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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Informal ballet performances in Nursing Homes


Christina

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I did a couple of dances for my Grandma who is in a nursing home in another state. The folks really seemed to appreciate it and complimented me. It was all rather spontaneous with most of it improvised.

I am contemplating contacting other nursing homes in this area to perhaps dance for the people to bring some happiness and light in there. I don't know if all nursing homes are like this, but the one I was in, many of the patients all just sit in a common area in front of the tv with the news and soap operas blaring throughout the day. I'm sure there are some activities going on but not too much that I saw.

Part of me really wants to go in & perform, and part of me is of course saying I'm not at the advanced professional level I used to be at and they will just be bored since I can't really do anything spectacular or am not even back (yet?) on pointe at this point.

I guess I am fishing for some encouragement. I often get blocked in doing things thinking that unless I am expert at performing, presenting or teaching something, I just can't do it good at all. I just don't want to add to any monotony that the patients are already experiencing. :jump:

My 5 yr old could also do some short dance, but not sure if unless it is your own grandchild, could they be charmed?

Has anyone else gone into these places to dance or thought of doing so?

Your thoughts appreciated!

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Oh yes yes yes yes!!

 

I dance for an amateur company, whose main aim is to do exactly the above.

 

We've been to old peoples homes, hospitals, disabled group meetings (they come out once a month), and libraries.

 

I don't know about folks in the USA, but the people in Greater London love it! :jump:

 

We've got about 15 people, and we divide the year into 2 seasons - the summer season and the winter season.

 

At the moment, our Summer season is a mixed bill - we do excerpts from classical ballets, like Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, etc (Actually we have a show tomorrow, we're doing things like the Sleeping beauty prologue Fairy pas de six, Giselle peasant pas de deux, etc).

 

The coming winter season we're doing Nutcracker. A short 30-min version with narration for young kids.

 

We do have a few very good dancers, I think I go under the intermediate level "group" within the group, if you see what I mean. There are some dances which will look good even if you're not en pointe. (Well things like the Fairy dances do need to be en pointe - I'm sure the teachers on the board will have more input on this)

 

Be careful what you choose to dance though, pieces of choreographers like Balanchine, Ashton, MacMillan (and I'm sure a lot more others) are still copyrighted. We have been dancing Petipa stuff so they're in the public domain. Major Mel have you got any suggestions on pieces that could be performed without infringing on copyright?

 

I don't even know where to start giving you info - I'm part of the management committee for the dance company and it is actually quite complicated putting 1 dance show up.

 

Give me a few hours I'll put more info on :D

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Hi Christina,

 

Personally, I think it is a terrific idea and you would bring something new and interesting to the residents' day. Don't worry about any lack of "professionalism" or mastery on your part; even if your assessment of your skills is accurate (and don't we all disparage--or despair of--our dance skills to some degree?) the people watching will likely not know the difference! They will appreciate your grace and movement, and I bet would love watching your daughter even more. One important thing, however, is that the floor submaterial is probably concrete so be careful about jumping, to avoid injury.

 

Liz

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I did a couple of dances for my Grandma who is in a nursing home in another state. The folks really seemed to appreciate it and complimented me. It was all rather spontaneous with most of it improvised.

 

Yes please do!! They'll enjoy it and most certainly you. To be honest when I'm performing I'm quite selfishly thinking "I'm so happy doing this" rather than "I'm so happy I'm doing this for the community". I mean, wearing a tutu and tiara and dancing? Even if you have 1 person and a dog there watching I'd put on a show for you. :jump:

 

Part of me really wants to go in & perform, and part of me is of course saying I'm not at the advanced professional level I used to be at and they will just be bored since I can't really do anything spectacular or am not even back (yet?) on pointe at this point.

 

As I said above, a lot of dances doesn't need to be en pointe. You don't need to have a 180 degree penchee. You don't need to be able to wrap your legs around your neck in order to give a quality performance. Performance quality is about present the dance and showing that you're enjoying yourself. If you are dancing a character, it also needs to be in character. Sometimes simple is best - I prefer a clean single pirouette anyday than a wobbly triple.

 

 

My 5 yr old could also do some short dance, but not sure if unless it is your own grandchild, could they be charmed?

Oh my god. 5 year old dancing? I'm imagining it in my head and already I scream "It's so cute!!!!" :D

 

 

Has anyone else gone into these places to dance or thought of doing so?

Your thoughts appreciated!

 

If you're considering doing a show, however big or small, at one of these venues, there are at least a couple of things to consider:

 

Venue:

If you are going to a nursing home, you'd most likely be doing it in their common room or a sizable room of some sort. Even so, the rooms might not be very big. It'd be fine with solos, but if you are considering getting together with some other people in your dance class (more on that later), space is something that you really need to think about.

 

Flooring:

With our experience, most of these places don't really have suitable flooring. We've danced in a few places on carpet, on vinyl tiles, on wood, on stone. You'll need to make sure you have suitable shoes. For me I have different pairs of flats for wooden and marley floors. For places that won't need rosin/resin, if you have rosin already stuck on your shoes, you'll squeak. But other places if you don't use rosin, you'll slip. (Yes there was this one very very slippery wooden floor that I danced on. On my grand entrance as Clara I stepped out on a confident sous-sus. Next thing I know my back leg went under me and smack bang my bum kisses the floor.... :wacko: I got up and danced none-the-less, all the while thinking "My bum hurts!!!" )

 

Music:

First off you'll need to get music (assuming you've chosen the piece to dance!). To play that music you'll have to (well at least in the UK, I don't know about the US) get a license in order not to infringe on copyright for the music. Then you'll need someone to press "play" for you. Some venues won't have music facilities in the room you're dancing in, so you'll most probably need a portable CD player (what I call a ghetto blaster... is that the name used globally?)

 

Programme:

While you're at it putting on a show you might as well put a programme on which is a big longer. They'd get all excited about someone coming to dance for them and then 2 mins later it's over. (Trust me it feels that way dancing too!) That's why I say drum up some interest in your dance class and make a programme - have some solos, some group dances, etc. Ask your teacher - they might be able to help / get involved.

 

Costume:

eBay do some quite nice costumes, which I find is cheapest around. (this is the bit I like most!)

 

Makeup:

Don't think that because you're dancing close to them you don't need makeup. Because you're performing to a group of people, you'll still need makeup, or else people at the back won't be able to tell your eyes from your nose. You'll want them to see your dazzling smile!

 

Health and safety:

In some places we performed in the people have actually asked us if the kids can sit around the performing area. Nooooo!! I don't fancy someone staring at my bum all the while I'm dancing.

You also don't want them to sit too close to you or else you'd be kicking them in the face. Make sure you have sufficient space.

 

Visit the venue beforehand:

Bring a measuring tape if you can. This way you know exactly how much space you have. I know in class teachers always say "MOVE!!! MAKE YOUR JUMPS BIG!!" Doesn't quite work when you have a series of 3 grand jetes down the diagonal in your dance, but the space only allows 1 on your biggest leap. Unfortunately performing in these places means making your steps smaller a lot of times. The trick is to make it "look" big while not "doing" the steps so big. :D

 

Can't think of anymore at the moment. I'm sure the mods would have more input!! :)

 

All the best!

 

Fish

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I agree with the above posts. Our studio does a summer tour every year and nursing homes are a big part of the tour. I think the older folks appreciated the performances more than the day campers. I agree that it doesn't matter how well you dance. What does matter is making it worth their while to come to the common room to watch, so the show should be at least 20-30 minutes if you can do that. These folks absolutely adore the little dancers. Carpet and tile floor are the usual surfaces so pointe is never done, just wear ballet shoes. Any music seems to be fine, but tunes that are familiar to them would be real crowd pleasers. (Patriotic, Swan Lake, Nutcracker, famous composers) I would recommend after the performance to meet and greet them when they are still sitting in their chairs. They love to compliment you on your performance and ask questions. If you want to teach them something, can you put together a program to show different forms of dance or act out a story? Maybe show mime gestures and explain what they mean in ballet. I know that this sounds like a lot of work and you may need to bring in some dancers to make this work, but you won't be disappointed with the results. They are a great audience and most appreciative,. (even the men).

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"even the men"... why not especially the men, since they'll have been seeing the nicest legs that they'll have seen in ages.

 

Jim.

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Well, okay. Who knows what really goes through the minds of older men...maybe you can enlighten us, Jim?

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Hm.. talking about men!!

 

We have a very big shortage of men in our company. One time, the only guy we had was away so we had an all girl cast. One of the old ladies in the audience afterwards said,

 

"All the guys here get to see you girls dance, but what about us? Where's the guy dancers????"

 

:jump:

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"Who knows what really goes through the minds of older men...maybe you can enlighten us, Jim?"

 

Actually, there was a serious side to my posting. Which is of course that people are still "complete people" and do not get neutered with age. This sounds a bit high-horsish I know, but I couldnt help saying it.

 

Jim.

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This all sounds like a wonderful idea; I will be pondering to see how it might work out where we are. Thanks everyone!

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Just wanted to add my 2 cents here...

 

When I was 15 I moved to a boarding school and was unable to continue regular classes. Since I did not want to give up dance I looked for ways to do something and this is one thing I did. A small local company even let me borrow some costumes that were nicer than what I had and I was able to do performances at several local nursing homes. I always had a good turnout of residents and many seemed to really enjoy it. I made sure I had time to talk to them afterwards as some liked to share stories of their grandchildren who they had not been able to see dance in person and other such things. I generally kept my program short and did a few smaller solos. They especially liked the ones with 'flair' and more fun costumes. It was great fun and I loved doing this. I hope you get to to continue this as well!!

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WOW! Thanks for all the wonderful advice and encouragement!! :D

I'll do my first program tomorrow!

For variety I'll start out with Indian Classical Dance performance and than ballet and after will stay a little to talk with the people.

I'm hoping to do at least one a week at different places this summer, we'll see how it goes tomorrow!

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I'm so glad everyone is posting about this. I went to a performance of a friend of mine recently. She's a grad student in music performance and pedagogy and she had a violin concert at a nursing home and the people there just loved it and raved about how nice it was to have something unusual (other than bingo, television, getting their nails done) to sit and watch/listen to. When they found out I was a dancer, the ones who could come out to see performances all wanted to know if I had any performances coming up locally. I did and I told them, and they came and loved it, but I found myself feeling for the ones who might have wanted to come but couldn't -- either because of finances, or health reasons. Their space is carpeted (on top of concrete, so not much jumping to be done!), but large, and I found myself thinking I might know people willing to perform there with me. I'm finding people's posts encouraging!

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Here in Portland we have a phenomenon called "Ten Tiny Dances" where 10 choreographers each create a dance on a stage that is only 16 sq. ft. I thought something similar to this may be an idea to try in small spaces. It's also a good size for your own portable flooring.

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WOW what a magnificent idea, you are truly an inspiration even for thinking of it. If i were in your area, i'd put my hand up and join you.

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