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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Artistic Expression


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The other day DS was informally conferencing with his ballet instructor and he shared with him that his technique was good, now he needed to work on arm and head placement. Does that fall under artistic development? Do boys physiologically and mentally peak at different rates than girls?

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Head and arms? That comes under technical development. How you GET to those places in relation to the character you dance, the ballet master's instructions, the flow of the music, now THAT'S artistic expression. And boys and girls tend to catch on to the artistic side of things at the same time, all other things being equal.

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That seems like such a fine line. I am still trying to understand. When it comes to boys and how they are to hold their arms and hands, is this considered technical development or artistic expression? Or, is the way a girl holds her arms and hands considered artistic expression since boys are not supposed to be "flowery"? Understand what I am asking? :ermm:

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Yes Gremlin. These are the details I think they are eluding to.On one hand they are technical in nature, and need to be put to muscle memory, but I think the connection to the music and the prescribed emotion for a step, combination or variation is the hurdle he now faces. Sometimes he is working so hard to get the technique he forgets that he "enjoys" this! Thats why I asked if this happened later for boys, do the wires take longer to connect.

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And boys and girls tend to catch on to the artistic side of things at the same time, all other things being equal.


Anyone out there play the piano, draw or paint, sing maybe?


There comes a place where the technical development is such that you begin 'experimenting'. That is the beginning of 'Artistic Expression'.


As Mel said, all other things being equal, that development should happen at about the same time. If you or he is unclear as to whether the instructor meant artistic expression or technique, either you or prefererably he, should simply ask for clarification.


Say something like: "Do you have a moment to talk right now, or can we schedule a short appointment? I just have a quick question about our helpful disscussion the other day. When you said I needed to work on my arm and head placement, is that more of a technique problem or one of artistry? I'd really like to improve, and I want to make sure I know what I need to work on".

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:shrug: From my years of observing ballet, it seems as if boys and girls develop artistic expression at the same time. IMO, however, I would say that with all technical skills being equal, some students display a better, more refined sense of musicality and artistry than their peers. This is very evident during performances - there are those who shine on stage, who understand the emotion behind the music and choreography, who are connected to themselves, other dancers on stage, the music and the audience. I would also add that much of this comes with maturity, as well as the achievement of a certain level of training. At 16, my DS is now looking more comfortable on stage, able to connect emotionally with the music and also with his partner during pas de deux. They look more like a couple now, less like two nervous deer caught in the headlights!


Cosprballet - how old is your son? Maybe once the head/arm placement is better understood and commited to memory, he will be able to let go and truly "dance" the steps.


Gremlin - I know what you mean about "flowery" hands/arms on boys. I think what boys are seeking is a strong, clean, elegant line, free of mannerisms usually associated with girls, but I may be way out in left field here! :)

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No, that sounds about right, dancemomCA!!! :shrug:

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I know what you mean about "flowery" hands/arms on boys. I think what boys are seeking is a strong, clean, elegant line, free of mannerisms usually associated with girls


Actually, in my experience this is what training seeks to develop in boys and girls alike. While the "flowery" mannerisms may be socially acceptable for girls, they're generally known as "affectations" and do not make for good art or good training. They seem to creep in as our body's response to attempting difficult levels of control.


Think about painting. Technical development is learning about vanishing points, perspective, brush technique, different kinds of paint, etc. Artistic expression is painting a picture that's interesting to look at, that expresses something.


Dance is the same way, a technical art. Choreography is just the steps, the blueprints. I've been through dancemaking processes where it's clear that almost any choreography could be used for a scene. What's more important is what it expresses --- and that is something the dancer infuses into the process. Are you trying to entertain, flirt, fight or make love? Are you paying attention to the audience or other characters on stage? What are your character's feelings toward his/her environment and the other characters? Are you a human, plant, animal or other? What is the motivation behind your actions?


Artistic expression as a dancer is learning how to express all these things (and more) through movement alone (as opposed to speaking, writing, etc.)

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I agree davidg and I think the expression through movement alone is the key and the most difficult to perfect. Example - DS called last night, says he has to work on his "acting" during the time (which he says is loonnnnggg) he is running around on stage looking for Giselle...says it is very difficult to mime/act in the absence of very many dance steps. It is this challenge to stretch one's artistic expression that allows the dancer to grow and mature as a dancer. :)

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Excellent post davidq!


Those 'affectations' are usually seen on younger students who are 'trying on' movements, as opposed to the internal motivation of the more mature artist.

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