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Ballet Talk for Dancers

body types and strenghts and weaknesses in dancing


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This is following on from a thread on teachers board that I clicked with.


The post was about how to get taller dancers to move fast, and someone put a post in about how for their taller dancers they'd start combinations out slower and then speed them up, which really rung a bell with me. Aprticularly for petite allegro


I'm a tall dancer (5'11") and with long limbs at that (there's another girl I dance with, she's the about the same height as me, but I'm a good half a foot longer when we put our arms in the air). I'm also hypermobile.


I can get faster work, but my extreme preference would be to learn slowly and then speed up as the other post stated, and I absolutely prefer adagio, and grande allegro, and struggle more with turns and petite allegro, so I seem to fit the body type ="type" of dancer stereotype pretty perfectly. And I find that I'd much rather learn things slowly even if it makes balances really long.


It made me thinking is there really a correlation between the "body type" and "dancer preference" and in particular is there different ways of teaching to the different body types?

e.g letting taller dancers do petite allegro slower to start with (or after to really strech out)


What is your experiences?

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I'm not sure about that correlation. I've definitely seen and heard about many who fit that type, but dancers are so different. I am much shorter than you, and besides turns (I turn like a top), I feel much the same. I am also hyperextended, but I never had the ideal body type- I made it on stage due to artistry and chutspah! As a child, my teachers always taught new steps slowly and then as you mastered them, made them faster. I do know, that regardless of length, what is needed to move through steps quickly, especially petit allegro and piroettes, is to keep one's weight forward and do not sit in your plie. Also, timing and coordination play a huge role, just like in more favored steps like fondu and developpe.

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I am a true believer that adult ballet is different from that done for the young crowd. By adult ballet I mean ballet for people over say age 25 where most people either began as an adult or had minimal training as a teen. I think the going from slow to fast is an excellent approach for we adults. I don’t think it relates so much to our body types as it does to the amount of training we had when we were younger, however.


I know of one teacher of adults who has a big following among adult students who uses an approach that I would say is rather nontraditional. Her barre is very traditional, no different than you would find in any other ballet class. Post barre is different. She will do two combinations, one sorta-kinda adagio like and the other sorta-kinda allegro like. She teaches the combinations in segments, which makes it easier to learn them and tends to use the steps those in the class can do. I should say also that the class is rather intact, with most people being steady attendees. I’ve dropped in that class a few times and found it quite enjoyable.

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I always thought that one's ability to do petite allegro had more to do with one's ratio of fast-switch to slow-twitch muscle fibers, but maybe that is just due to my track background. In track, it becomes readily apparent that some people just move faster than others and that while training can help, ultimately, it's all genetics. Consequently, the faster people end up as sprinters and the slower people don't. But speed isn't necessarily correlated with height, that I can tell. As a former sprinter, it always made sense to me that I would be relatively better at petite allegro, because I can move fast, even though I am tall (5'10). Nevertheless, I think learning steps slowly first and then speeding them up makes sense either way.

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"The post was about how to get taller dancers to move fast"


I think that there are two separate issues. One is to do with the ratio of fast twitch to slow twitch fibres that you are born with.


The other is that taller people tend to move more slowly, for simple mechanical reasons.


It takes a lot more force to get a long limb moving at a certain speed than for a short limb. When it does move, it does not look so noticeable, because the movement is smaller in relation to body size than for a smaller person. If you calculate the geometry, then other things being equal, the disadvantage goes up with the cube of the size (OK, I said something really definite there, and people will challenge that). So taller dancers cant make those fast snappy attention-getting movements, though they can fill space well.


So they just need to practice more. And maybe also realise that sometimes they ARE moving as fast - it just doesnt look it.




(written as a tall person full of slow-twitch fibres).

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