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Ballet Talk for Dancers


Jaana Heino

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My Mom wanted to take a flamenco course, and asked me to go with her, and so I did. After the course, which was 7 classes long, we decided to join regular beginner classes with people who have taken the classes since August. Our technique was quite ok for the class, but the problem was they were doing choreography (combinations) they had already done for some time and the teacher couldn't spend much time explaining it all again to us new-comers.


Surprisingly, I found it ridiculously easy to pick up this new stuff on the fly. It felts as if I had somehow acquired a skill of being able to parse a sequence of movements I see into pieces - steps, ways of stepping (heel, toe, flat, whatever), changes of weight, directions - and then to execute those pieces without panicking about the whole. I have noticed that it's much easier for me to remember combinations in ballet class these days than it used to be 2,5 years ago when I started, but I was surprised it transformed so easily to another, unfamiliar dance form.


It was an amazing feeling which I wanted to tell you about, and I also want to ask if anyone else has stories about noticing such "meta-skills" learned from ballet?

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Funny Jaana! Because I had a similar experienc 6 months ago. I was on a "free trial class" for flamenco. I was also surprised by how quickly I actually picked up those completely new movements and starting to think about style and not only steps.


:) But on the other hand, I know that I've always had it easy when it comes to picking up things without rememberign them. I have this strange skill of watch and imitate but nothing seems to leave any trace whatsoever in my brain :wub: . (If compared to alot of others in class that really struggle to work out whether it is the right or left leg that goes first, over or under and so forth)


However, I do think that I have become much more detailed in my observations since I picked up ballet.

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Funny thing, Susanne, I'm quite the opposite of you in what's natural to me. I constantly have difficulties with which arm, which leg, which way first, but usually, once I get it figured out I can remember it fairly well (and get constantly put to front row or the end of the barre and to go with those who have not done it before, and being embarrassed since remembering it doesn't mean I am actually exemplary in the execution :)).

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What we're talking about here is "kinesthesia", the ability to feel movement and incidentally "mimesis", the ability to pick it up and copy it. Building "kinesthetic memory", the ability to do both these things and then repeat them is a skill built over a long period of time, and Jaana, for 2.5 years, I'd say you were ahead of track for an adult student.

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Ha! :wub: and I am the opposite (as I said before :lol: )

Teachers usually look so pleased the first time they demonstrate a movement because I'm the only one who actually can catch up, but as soon as the teacher is gone and we have to do the exercise by our own I'm lost and all teachers get this funny look in their face when looking at me... :P


The memory is good, but short :)

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:wub: Oh, Mr. Johnson, it was a beginner class - for people having only half-a-year's experience - so the choreography I was able to pick up was not at all very advanced or complicated. But it was still better than I've ever before felt about such things, and it's nice to know I'm getting it - and nice to know it's not something trivial, too, so thanks for the kind words. :)


So, anyone else still have stories about how ballet (or something else) taught you not only about dancing but also about learning to dance?

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I actually had to quit Tae Kwon Doe because of this exact experience. I joined the gym (?) studio (?) dojo (?) and after two weeks had progressed 5 levels. And I thoght to myself, "This is way too easy! I have to go back to dancing!


Ironically a tae kwon doe class meets right after my ballet classes... I see them peeking through to the curtain during grand allegro and think, "Man, I could kick their butts...if I wanted... If my mission weren't so much more difficult than theirs is."


May I add that this, truly and honestly, isn't meant to talk down to any one studying martial arts seriously. I know it's a discipline as demanding as ballet. To be honest, again, this is just a story telling how years of dance can translate directly into a discipline as difficult and demanding as dance---whether it's the same ideal or not.


In terms of learning to dance it only made me more humble, in a weird way: I realized how the celluloid figures (Jackie Chan, Jet Li, etc. ) I've always admired as demi gods are only human. That kind of virtuosity is not open to everybody, but it's open to more people than you think.


Like say, Donnie Yen (a home town hero).

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Four meta-skills I have discovered since I started ballet classes:


I, too, have noticed the ability to understand an unfamiliar movement quicker, that others have mentioned on this board.


I can translate what I see into movement much quicker. I used to be able to understand a movement sequence in a familiar discipline fairly quickly, and then spend an eternity trying to make my body actually do it. I'm only very slightly better at this in ballet classes, but everywhere else it has become much easier. I guess this might be called coordination? :D


I have also learned to imitate people if the movement sequence is fairly short and simple. I'm primarily an intellectual learner like Jaana, and used to be completely unable to do a movement if I did not understand it - now I can, I do not need to understand a movement to imitate it. The funny thing is, I have no memory of the movement at all when I'm done, if I do a movement this way. I still completely lack the skill to understand and learn from what my body is doing. :thumbsup:


I look better when I dance any kind of dance. I guess this is called better quality of movement. When I dance I get compliments about how graceful I look and how much they like to watch me from complete strangers. This is weird, especially since I consider my quality of movement quite bad in ballet class. I seem to have little talent for it, and working hard seems to reward me with almost no progress. There is just too much wiggling and unclean "intermediate positions" going on. :wink:



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