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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Movement of Eyes and Head


hart

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As I have been working on my supporting leg over the last couple months, I have spent a lot of time on one leg. I have practiced moving my arms, moving my working leg, doing plies and releves on my supporting leg, practicing tranferring weight, etc. I have seen improvement. However, yesterday I tried moving my eyes and head while standing on one leg, and I just kept falling over. I never realized just how much I rely on the mirror to keep my balance. No wonder I struggle spotting on the diagonal. For all practical purposes, I have had a visual death grip on the mirror much like I catch myself doing with the barre.

 

I am realizing that to truly dance, I have to have another way of "knowing" the movement, kinesthetically rather than visually. It feels almost like an entirely different way of knowing and learning from what I have been relying on. I am sure it has a lot to do with my inner ear getting a little thrown off, and not knowing exactly where my body is in space with out a visual reference. Anyway, after my little practice session moving my head and eyes, I practiced "letting go" of the mirror in class yesterday, and I actually did alright. My teacher noticed a difference in the quality of my movement, and it just felt really good. I felt like a could move with more fluidity and smoothness. Granted, we didn't do much adagio on one leg, so it made it easier. I wish teachers focused more on the direction of a person's gaze; it makes a huge difference to every aspect of learning movement.

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I do agree with you. It took me ages to realise how important this was. Following your hand with your gaze often helps fluidity in adagio, but I'm not sure what it does to your balance. Good luck in progressing with this!

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Yes, everything (esp. turning) gets much easier when the neck is relaxed. It's hard to remember sometimes though, because we're concentrating on tightening this muscle or that muscle, and we sometimes tense up all over.

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If it makes you feel better, it's not just the mirror that's helping you balance. It's always easier to hold a balance when your eyes are focused on one thing, even if it's just a spot on the wall or floor - if your eyes move, your body is going to want to follow!

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Usually, though, when trying to actually hold a balance, one can maintain a focus in one place. When you are moving, and the arms are moving and positions changing, then the head AND the eyes must also move! In adagio, unsupported by a partner, there is movement in various positions, but, you are generally on flat, so that should not a problem! Also, even if you are holding one position, either stationery or moving, if the arms change then the head and eyes change.

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Deanlaur,

 

That is so true. I think this is why my neck is so rigid when I do try to turn on the diagonal after doing a relatively static tendue or adage. I see the importance of training eye movement from the very beginning of barre.

 

This sounds kind of strange, but yesterday I imagined using both my eyes and the position of my ears to find my balance and it seemed to give me a better sense of where I was at in space. It also seems that you have to dance more wholistically when not looking in the mirror, feeling your whole body move. I have to admit it is kind of scary; it is like walking in a dark room or cave. It takes some faith. Ironically, when I let go of my fear of falling or doing it imperfectly, I didn't fall and my movment, in a way, was more correct because, although my technique wasn't perfect, I got the essence of the movement. I took a couple of NIA classes just for fun once; it is all about using metaphor to create improvisational movement, often initiated by eye movement- like imagining reaching for something, then reaching for it. Several people in the classes notices how graceful and fluid my movements were. I thought to myself, "I sure don't dance ballet that way."

 

Anyway, I know that ballet isn't about emoting, but it is about expression. I guess I am learning about a new way of approaching technique that moves one closer to the intangible essence of ballet, even if I can't exactly communicate what that is. I will continue to use my systematic, analytical brain to work on isolating and improving technical flaws, but I now see the importance of balancing that with a more wholistic understanding of ballet. The whole really is greater than the sum of the parts.

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I've just recently started some simple 'look-mom-no-eyes!' balance exercises. Essentially I stand on one foot (flat) or two feet (eleve), find my balance, then close my eyes and see what happens. I have progressed from falling over right away to falling over after a few seconds. :yes: My hope is that this will help sharpen my inner-ear balance system and lead to overall improved balance. I have no idea if this will ever pan out, but it is fun! Eventually I'll try to move with eyes closed (stand in first, close eyes, try to rise to demi-pointe, etc.). If nothing else I appreciate my (middling) balance a lot more when I get to open my eyes again.

 

jayo

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