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Heavily involved in modern...

je danse dans ma tete

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I have not been dancing for very long and have experimented with various dance forms- tap, jazz, flamenco, ballroom. Now however, I am becoming heavily involved in modern dance. This did not concern me at first since it was just a complement to ballet (I really want to become good at ballet but do not care about the other forms).


Recently I got invited to perform with a local modern dance co. by my modern teacher. I have never performed before and she says it will be a good experience for me and will show me that I am better than I think I am (increase my self esteem)... she also thinks it will benefit my ballet because one thing I lack that everyone else in my class has had is performing experience.


The modern performance has not happened yet, but I spend a ton of time rehearsing. The modern dancers in the company are all very serious about modern and although they all have lots of ballet bakground are openly 'anti-ballet'. Because I am rehearsing with pros I find that I am working very hard, even more than in ballet- I cannot make them look bad on stage, this is their career! Ballet however is just recreation and i do not think I will ever have a performing opportunity as a 20-something intermediate student.


There is already talk of three more performances in the near future and it is hoped that I will be in all of them. I am worried that I have not solidified my ballet technique enough for this to be a good idea... I am worried that especially with summer break (1 month) coming up in ballet, my body will start to take to the modern movements and my progress in ballet will go down the drain... I learn quickly and I know ballet affects my modern... I just don't want my modern to negatively impact my ballet! Does that seem overly cautious? Am I being silly? What are your thoughts?


Thanks, Lauranne

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The "war" between Modern and ballet is so fifty years ago! Martha declared it over in 1968, if I remember correctly. Modern won't hurt ballet technique, and don't let the local sticks-in-the-mud lead you astray or damage your self-esteem.

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I am of the general opinion that learning the opposite will only serve to strengthen your understanding of the main. Meaning, ballet and modern can and should be complimentary and not oppositional.


I am anti-anti-ballet people, though. That's just silly and, dare I say, sour grapes. I mean I don't love to dance modern, but I see it's value as an art.

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The university program from which I graduated had a fairly equivalent amount of ballet and modern. I love both, and I teach both, though ballet is my passion and comes a lot more easily to me on a physical level. Choreographically, I really enjoy setting modern pieces.


From a training standpoint, I think that people who do modern and take a very "anti-ballet" standpoint are doing themselves a big injustice. Certainly, I find that modern dancers perform differently in a ballet class. I think they have a very diversified understanding of both the use of space and the use of energy than those trained only in ballet. But one thing remains very constant through both dance forms, and that is the use of gravity and placement of the pelvis in relationship to the rest of the body. Modern dancers are very used to "giving in to gravity", that sort of swoosh feeling like going into a chase/slide into second position in a deep plie. Because ballet is very vertically-focused, it is harder for modern dancers to make the switch to remaining very much "up" than for ballet trained dancers to learn to work into the floor. Many modern techniques make much use of under and over curves though space when initiating movement. Again, because the body moves through space in an upright position in ballet, this can present challenges because of the defined structure of the movements. However, I know from my own experience that I have become a better ballet dancer because of my modern training. I recognize the way movements feel different just by the way I breathe. I also think I know my body better from knowing how to "throw it around" the room as in fall and recovery.


I think that it is a great achievement for you to be asked to perform with a professional comany :green: In your twenties, your cognitive resources are much greater for training in any dance form than when you were a teenager. You retain information so you are not going to "forget" your ballet skills. When you get back to regular classes, you may have a small amount of time to readjust, but it should certainly not feel like you are starting from the ground and working your way up. I bet you will find some things will make more "sense" after your experience just because what you are currently experiencing will influence your muscle memory.


Have fun and enjoy the opportunity you have been given! Ballet is always going to be out there(I take class with women in their late 50s), but a young agile body will not :lol:

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Absolutely do the show. :lol::green: Enjoy yourself and dance your heart out. Forget about others.

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In every expression of human creativity, there are pivotal moments when change sweeps away old prejudices. In my understanding of modern dance, the change was breaking through the perceived prohibitions of various forms of expression as was previously defined by “classical ballet”. These prejudices which had absolutely nothing to do with ballet, per se, were swept away by the freedom of expression in modern dance. And yet as we look back, we now see that the prohibitions of expression resulted from a fundamental misunderstanding of ballet as it was originally conceived: an exquisitely beautiful human art form. Ballet was carved out of centuries of learning ways to make the human’s movements as beautiful and grace filled as possible. It was so successful that it (unfortunately) became a “classic art form” and thus inherited rigidity. This is a built-in human fault. It is common to all art forms, science and every human discipline. The discipline invariably evolves to define itself and thus often loses its original reason for being. This creates conflicts and jealousies when advancements or changes or new expressions invariably come along.


Modern dance is not necessarily an “advancement” over classic ballet – it is merely a route to thousands of different manifestations of beautiful human expressions that lie outside the repertoire of classic ballet. Both have a vitally important place in the human treasury of performance arts. And both can fuse into awesomely emotional performances. And it is a certainty that one technique from ether expression can never displace, replace or interfere with the other – it can only enhance and complement.


As a college student I saw a performance of the Alvin Ailey Dance Company some months before I saw my first ballet. In my mind they were the same. Until I was educated in more detail I did not even appreciate that there was a difference at all! As an observer, they were striking, emotional, powerful and beautiful. As an observer, I was swept away by both. Thus, the wisdom of the original designs was vindicated in at least one observer with no knowledge of the history of both.


As a dancer, whether ballet or modern dance, my focus is on the expression, the beauty, the emotion and the involvement of my deepest heart. The technique of classic ballet is not there to bind me – it is there to teach me what so many centuries have preserved as the most beautiful of all human movements. And the free form of modern dance is not there to steal or compete with the beauty of classic ballet, but more to allow the dancer – any dancer - the freedom to break free and to express more and deeper.


I would advise anyone in this dilemma to focus on the expression which is fueled from the heart. The history of both classic ballet and modern dance is routed solely in the exquisite expressions of human emotion – not at all for the sake of building and maintaining another organized ideology. By all means, do not worry about the petty fears and jealousies which are typically rooted in other less beautiful emotions. Dancers must be driven solely to express with manifest magnificence in ways that mere words or traditions can never achieve. As dancers we arrive at the studio each day and make a choice. Do we spend our time and emotions focusing on the by-laws and debate of the art - or do we close our eyes, command that our heart lead us wherever it will - and dance?


As far as modern dance trashing your classic ballet instinct - I do not believe that is likely. Your body has been trained somatically to learn classic ballet. It is also now learing modern dance. "Somatic imprinting" is powerful - fusing concepts of body awareness and learned motions and typically is not unlearned even after decades of disuse. Besides, let's take the worse case and assume you would mix the two in a single performance. Heavens - it might just end up magnificent and scare the hell out of the purists on both sides. (I'd like to buy a ticket to that, please.)


Dance, my friend. Dance. All the rest is pretty much irrelevant.




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I must say that is a beautiful way to look at dance, Trysden. Thank you.


One thing I must add is that I did not get to see Baryshnikov perform live until last year, with Hell's Kitchen Dance Ensemble(made up of grads from SUNY and Julliard among others)- he was 62, and I was 37. In every sense, I feel that the man has a very physical understanding of the differences between modern dance and ballet. Although he is no longer demonstrating physical prowess with multiple pirouettes or astonishing allegro work, he commands the movement and makes them his own. So, too, there is a respect for the changes in the art form from both a choreograhic standpoint and in the use of media elements meshed within the dance performance.


I was very moved by the performance but also somewhat distraught when coming out and hearing some of the comments by other audience members. More than once I heard someone say that they wished there was some type of explanation of the theme each piece(the performance took place in the town that houses a major university, well known for it's performing arts departments). One person said they wished for something like "subtitles" as in foreign language opera performance. How sad it is to find that as a society people need to be spoonfed art with an overview of someone else's interpretation.


But as a dancer, I agree that you must put your whole self into your performance, be it ballet or modern. Noone needs to understand it but you(look at how dancers are judged by their rendition of Giselle or Odette/Odile). No matter your choice of movement expression, the audience will understand the "passion" even if not the "content".

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I'm another adult dancer who moves between ballet and modern. I think that in a ballet class I probably look like a good modern dancer, and in a contemporary class, I probably look like a ballet dancer! But I find for my body the two styles and techniques help each other. Quite a lot of Graham-based contemporary work (and even bits of Release technique) use turn out, and one of my contemporary teachers was actually tougher on us than my ballet teacher at one point, in getting the right turned out alignment & placement!


Maybe it depends on your body type -- I'm fairly compact even at almost 5' 7" and I have a strong back, so I love all the floor work and use of my centre in the work on contraction & release which is a feature of a lot of contemporary work. Also, in contemporary class, the emphasis on using the floor with your feet really helps my tendus in classical class. I learn a sense of groundedness which is actually quite important to understand in order to get the sense of off the ground in ballet (eg the press of the tendu to get the freedom of the throw of the grande battement!).


I find both styles a challenge, but really, it's all dance!! Do the performance and enjoy it.

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WOW! Thank you all SO MUCH for the wonderful insights you have taken the time to share with me - I had to print them out and stick them in my dance journal along with other inspirational tidbits :ermm: Perform I will, and by Jove I'll enjoy it! ...and maybe even learn something valuable from it, who knows? Ballet is still my love and a quickly growing passion so yes, it will definitely always be there... even if the day comes when I am no longer able to dance, I will be an enthusiastic aficionado :(

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