo
, for it makes them receptive to all suggestions -- both bad and good -- that they believe might further their careers.
Because young dancers must be as superbly physically conditioned as Olympic athletes, it is helpful to compare the way the elite of the sports world Sports World are a British sports Retailer, formerly called Sports Soccer.
Founded in the late 1970's by former county squash coach Mike Ashley, the group Sports World International is now the UK's largest retailer of sports clothing and accessories. achieve physical fitness with the approach generally followed by classical ballet teachers. For years, top athletes have understood the importance of overall fitness and have augmented their specific sport's routine with a complementary strengthening program. A similar augmentation should be used for dance students. They do not gain strength and flexibility solely by increasing the number of hours of ballet training. In fact, this tactic merely reinforces any counterproductive strategies adopted to combat a deficiency in strength and flexibility.
A supplementary body conditioning program is more critical today than ever before. Partly because of computer games, children -- in North America, at least -- spend more of their playtime sitting. This reduction in physically active play means that the one-thousand-plus youngsters whom NBS physiotherapists screen each year are less physically fit today than were the ones they screened ten years ago. Overall fitness prevents injuries. When properly tailored, it also prepares male students for their partnering classes.
Ballet methodology itself also needs to incorporate new approaches. Twenty years TWENTY YEARS. The lapse of twenty years raises a presumption of certain facts, and after such a time, the party against whom the presumption has been raised, will be required to prove a negative to establish his rights.
2. ago, Canadian dance educator Rhonda Ryman wrote in an issue of Dance in Canada A wide variety of dance occurs in Canada.
Ballet companies include the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the National Ballet of Canada based in Toronto, Ballet Jörgen Canada based in Toronto, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens based in Montreal, the Alberta Ballet based in Calgary, Ballet BC based , "A valuable source of insight comes not from within the dance community but from without, from physical educators. Their theories reveal fascinating perceptions about the workings of the human body, information which provides fresh insights into the learning and performance of dance skills.
"Dr. Lulu Sweigard, author of Human Movement Potential (1975), emphasizes that the full potential for efficient, effective movement can be achieved only through the cooperative action of nerves, muscles, and bones. She stresses the importance of acquiring a healthy stance for mechanical as wen as aesthetic reasons. Each individual's posture influences the manner in which they perform any movement."
Let me highlight the word individual's above -- and remind readers that dance is nearly always taught in large groups.
As ten-year-olds struggle to understand the complexities of post" alignment and to work their legs in an outwardly rotated position (the trademark of classical ballet), they develop neuromuscular neuromuscular /neu·ro·mus·cu·lar/ (-mus´ku-ler) pertaining to nerves and muscles, or to the relationship between them.
1. patterns -- some good but others counterproductive. It is the latter pattern that impedes progress and causes injury. The effects of forced turnout are devastating dev·as·tate
tr.v. dev·as·tat·ed, dev·as·tat·ing, dev·as·tates
1. To lay waste; destroy.
2. To overwhelm; confound; stun: was devastated by the rude remark. . As students grip to hold turnout with their feet, posture is compromised and -- worst of all -- movement, the primary ingredient of dance, becomes strained and restricted.
Ironically, the phenomenon of turnout was originally adopted to facilitate movement and to improve the beauty of the lines of the muscles, but it is now probably the greatest source of confusion and injury. As early as 1721, meeting the extreme demands of turnout had prompted English dancing master John Weaver, in his book Anatomical and Mechanical Lectures Upon Dancing, to encourage all dance instructors to study anatomy in order to teach effectively.
Ballet teachers around the world go to great lengths to study anatomy, but bunions, wrenched knees, and misshapen mis·shape
tr.v. mis·shaped, mis·shaped or mis·shap·en , mis·shap·ing, mis·shapes
To shape badly; deform.
mis·shap legs are testament to the fact that more needs to be done. For the past five years, Irene Dowd, a protegee pro·té·gée
A woman or girl whose welfare, training, or career is promoted by an influential person.
[French, feminine of protégé, protégé; see protégé.]
Noun 1. of Sweigard and a renowned neuromuscular educator in her own right, has guided the NBS ballet staff in ways to enhance traditional classical training by incorporating a neuromuscular approach. The results are exciting and prove that it is only through the cooperative action of nerves, muscles, and bones that efficient movement can be realized, the deleterious effects of turnout assuaged, injuries prevented, and careers lengthened.
Young dancers, as well as their teachers, should study anatomy and understand the concept of "muscle patterning" at a level appropriate to their age. The basic mechanics of any movement are much better understood when the student has a picture of how the bones and muscles fit and work together. They should also understand the implications of growing, as the changes in flexibility and balance experienced during a growth spurt growth spurt Pediatrics A period of rapid growth in middle adolescence; ♀ ↑ ±8 cm/yr ±age 12; ♂ ↑ ±10 cm/yr ± age 14; GS is orderly, affecting acral parts–ie, hands and feet grow before proximal regions, can be most unsettling un·set·tle
v. un·set·tled, un·set·tling, un·set·tles
1. To displace from a settled condition; disrupt.
2. To make uneasy; disturb.
There is controversy as to which other dance forms should be studied during a professional student's training years. I am convinced that both modern dance training and the study of composition are essential to realize the degree of versatility expected in today's job market. Modern dance training teaches that movements must be initiated from a muscularly active torso, whereas classical ballet tends to emphasize the limbs. Composition exercises and classes make every dancer a more sensitive and cooperative interpreter of today's new creations and may even inspire them to choreograph.
Finally, in classical training a level of proficiency in pas de deux pas de deux
(French; “step for two”)
Dance for two performers. A characteristic part of classical ballet, it includes an adagio, or slow dance, by the ballerina and her partner; solo variations by the male dancer and then the ballerina; and a coda, or is essential, but, for a variety of reasons, not easy to acquire. Interestingly, the skills required for safe, dynamic partnering can often be better understood with the adjunct of some contact improvisation classes.
Training demands can be overwhelming for adolescents of ten to eighteen years, which is the time span generally acknowledged as optimal for realizing physical potential. Therefore, if emotional and intellectual skills are not developed alongside physical training, no one's efforts are prudently invested.
Olympic teams, which now include sports psychiatrists and psychologists on their staffs, are ahead of us in teaching young people how to deal with performance pressure and competition. We do not ask students to go into a studio and figure out pointe work or partnering unaided. I believe that it is equally ludicrous to ask them to figure out -- all by themselves -- how to cope with injuries, depression, and competition.
NBS has eight consulting psychiatrists who serve as guidance counselors, and the skills that they teach are perhaps the most vital to achieving career success and personal satisfaction: being responsible, understanding integrity, being a good communicator, being a good team player while pursuing individual dreams, and understanding the pitfalls of being a perfectionist per·fec·tion·ism
1. A propensity for being displeased with anything that is not perfect or does not meet extremely high standards.
2. , a common characteristic among ballet staff and students around the world.
tr.v. mis·placed, mis·plac·ing, mis·plac·es
a. To put into a wrong place: misplace punctuation in a sentence.
b. perfectionism per·fec·tion·ism
A tendency to set rigid high standards of personal performance.
per·fection·ist adj. & n. can trigger eating disorders eating disorders, in psychology, disorders in eating patterns that comprise four categories: anorexia nervosa, bulimia, rumination disorder, and pica. Anorexia nervosa is characterized by self-starvation to avoid obesity. . Unhealthy eating patterns are a symptom of unmet psychological needs and potential dysfunction.
Preventing eating disorders with the help of specialists is essential because anorexia and bulimia bulimia: see eating disorders. are insidious diseases when firmly entrenched en·trench also in·trench
v. en·trenched, en·trench·ing, en·trench·es
1. To provide with a trench, especially for the purpose of fortifying or defending.
2. . The importance of staying slim through balanced nutrition must be supported and promoted by ballet teachers and artistic directors. The standard of exaggerated thinness established in the 1960s in modeling and dance will change only if the people recruiting students for professional schools or hiring for companies change their attitudes. An anorexic an·o·rex·ic
Relating to or suffering from anorexia nervosa.
ano·rex dancer is a bad investment. In addition to tremendous emotional vulnerability, there is a propensity for stress fractures because of bones rendered fragile from years of starvation. Hiding from this issue harms the future development of classical ballet and dance in general.
At the NBS, students who are starting to struggle with eating disorders can stay in our program only if they and their families work with our specialist in these disorders. Full participation in all dance activities and performances depends on recovery.
Ask athletes what should be eaten both pre- and postperformance, and they will usually give you an educated, rational answer. Very few of today's dancers are able to do the same. This situation is unacceptable. Along with eating disorder eat·ing disorder
Any of several patterns of severely disturbed eating behavior, especially anorexia nervosa and bulimia, seen mainly in female teenagers and young women. prevention must go nutritional education, supported by the artistic staff. It is time to stop joking about the fact that female dancers, in particular, keep themselves thin with cigarettes and coffee.
Two facts must be faced: a performing career cannot be a lifelong occupation, and acquiring a high school diploma A high school diploma is a diploma awarded for the completion of high school. In the United States and Canada, it is considered the minimum education required for government jobs and higher education. An equivalent is the GED. is essential for dancers. Dance teachers and artistic directors must stress the importance of academic education. Fortunately, the best dance students prove time and again to be gifted academically, as well as artistically. New York City New York City: see New York, city.
New York City
City (pop., 2000: 8,008,278), southeastern New York, at the mouth of the Hudson River. The largest city in the U.S. Ballet's association with Fordham University, which allows professional dancers to enroll on a part-time basis, is a model that should be followed worldwide.
Ideally, academic education should include the history of art and ballet and a challenging music program. Alumni of the NBS consistently report that such studies not only made them more marketable and enhanced their personal appreciation of their art, but shaped their overall life values, as well. Becoming computer literate is another important advantage, as is acquiring skills that will ease the transition to whatever career might follow performing. Even though students may resist discussing their transition from performing, this topic must be acknowledged and discussed regularly.
We all agree that we want to produce excellent dancers who will be as inspired by the challenges of interpreting a new work as they are by adding their personal stamp of artistry and integrity to the great classics. Let us be equally determined that success must also be measured by the strategies that dancers use to handle the demands and expectations during their training and in their careers.
It is a privilege to work with gifted, committed dance students who have the potential to improve the quality of life of society as a whole. With this privilege comes the responsibility of ensuring students an appropriate academic and dance education. It is shortsighted short·sight·ed
1. Nearsighted; myopic.
2. Lacking foresight.
shortsight to focus only on achievements onstage at the expense of obtaining critical life skills. Let us educators strive to guarantee that dance students and dancers are as fit intellectually and emotionally as they are physically. The art of dance deserves nothing less.