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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Posessing a beautiful Line


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So last night in class, my teacher complimented a lady on her "beautiful line" in attitude to the back.

I could totally see what he meant. This lady has amazing turnout, is very thin so the lines looked clean and sparse, she had very good height and created nice negative areas with her body.

I am an artist so can recognize a beautiful line in anyone/ thing..... a greyhound running, a flower bent in the wind, a javelin thrower, a dancer....

But can one LEARN to improve their line?

I can tell that my line is sometimes nice but I don't have great turnout so my attitude is only ok and I believe that a beautiful attitude to the back is a lot about turnout...right?

Best lines of all time in my opinion, Gene Kelly! WOW! You can stop frame him at ANY point and he looks perfect; balance, poise, posture, grace....


So how can I improve my line. I take as many clases as I can, I try to stretch and stay long, hold my core and keep forward.

Can one ever look really good as a dancer without a naturally good line?

I have seen even less fit dancers who just posess a beautiful line..but of course when the body is more sparse, the lines are more visible....

Is it genetic? I am so envious of those with a naturally great line :(


I saw a picture of a musician on my boyfriend's guitar magazine lately and though heavy, beyond middle age and clearly NEVER a dancer, he had an amazing line just standing there with his guitar in NUMEROUS pictures!

Makes me think it can exist in the most unusual places....

It doesn't seem to be about a beautiful body necessarily but can be...

Many models don't seem to have nice lines at all for example.


What do you think?? How can one make an ok line better?

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Victoria Leigh

In ballet it involves rotation, of course, but also placement, foot shape, and upper body, head, and arms. It can be improved with training, but it does depend a lot on what is there to start with, including proportions of the body, and strength and flexibility too.

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That makes sense. As a dancer. Gene Kelly had incredibly perfect proportions:) as well as all the rest.


But it's not always true in who I see sometimes with great lines...maybe it's a certain je ne sais quoi also...??

There is another dancer in my class who has quite a large head and long torso and didn't dance as a child but seems to posess lovely lines...at least she get complimented for them often. Her propotions are not ideal in the dancer sense and her training is so so...and yet, nice lines.


Perhaps it also means that studied or not, certain people have a natural sense of negative and positive space... as a painter I seem to have this when I figure paint...I can feel what the line is and how it fits in relation to it's surroundings. ( At least art is how I make my living ;) )


It's such an interesting concept to me...one that I would never have thought about before I returned to dance as an adult.

Not even all the pros I see in my classes posess it to the degree that some amateurs do on occasion, though obviously it is more common in professional dancers.

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Victoria Leigh

There is such a thing as an innate sense of line, and that applies to ballet as well as other things, like painting. :)

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I think that improving line is possible for anyone. I've seen many dancers in class viewing themselves in the mirror and "tweaking" their leg height or body angle ever so slightly to get a more desirable line. The problem I have with ballet is that, like Ms. Leigh said, part of the aesthetic involved with beautiful line happens to be physical attribute.


Improving and possessing a gorgeous epaulment is definitely one of the dramatic contributing factors to beautiful line, but there's always that old drum that Balanchine first started beating with the long-long legs, hyperextended knees, crazy arched and winged feet, and swanly necks. *Sigh* Normal people get rhinoplasty for cosmetic purposes, I'd get foot-o-plasty or knee-o-plasty if I could.

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LaFille, that is hilarious!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Foot O plasty!!!! LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!

I think I would get hip bone turnout improvement myself! I have hyper extended knees, good feet but my poor hips are set deep and my turnout at best about 55 degrees:(

I try to feel beautiful and it helps somewhat...


But boy oh boy, watch Gene Kelly in Singing In the Rain for impeccable line...perfection!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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I'll have to watch those wonderful old movies again. I haven't seen them since I was a kid - but never really thought about Gene Kelly when it came to line. Don't give up though, if you already have many physical features that you must be born with, then you're ahead of the game. Improve your rotation and turn out, learn your "secret angles" like an illusionist to improve the view of your line, it can be done even by the unphysically-gifted like me!


You mentioned something about seeing people who naturally have that gift for using their bodies/lines well compared to professionals. One of the most awe inspiring things I love about watching most pros is their talent and instinctive sense for using their bodies to the fullest. You think that's the limit of a reach in 4th arabesque? Well she just extended her arms and fingers *just so* in a way that made an already pretty position look gorgeous. That's one of the marks of the pros that I really just love... that extra quality and oomph in how they use their bodies. When I watch YAGP, I am always impressed with the raw talent and skill, but part of the excitement is wondering how their potential will be honed when these young kids become professionals and add that extra push to their quality of movements, and how they'll learn to hold and extend their already beautiful lines.

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"negative space" ! Yes, I think that does have something to do with it, which helps even those who do not posess the "perfect proportions" and other nice stuff. :)


I also agree with the "going the extra bit" in extending a line, or perhaps it is something about feeling how the line continues in space and does not end with the finger or toe-tips.


At any rate, yes, it appears to sometimes be inborn, but can also be taught, though surely easier (or harder!) to learn for some dancers than others. Perhaps a bit like "perfect pitch" in music. ;)



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Interesting that you bring up Gene Kelly. One of my jazz teachers was a chorus dancer in most of Gene Kelly's movies. I actually learned more about "line" from him than I did from most of my ballet teachers, and I incorporate much of what he taught in jazz class into my ballet dancing, and my teaching. There was great focus on how the body works and how the arms and legs are connected to and relate to the body...not just arm and leg positions. It contributes greatly to line.

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This is such an interesting discussion. I think that it's also about a dancer (or anyone, really) understanding how their body is cutting through their kinesphere: the 360 degrees of three dimensional space in which we move.


I've found some specific methods of contemporary dance technique really helpful for this, because some choreographers/teachers have theorised this sense of a box or sphere within which we move, and then turned it into choreographic & technique exercises. One series of classes I had with a specific teacher always had us doing a set of exercises using this sense of the space around us as almost solid, to be cut through between basic floor work & then going on to work on combinations. I found myself becoming aware of the space up high behind me more than ever before!

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I was taught to "feel the space"...something very similar. As if your body could actually feel the space around it. As if the space had a density that one could feel. The teacher used to say "No one can feel the space better than Gelsey Kirkland". Now I have studied with Miss Kirkland, and this was never something that she mentioned in class (at least not while I was with her) but when I watch her videos, it is something that I do see in her work. (And her line was certainly spectacular)

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Interesting that contemporary dance can deal with this more....I think I remember in drama class as a kid miming inside a bubble, a box, etc...that kind of thing...learning to become aware of your space.

I like the idea of space and the density..maybe imagining that you trying to move in water? Or at least, that you are aware of moving through space and not just floating.

With the feet one can really practice this...feeling almost like there is taffy sticking them to the floor.

It is true that tweaking a foot or finger slightly can alter the line so much! I love how the great pros look like they are reaching farther than one would

think possible.

Gelsey Kirkland is indeed amazing line wise;)

Maybe it is a little like being photogenic too.... it's just happens but one can learn it to SOME extent. To some it comes naturally....all to do with planes, proportions and an innate sense of self...? Strong self awareness at least of the physical body?

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I think it's also about understanding how everything is connected, from the tips of your fingers through to your toes and the line of the head as well. That's what I don't like about the over the top high legs and arms - totally disconnected lines, with the angle of the head usually at total loggerheads too! As someone said the lines have to give off the feeling that they extend out into space and when it works it can be just breathtaking...... Ah Gene Kelly - one of my favourites too. I just saw Singing in the Rain on the London stage with Adam Cooper - he was excellent, but not a patch on Kelly even though he was a Royal Ballet soloist originally. I think it's the effortlessness of Kelly that makes his lines so perfect - he doesn't make the lines - he IS the line.

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To be quite honest, it was Gene Kelly that made me want to dance. It was An American in Paris. I will never forget the first time I saw it. Amazing

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I agree! "He IS the line"Absolutely! I think Gene Kelly is my favourite dancer of all time! Effortless:)

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