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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Diagrams


Guest Bill Mulkern

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Guest Bill Mulkern

I was in Barnes & Noble this p.m., leafing through a book called "Social Dance." It had all these detailed diagrams for foot placement in dances like the waltz, polka, etc.

 

It seems to me that this might be a pretty handy way for those of us adult ballet students who find it difficult to remember combinations and traveling steps in center. Yet I've never seen the like in books about ballet - just photographs of dancers executing certain combinations and steps.

 

Do dance diagrams exist as learning aids in ballet? If so, where? If not, why not?

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I don't know whether those diagrams are used in ballet or not (I've never seen them in my beginner classes!), but I would hazard a guess that they might be more harmful than useful. Because ballet involves much more than feet and "unnatural" contortions like turnout, diagrams for just the feet without an awareness of what the rest of the body should be doing could lead to injuries. Yes, anyone who's done a couple of classes will know all about proper posture and alignment, and will know that there's more to a combination than feet, but then shouldn't they be looking up and in front of them instead of staring at the ground (or at a book)?

 

Also, you will only get the exercise into your muscle memory by doing it rather than by reading.

 

Anyhow, I'm of the opinion that a combination done with the wrong steps and full effort looks much better (in a class setting, at least) than one done half-heartedly due to too much concern over correct steps. ie someone starting to tendu, glancing around at everyone else and seeing that they're doing plies, so she cuts short the tendu and rushes into a plie, and gets the benefit of neither exercise.

 

-Michelle

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Guest felursus

You could always learn to read dance notation and have someone notate your classes! :) By that time, you'd be past needing it.

 

Cechetti (sp?) wrote down his classes, and if you have patience with it you can figure the exercises out. (I just LOVE the bits that go "to maintain your balance, perform a releve" and the adage that is termed "so long and arduous that it is performed to the right on Monday and to the left on Saturday". - I don't have the book handy, so I can't refer to exercises by name)

 

The Danish school has been notated in Benesh notation, and I know people who have done the same for some, if not all, of the Chechetti exercises.

 

Actually no method of notation is going to teach you basic technique any more than music notation teaches someone how to play his/her instrument. Notation will, however, show more than just what is being done with the feet.

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Only places I've ever seen footprint diagrams on the floor/ground are an old Arthur Murray dance studio, and basic military training. ;) Neither place was ever notorious for taking in people who knew what to do with their feet!

 

[ 04-21-2001: Message edited by: Mel Johnson ]

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Guest Bill Mulkern

Yesterday, I asked one of my instructors if she knew of any ballet books with footprint diagrams. She didn't know of any, either.

 

I was just looking for a way to assist with the "muscle memory" problem.

 

How do people take notes in ballet class? I've tried taking large notecards into the studio, but merely writing down the names and sequences of steps isn't adequate. There must be a better way. Short of learning Cechetti's or Vaganova's own system of notation (although I'd like to do that at some point, since I'm curious about choreography), what do y'all do in this regard?

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I can't speak for Vaganova, but Cecchetti took down his classes in longhand! :eek:

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You could try videotaping the combination. (But the teacher would probably chase you out.)

 

When I want to remember a sequence, I'll divide the page into eight counts and write down the names of the steps and sometimes also notes on the position of the head and movements of the arm, with stick figure diagrams as necessary. A very time consuming method, and by no means comprehensive (or indeed comprehensible several days later). :)

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Benesh notation was specifically developed for transcribing ballet, where Labanotation was primarily the province of modern. The problem in the US with Benesh is that there is almost no literacy here at all in it. The RAD is making a real press to make it better-known, as it is doing world-wide, but that's going to take time! There are sorts of Benesh "shorthand" that choreologists use like a sketch when taking down material quickly, but you have to be literate in the form before the shorthand makes much sense! :)

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Guest Ballerino
Originally posted by Mel Johnson:

I can't speak for Vaganova, but Cecchetti took down his classes in longhand!   :eek:

 

I record nearly all the center combinations from my classes in longhand, as shortly after class as possible, in a little red notebook. I have some abbreviations, but it is easier for me to write positions out than to draw stick figures...I can be more descriptive.

I use as much or as little description as I need to remember the combination, and often go into the gym aerobics room when unused, and give myself a short barre and run through some of the combinations. Also I run through them in my mind before bed many nights. It has helped more than I thought it would.

 

-Perseus

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