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Ballet Talk for Dancers

At What Age Should a Dancer Have Experience with Contemporary Dance?


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Over the past few years, I've noticed a trend at dd's school, of increasing interest in contemporary dance. All of the older students study contemporary, and many of dd's classmates have already started foraying into this form of ballet.


At present, dd (11.5) has zero interest in contemporary. She just wants to take her technique and character classes. This is fine with me, as she already spends quite a lot of time in the studio. At some point, however, it seems that the current strong interest in contemporary ballet in the dance world at large would suggest that any dancer that wants to pursue dance professionally, should have some contemporary training in his/her background.


Assuming she maintains her current zeal for dance, I'm wondering how long she can continue to limit herself to classical ballet without doing herself a disservice?

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At her age that is not too unusual. Her opinion will most likely change in time and more exposure to contemporary dance. Does she watch SYTYCD? How about pro companies in your area that do a mixed rep of ballet and contemporary ballet? Exposure, maturity, and seeing her peers doing it and enjoying it will eventually have an affect on things. Right now, it's not that important, especially if she does not want to do it.

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At our studio, they have begun to offer contemporary as a mandatory supplement class only for Intermediate and up. Generally, the students are at least 11 when they enter the first Intermediate level. My 11 1/2yo just finished her first year of this level and she definitely found her thing. She loves classical ballet, but she *LOVES* contemporary. :) Our studio focuses on ballet but wants their dancers to be well rounded so they tend to make certain other danceforms mandatory and they may change from year to year depending on teacher availability and scheduling, but we have had mandatory tap, jazz and contemporary. Of course tap and jazz are available as "freestanding" classes as well.


Some kids in her class and the class above (ranging between 11-15) really enjoy the contemporary classes, others not so much. It's obvious from the observation area which girls are doing it because they have to (and only want to do classical) and which ones are thoroughly enjoying it. :)

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It sounds like she still has a year or two before she needs to push herself to expand her comfort zone. There are a few contemporary companies (though not necessarily contemporary ballet) that come to town from time to time. She hasn't really shown an interest in going to the performances, but perhaps instead of asking if she's interested I should just get tickets the next time a good professional contemporary company will be in town - she always enjoys a special night out on the town, when it's just the two of us.


She has watched SYTYCD on occasion - usually it's when she visits her grandmother. For the most part the show is not really not her cup of tea, and the contemporary performances don't seem to resonate for her. She generally likes the ballroom performances (the ones that are performed well, that is), the best.


It will be interesting to see what happens when dd reaches the age when she has to do contemporary classes. From Ms. Leigh's comment, I gather that she can probably wait for another year, maybe even two? Perhaps she will have developed an interest by then. For her sake, I hope she does develop an interest on her own. It would be a shame for her to *have* to take a class, rather than *want* to take a class. I do see the value to dd in the discipline of learning outside of her comfort level, and specific interests, however, my preference is to delay that day as long as possible. I think it would be better to give dd time to come to appreciate the value of expanding her skill set on her own, so that she can approach new material from a more positive mindset, even in she never loves contemporary in the same way her classmates do.

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Silly question, but when I have watched SYTYCD, I always thought the contemporary stuff they did was called, Lyrical. Otherwise, I am more familiar with classical ballet. Would Complexions be a good example of contemporary ballet?


You might want to look up Complexions videos on Youtube. She might like them and be inspired. If in fact, that's an example of what we are talking about here.

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Complexions, Alonzo King's LINES Ballet are examples of contemporary ballet. The contemporary ballet is based on very strong classical technique that is then pushed to the limits---lots of the movement is just off-balance, the roles of men and women are not clearly defined, the roles are often genderless and interchangeable, the muscles of the body are celebrated, strength of body is celebrated, the partnering is not limited to man-woman, but may be single sex partnering, the partnering is physical. Alonzo King, in particular, has said that in his view, the woman should be seen as strong, vibrant, and equal.


The 'contemporary' on SYTYCD is . . . . competition emoting. :devil:


I would say that the younger dancers in a pre-pro program are often not enthused or interested in anything but 'classical all the way'. And that's fine. Eventually, as they mature and develop, they will often expand their dance tastes as they are exposed to different choreographers at SIs, read more, and learn more. Young bodies aren't really adapt at the modern vocabulary and young minds need maturity to really appreciate it (if ever----I can honestly say, I still don't 'get' much of modern . . . My DD once sent me a wonderful TED 'explanation' of it that had me rolling--and truly appreciating it).


My DD first began expanding horizons beyond pure classical when she was exposed to Nacho Duarte choreography on a Boston DanceLab outing to Jacob's Pillow. As she grew older and matured, she began to see different elements of dance that intrigued her and she began to notice which elements of dance, styles, and genres 'felt' better suited for her body and movement quality.


As with so much else of this journey, it is all a slow-boil----and the dancers themselves seem to find where their fit and niche is. Just provide your DK with opportunities for exploration and learning, sit back, and enjoy the metamorphosis. We, as parents, don't mold these dancers in our images, but rather we provide the soil and water and watch their petals unfurl. It's a lovely adventure (when we aren't crazed with concern---which is very hard to to step back from. :) )

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks for the suggestions of Complexions and Alonzo King's lines, manhattanmom, and dancemaven. Dd and I had a chance to sit down and do a bit of a youtube marathon. She enjoyed some of the group pieces, so I'm pleased that at least her mind is a little more open than it was initially. We also found an old Alvin Ailey (I guess this is considered modern, rather than contemporary?) video clip of Wade Me to the Water, and she really liked it, as did I.

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I don't know what age they "should" be starting to learn Contemporary, but at the prepro DD will be starting at in the fall they begin Contemporary class at around 12 years old (average age of the level that includes Contemporary in their class schedule).

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