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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Articles: Ballet Dancers or Swimmers

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Let's discuss the issue as if both activities are of an elite status. And focus more on the question of "fit" raised in the article. We're venturing down the path once again of "ballet is everything and everything else is nothing" which doesn't serve this discussion very well. Fit is but a small portion of either venture. As well, the Butterfly is a very difficult stroke to master correctly. Just as there's a tendu and then there's a Tendu! Let's not compare recreational swimming to professional dance. Let's compare elite swimmers to professional dance or recreational swimmers to recreational dancers. That's the only way the comparisions will be valid.

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Sam7, I think you took my quote out of context. Please see the next sentence, I quote myself below:


Learning the butterfly is not so different from learning some crazy new move that some choreographer wanted you to do last season. We can "fake" just about any movement pretty quickly. But understanding the subtleties involved --- and doing it WELL --- is just as hard as understanding the subtleties in plie.


I'm not talking about swimming, about which I know little. I'm talking about dance. I'm trying to explain what is unique and different about dance, vis a vis most other athletic activities. Of course athletes of all sorts engage in rigorous training. Dance training at the barre involves a lot of drills too.


But dance training in the center involves far more complex combination of movements. At the barre you drill A through Z, like words. Some words are longer and more complex than others, but they're all words that you practice over and over again. In the center you put together those words to form sentences on the spot. And then you take them apart and put them together in a different manner to form a different sentence. You DON'T drill long combinations (enchainements) --- you only get a little bit of time to work on one before you have to do something completely different. The enchainements are the key part of ballet training that is not described above in reference to swimming.


I was comparing breast stroke to tendu in that they are both movements that you get thousands or millions of repetitions to improve over time (we once estimated that the typical advanced ballet student has done tendu a million times). In retrospect, it seems that breast stroke is a more complex movement than tendu, although tendu is not just an ankle strengthening exercise. Maybe fouette turns would have been a better comparison --- a more complex move that one drills to perfect over time. But very few people would want to watch ballet "show" that consists of 20 people on stage doing fouette turns for minutes at a time.


Let's compare elite swimmers to (elite) professional dance


I believe the difference one will see here is that elite dancers will be more varied in their physical makeup and attributes than elite athletes of a particular sport. That stems from the more complex movements, and more subjective evaluative criteria, that are involved in dance. Dance is mor multidimensional than just about anything else I know of.


You can take just about any attribute that's valued in ballet --- even turnout --- and find famous dancers who lacked it, but were so good at other things that directors sought to hire them anyway. Constrast that to other athletic activities. If you want to be a top-notch sprinter, you need to be born with a lot of fast-twitch muscles. If you want to play for the NBA, being tall is (almost) a must.

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Davidg--given that you've stated you "know little" about swimming, maybe it's time to re-insert those clarifiers to your posts again such as: "(I believe) dance is more multidimensional than just about anything else I know of." That's something you've been reminded of before. It is what changes your post from being one of authoritative statements to one engaging conversation and interaction about your perceptions and those of others. It is something we all need to be reminded of occassionally. And I include myself in that "all".


While I do believe dancers are "elite" athletes. I do not like to bestow that title to them for several reasons. An "elite" athlete is determined that from competitions that they have worked up through a system for. There is no one that disputes their status or stature in their individual sport, this whether a layman or a participant in the sport. However, since we are an art form and do not like to be called a sport, we should reserve the title of "professional" as saying it all. It encompasses every working dancer no matter which form of dance, no matter what size of company, no matter a competitive award or not. And it seperates a dancer from a recreational one. Professional dancers are elite artists. But the determination of and definition of the word related to both is apples to oranges again.


*just a note, I read your post the same way sam7 did.

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  • 3 weeks later...

DD did a science project in the 7th grade comparing the lung capacity of dancers and swimmers. They were 13 and 14 year olds dancing/practicing about the same amount each week. Swimmers won (had the greater lung capacity) and she came in third place........

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