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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Why do you dance?


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Giannina posted this on Discovering Ballet and I was afraid you all might not see it. (You've GOT to get out more :) )


In the latest issue of Ballet Alert! Victoria Leigh wrote an article titled "Facility" which dealt with the progress of dancers in class. She reminds us that some dancers may have talent but will never progress to a professional company. Ms. Leigh says that these students should not necessarily quit dance lessons but could continue as a hobby or a recreational activity.


I would like to hear from students, probably adults, who take dance lessons for the above reasons. I would like to know what they derive from the lessons. Do they see themselves improve or do they stay at the same level? Is it a "downer" to see the young students in the class move to a more advanced level? Do they get tired of the classes? Do they get bored? Does it exhilarate them? It takes so much work; why do they do it? Everything!


I know it increases their appreciation of ballet in general, and brings more insight to the performances they attend.


I think a lot of non-students (moms, balletgoers, me) would like to hear your thoughts on this, so I'm soliciting your answers.


If you want to talk among yourselves, of course, that's fine, too, but we'd all like to read you and take part in the discussion, so please go to

Ms. Leigh's article

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If I try to follow *all* forums here I won't even have time to get out to balletclass! :hyper::huh::thumbsup:


Just too much good stuff here! :)


(Have you guessed yet that I just *adore* the wubbing smiley? :mondieu: )

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To quote (to the best of my ability) from The Red Shoes[/color=red],


Lermontov: Why do you want to dance?


Victoria: Why do you want to live?


Lermontov: I don't know exactly why; I just know I must.


Like that. Until my last injury. :D

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So many reasons, not enough time! :)


For the most part, when people ask me why I take ballet class, my usual answer is: "because I can". Very few people know I have a minor form of MS and I started taking ballet classes (after a 15+ year hiatus) to recapture my posture, balance and flexability. I also re-learned how responsive the human body can be and found I could train my nervous system to remember and to learn different types of movement. One aspect of my "problem" (I refuse to label MS as a disease, for me it is an inconvenience) is that I have little to no feeling in my feet! This has good and bad ramifications. The bad is that it causes a large part of the balance problem (try standing on a fairly flat pillow in your bare feet and you'll get an idea of what it feels like to have no feeling in your feet), the good is I have little pain in pointe shoes! :D I guess the worse part of all of this is the sense of living on borrowed time, but then no one really knows what the future will bring. Therefore, when I say "because I can", I am not being a "smart-mouth", I am simply stating the truth.


Also, for whatever reason, I have always been the type of person that can't stand still when the music plays. So, I figured if I was going to move with the music, might as well do it as well as I could. And, I don't know about the rest of you, but no matter how stressed I am at the end of the day, after a ballet class, I always feel much better. I can't worry about anything during class except what we're being taught at that particular time. I also like a challenge, and what better challenge is there than ballet?


But, yes, it can be frustrating to see the younger folks move on, however, it can also be a gratifying experience if we "older" folks can assist with their improvement, perhaps not in the technical aspect of ballet, but in their improvement as the beautiful individuals they can be, i.e., if we help keep them grounded and non-judgmental as they move on in life. Or, it can help if we just live vicarously through them! :bouncing:

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Dancepig, that's really amazing! Had you started taking ballet when you got your diagnosis, or were you already "on your way" when it happened?


Very encouraging! Your post fits in that thread on "Adult Students"-board about inspiring dancers!


Hope you will have lot's of happy dancing years ahead! :innocent:

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I had stopped dancing in 1984, and started getting my MS symptoms in 1996. But I was rear-ended in a multi-car accident in 1998 which prompted me to go to a physical therapist. In October, 1998, I could not even raise my arms above my head and was in very poor physical condition (over weight, lack of muscle tone, etc.) I came to the realization that I wasn't going to improve myself unless I took matters in hand and started exercising - swimming. Built that up to two miles a day (that's a lot of laps) and wanted to do more to enhance my flexability and balance so went back to ballet (what better exercise is there?). So, in September, 1999, I started back in a beginning/intermediate (more beginner than intermediate) ballet class, and have progressed since then to three or four classes a week and started pointe last winter! Fortunately for me, our youngest child had just graduated high school when I decided to go back to having a life! Not having young children around made all of this much easier. But, as I said, no one in my class knows anything about my health, just some days if I'm coming down with a virus or if I haven't had enough sleep my legs don't behave as well as they should and I've been given some really strange looks! But I just laugh it off and we all move on. The amazing thing is that I read in a health magazine just last month about various therapeutic options for different problems (mental as well as physical) and there is one form of therapy that is very expensive which basically teaches you to have good "correct" posture and teaches you how to re-learn your instinctive balance, etc. Gee, imagine paying someone a lot of money to learn that when you could be paying someone not nearly as much money and having the added fun of learning to dance at the same time! :innocent:

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Ahh, the ultimate question really. Why do I dance? Because if I didn't I would cry and be extremely miserable. I dance because I need to. I need to move. Ahh, but why not jazz or modern or tap or salsa. I have no idea, those forms of dance make me feel good enough.., but ballet, that just makes me feel so satisfied. Feeling every beat of music and fine tuning my body so that it is able to flow with the music..I just don't feel so 'in tune' with other forms of dance as I do with ballet.

What do I derive from lessons? Where to begin. I feel I learn so much each time. Not only about ballet, but about myself, my body. Everytime I do an exercise it is never the same, I mean who can possibly get bored? Even though I am unfortuante in that I only get to do one lesson per week (I was doing 4 :blushing: ..I make sure i get as much out of it as possible, and take something away with me at the end to learn/practice over the next week. Of course, that takes self discipline as I could quite easily walk away from the lesson and forget everything, or not bother to go back, but I don't.

Do I see myself inprove? Yes for sure, but it takes months and months of not seeing very much, before you do start to notice it. If you can work through those hard months, then you will be stronger at the end and see yourself advance much more. But I think with recreational ballet classes, you only get as much out of it as you are willing to put in.

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Dancepig: What level were you in before you quit ballet in -84?


I really sounds amazing what you have achieved! :blushing:

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I was never destined for anything great in ballet, had the "wrong" body proportions, but in 1984, I had just finished my second year of college level ballet, not on pointe, only soft shoes, but very intense Cecchetti method. The instructor (who is still there) was the most fabulous dance instructor I have ever had the opportunity to take class with. She was amazing. But I had to move to the Sierra Nevadas, and unfortunately could not find any classes within an hour in the area we moved to. Before the two years in college, I had taken ballet classes off and on, as young people do, but had a lot of modern dance during high school. Now that my kids have grown and moved, I have become a complete "dance pig". I take classes whenever and wherever I can. :green:

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There are several reasons why I persist in taking class, even though I have no hope for excellence as a dancer. One is that music affects me powerfully and physically. Dance is a natural form of music appreciation. Another is that it is difficult. Generally, if a subject interests me, I can sit down with a few books and pick up the jist of it. That doesn't work with dance; ballet requires a different way of thinking and learning than I am used to. It's a challenge. A third reason is that there is considerable pleasure in accomplishing things that in principle should be impossible for me. Something happened to my left foot when I was young, either polio or medical error, and I wore a brace throughout childhood. However, even though I haven't walked normally since I was four, I can do nearly everything the teacher asks, albeit not always elegantly. I'm a bit proud of achieving more with my defective legs than most people do with their normal pair. Finally, there is the beauty and complexity of ballet itself (which I don't think I need to explain to anyone here), and the opportunity to actually be art, as was mentioned in another thread. What I don't understand is how anyone can stand to just watch ballet.


If I perceived no progress in my work over time, I would get discouraged, but so far I've steadily, if very slowly, improved. It doesn't bother me at all to see youngsters quickly eclipse my progress; rather, it's exhilarating to watch them develop.

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Guest piccolo

I started taking ballet class when I was 4. The longest I have ever not taken ballet since that time was a 4 month period right before I got married. I'm 32 now. I have never wanted to be or expected to be a professional dancer. (When I was young, I entertained the idea of being on Broadway but I never really pursued it.) My parents told me that quitting was bad and I only tried to quit ballet once, when I was 12 and mostly because a friend of mine was quitting. She made it sound cool. I told my parents I was quitting, too, and they said "no, you're not" and I said "ok" and have never thought about quitting again. At university I never considered not taking ballet classes. When I graduated and moved from town to town, the first thing I did after hooking up phone service was find a studio to take classes from. I've never not done it. I can't imagine stopping. I have good days and bad days -- but that's always been true. I started teaching ballet about 9 years ago and loved it. Still do. I'm constantly reading books about dance and technique and teaching skills, observing/taking master classes, buying videos, taking part in other teacher discussions, etc. I have a regular job but I can't stay away from both teaching (just a couple of classes a week) and taking classes (anywhere from 1-3x a week).


Not particularly inspiring, but true.

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Guest Laura M

I started ballet when I was 32 ... it just seemed a good form of exercise. I had no idea how much I would grow to love ballet. Six years later, I can't get enough!


I attended the ADC in Richmond in July and had a wonderful time - it was almost unbearable coming back to 'reality'. I continue to see improvements (I'm a slow learner and there's much progress to be made!). Ballet seems to be the only discipline where I actually embrace its challenge.


I have no expectations of professional dancing, of course, but I would like to study ballet and perhaps choreography in college, if that comes about. When I listen to classical music while driving my car, I see dancers in my mind's eye and would like to study choreography.


I find moving to music the most amazing art form. I go to as many ballet performances as I can!


There's just something about ballet that has grabbed hold of my whole being. It won't let go and I don't want it to.

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Laura, what part of California are you from? If you're from the Bay Area, DVC offers exceptional classes, and for the most reasonable rate I could ever imagine. It is very inspiring to hear about adults continuing with ballet, I think it's the only way to stay as young as we want to be. :unsure:

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Guest CavalierScott

It’s the opportunity to dance to the inspiring great classical music in the performance pieces that keeps me working diligently all year long in class. I’m really drawn toward doing more than just listening to an intensely emotional piece of music. The better dancer I become, the more I can consciously enter into this experience with the music. (I’m afraid my consciousness is sill pretty involved with “which foot or which step comes next?”, but it keeps getting better)


To dance well with a partner who shares my values and passion for the music is, I feel, as close to a joyously fulfilling relationship as two people can have, outside of a really good relationship in the much more complex and difficult “real world”.


I like the strong traditions of ballet that separate it from the world outside. I can’t think of any other activity that allows for intimately and intensely sharing beautiful experiences with another person in such a relatively straightforward simple environment. Giving and receiving trust, appreciation and care seems central to a good partnering relationship. Learning such principals of good dancing and partnering, as well as the experience of dancing interesting roles onstage, are giving me a clearer understanding of life and relationships outside of the dance studio and the stage.


I short, I dance ballet because I love it.


I wrote this poem after the last Nutcracker I was in (I was given TWO different partnering roles in the same production, Oh Boy!! :)




Two worlds apart

The “Real” and the “Romance”

One where I live,

One where I dance.


Love fulfilled with

Trust, Appreciation and Care.

We all seek it in our lives,

Both to receive and to share.


Simple in it’s beauty,

Profound in it’s force,

Pas de Deux: Steps of Love;

Two brought together on course.


Scott Roskam

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