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pinocchio at the barre


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Hi, i´m wondering how do dancers do to look so graceful when they


They have such a fine technique and soft movement.

When i dance i feel like pinocchio my hand looks like a fist

our teacher dosen´t show us how to hold our hand.

I just feel so stiff when i´m dancing.

What do i have to do to look more graceful and soft :unsure:

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Dobby, that is an interesting analogy! I'm sure that a lot of people who begin ballet later in life might feel that way. It takes a long time to reach a point of technique where you can feel freedom within that technique. It also takes excellent training and enough classes per week to allow the progress needed to develop all the strength, flexibility, rotation, and control to achieve the desired result. :unsure: If you are only dancing for a short time, and only one or two classes a week, plus perhaps a teacher not totally capable of giving you the kind of work that will help you achieve better technique as well as freedom of motion, then that could be a big part of the problem.

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It's hard to tell somebody how to be graceful, you learn that part best by watching so try to study your teacher or students you think dance nicely. Get to the theatre if you can or even watch ballets on TV - you might not feel it makes a difference but bit by bit you should start to pick it up. :unsure:

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I think that being graceful is the thin line between holding your muscles and relaxing them at the same time. If you hold them to firm you look stiff and not graceful and if you don't hold them you slouch...


I like the idea of watching pros (either videos or in the opera). I learnt a lot about positions of the arms just by watching them. You'll see how they move them in a certain way and you can try it yourself until you go it.

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I have recently found out that if you move like you mean it - without hesitation - it really helps. Also, when considering the port de bras, just go for it. I don't mean move your arms like traffic control, but move your arms the way you visualize you've seen a professional do it. You might get correction, but at least you'll be on your way to looking like a professional. I use to be hesitant to move because I felt I couldn't look like a professional (and I still don't) and I thought I would looks silly, but at least I'm now moving and not static. And, I recently got a compliment from a fellow student - she said I "really have the arms and head movement down", :innocent: could have knocked me over with a feather (or a really big stick).

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The analogy I like involves learning to play the piano. What does it take to go from raw beginner to accomplished performer at any level? Most people understand it takes a lot of time and practice, good instruction, and discipline. No one expects to start learning and be performing a couple of years later. So too with dance.


In comparing yourself to others in a class, one always needs to understand that others in the class are unlike you in terms of not just talent but also in terms of important things like experience. Last night I peeked into a beginner ballet class and saw a guy I remembered as a teen in the school’s pre-professional program a year or two ago. Why he was there I have no idea. The point is that it is dangerous to assume that everyone in class is exactly like you.

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I recall when I was 13 spending an entire summer on my own simply working on moving the arms, the body and coordinating with the legs. My teacher noticed an immense difference upon my return in September.


It was before the age of videos, but definitely the age of TV, so I watched as much as was available on the regular television, remembered what my teachers did, how they looked and tried to do as much as I could remember. After returning from the summer break, my teacher refined and corrected anything she thought needed refining and correcting.


I still am being refined and corrected some 30 years later (now it's "elbow up and over more, Serendipity")....it never ends. :lol:


I suggest you practice, practice, practice. Start small, perhaps working on keeping the elbow in proper alignment, then the hands. My current teacher, during one summer intensive, had all students use a penny or dime to hold between the thumb and middle finger, during exercises (working leg hand held the penny, btw). It helped keep the hands from looking like claws.


For elbow, depending on your arm size, perhaps holding a large-ish beach ball in the working leg's arm might help form the arm better. Not sure if this one will work - it's just an off-the-cuff suggestion to teach the muscles the right place to be. In the end, your own muscles WILL have to learn to keep the right position themselves, though.

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Often, ungraceful movement can be analyzed as unnecessary movement. Or moving one part of your body when you move another, like raising a shoulder every time you raise an arm.


Ballet training that aims for the simplest, most efficient version of each movement can do wonders.

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I often use the analogy of how it feels to move your arms through water - there is a little resistance from the water, so you have to use your muscles but not enough to make them stiff. Next time you're at the pool or in the bath (!) wave your arms through the water from third to third and try and see what I mean. Arms need to flow, but also to go through the basic positions to reach the next "picture". They don't just move aimlessly through space in ballet - there are formalised positions which need to be used. Practise placing your arms in the basic positions and moving from one to the other looking in a mirror to check that the arms are soft but "held". As far as the actual hand is concerned, when the French courtiers of Louis XIVth danced their second finger and thumb actually touched. Make that position and see what happens to the other fingers automatically. Now without really changing that shape move the finger and thumb apart and there you have your ballet hand!

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Hi Dobby,


I'm glad you are thinking about hands, because they are so visible during dance that even if everything else you do is beautiful, they can be very distracting. I find that the way I use my breath is a big element in moving gracefully. As an experiment, do some plies and make a point to exhale as you move down and inhale on the way up--it helps make the movement flow more naturally. One of my teachers described movements at the barre as being circular, if that image helps. Also, as a beginner when you are focusing on getting the order of the exercise, you can end up with kind of disconnected elements that don't move into the next ones easily. I'm sure you find that even now, you are more graceful on the simpler exercises.


Keep breathing, and I think you will see improvement as you continue working!



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