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Ballet Talk for Dancers

The 'Preferred' Student

Guest Lukayev

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Guest Lukayev

As someone who will be attending the Kirov/UBA SI this summer in hopes of being accepted into the year-round program, I was doing some reflective thinking and came up with a question (or two).


Let's call a potato, a potato and a school, a school. These institutions for learning (and I speak of the ballet ones, here) strive to have their students attain the pinnacle of success in their professional lives as dancers, through beating them into the ground and then watching them grow right back up again, more beautiful than they were before.


But when a student can already nail 32 fouettés with some doubles and triples thrown in, whack that leg up to a 180 degree extension (a most unfortunate ability IMHO), and leap higher than Baryshnikov in his better days, what else can the teachers do? Work on the student's artistic side, ok. But then what else? Barre is barre and it's designed to make one's quality of movement that much more flawless and placed. It is not meant to prepare one for the big drama/soaps like Giselle or whatnot.


So with a school like UBA, or say SAB, NCSA, and so on... at what level are they going to take students under their wing? The ones who have everything down already, to the point of dazzling their auditioners? Or those who have yet to reach that 'point' but look well enough on their way towards it? I believe I'm the latter of the two.. no, I KNOW I'm the latter. There is no way I'd become Principal Numero Uno of Les Ballets Dramatiques et Soapies right now. I've got a lot to work on. But isn't that what teachers at a school want? To have some part of their style, their method, their 'voice' impressed forever into a future dancer?


Just my thoughts.



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Let me try to get Hans' input on this one, as he's attended both UBA (formerly Kirov Academy) and SAB. In my experience, a lot depends on the teacher. Some have the "drill sergeant" approach: So, what does this show me? You think you can dance? (Now in your face, nose to nose, screaming) You can't. You're less than nothing! Gimme 50 pushups! (OK, I'm kidding about the pushups) The method to this madness is to break the dancer of old habits and build new ones, from the ground up. For some, this works. I don't like it for ballet. There are lots of other ways that are better.

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Lukayev, I think that this is a matter of the focus of the school and of each teacher in the school. While there may be some teachers who only focus on the technique, and the more, the higher, the faster, etc., I don't think this is the main focus of all of them. Personally, I would be much less impressed by a young "whiz bang technician" than I would a young potential artist.


Those who "have it all", ie, the 180º extension, fouettés with multiples thrown in, incredible jumps, etc. are often so focused on that, that they pay no attention to the music, the style, the placement, the roles, or anything beyond how many and how high. These are competition dancers. If the teachers focus on this, then this is what they will develop. However, this could also depend on the intelligence and innate artistry of the student. It sounds to me like you already have the understanding of what a dancer is all about, therefore I don't think that will change by being pushed to further develop your technical skills. ;)


Hopefully, in most schools you will find teachers who are working towards developing both technique and artistry. Taking the SI first will give you a good chance to know before committing yourself for the school year.


As to your last sentence, about the teachers of a school wanting their style, their method and their voice impressed forever into a future dancer, I hope not! Do we want to develop a dancer? Yes, of course. But the purpose should be to develop the very best dancer that THIS student can be, not to have her impressed with "one voice" or such a set style that she is limited in her choices of work. Method is one thing, style is another. Method is just what one uses as a process for training. Style is something that is added, and while a "sense of style" is very important, a "set" style can be very limiting. If one is training a dancer for one company only, that might be okay, but that is not reasonable in this country. There are not enough jobs in any one company to handle all the emerging dancers each year, and most will have to search for contracts with many different companies. I feel that our job is to train a dancer who has a solid, clean technique that is free of mannerism, has a knowledge of what ballet is about as well as technique, is musical, and is versatile enough to recognize that there is more than one way to do things and can still be easily molded by the company into the style of that company.

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Guest Lukayev

Whooh, what a relief. For a minute there I was thinking of not reading the thread b/c it might have replies like "Yes, we ADORE the whizbang prodigies. Silly child, what were you thinking? Developing a student's technique is SO overrated and SO five minutes ago. Why bother with that when you can get the whole package right now?" If it had, of course, I think I'd be weeping right now. :rolleyes:


But it's comforting to know that a dancer doesn't necessarily have to have the whole kit 'n' kaboodle during their teenaged years just to be accepted into a fine school. Haharr, that's one semi-feather in the hats of those who've yet to blind their teachers with picture-perfect brilliance.

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Guest Medora

I somewhat feared this too, Lukayev. I definetly am not a whizbang technician :rolleyes: , yet ;), and I still got into a good school!

But it seems to me that these days it's the whizbang techinicians that are becoming prinicpal dancers and not fine artists. Is it just me, or is this happening more and more? Why is this happening? I have to admit, watching these whizbangs do triple pirouettes on the stage and alternate single double fouette turns impresses me greatly. But at the same time, I much prefer the dancers who have good technique but concentrate more on the artistry. You forget about what steps they are doing and get wrapped up in their story and the music. You let them take you on a journey. It's these people who give you chills. With the whizbangs, all you can see is how fast and how many and be sick at the sour expressions on their faces. So why are these people the ones who become principles and get the good roles? To get into a company in the first place one has to have exceptional technique, so why not make the artist who you can't take your eyes off of principal?

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