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Momof3darlings

Articles: Ballet as Sport?

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Momof3darlings

Here is a link to an article that discusses Ballet and if it is in crisis because it has become sport. Tell us what you think.

 

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/115169/ballet-competitions-turn-art-sport

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ascballerina

There's pumpkin-carving contests, pie contests, gingerbread contests, colouring page contests. I think one of the questions being asked here is, "does a panel of judges make something a sport?" Based on the fact that nearly anything you think of, including writing, probably has been made a competition at some point or another, I'd venture to say the answer is no.

 

So what is a sport, then? I'd venture to say that a sport is any activity that was created for the purpose of competition between people or teams. (in a mostly friendly, way, of course, I'm not saying war is a sport...although I hesitate to use the word friendly as my brother loudly cheers his team two rooms away) Because ballet is a performance art, by my own personal definition of sport, ballet doesn't qualify. Rivalries exist, as the article points out in the end, but the sole purpose of ballet is not competition between people, it's bringing joy to the audiance and showing emotion, sometimes to tell a story, sometimes not.

 

Another point to the article was that there is a loss of artistry as a result of these competitions. I don't know what the answer to that is. Personally, I think the answer is yes, but I've never taken part in one, so I don't know. What I do know is that when I've participated in writing contests or drawing contests, my focus completely changes. I'm not even a particularly competitive person, and I think differently during the creative process knowing something is going before a panel of judges. It influences my choice of subject, style, and final product. I don't imagine dance would be any different. I have taken part in a small annual choreography competition several times, and I can tell you, knowing what each judge likes does influence me greatly, makes me pick certain kinds of music which I might not have used at all if I'd just been choreographing for myself, and so forth. Whether that translates to a loss of artistry or not seems entirely up to the current dance climate. But to be honest...I've seen Pavlova and Nureyev on film. I don't think most people are going to announce that they had absolutely perfect technique. (if you disagree, don't beat on me, I'm trying to make a point, it's a side issue.) But I wonder how they'd do in a competition circuit. Because they have that je ne sais quois that transcends technique...can you even score that? Or would you get parents and dancers saying it "wasn't fair, I did a really clean grand jete en tournent, and Nureyev's was a bit sloppy!"

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Miss Persistent

I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with dance competitions. I do feel though, that they have become too much of a focus in the dance world.

 

I do agree that artistry has become the poor sister of gymnastic-style leg extensions and ice-skating styled 'pirouetting'. Why? I'm not sure, other than the fact that in every area of human endeavor we always strive for "more". It is much easier to get more leg height and more turns than it is more vulnerability, more communication, more authenticity and more projection which are essential parts of artistry.

 

Developing artistry also takes time, and often life experience - something you can't rush; which is not satisfactory for our current "instant" generation of microwaves, broadband and jet planes.

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Immashel

I think I mentioned this before but ballet is not the only art to have competitions - there are many in music especially piano competitions.I wonder if there is the same discussion on music internet sites!

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dancemaven

Miss Persistent, I second your post. :clapping: I think you hit the nail on the head.

 

Although it is 'hard' to do multiple crazy turns, leaps, and extensions. It is a objective, easily seen 'goal'. The true heart of a performance art like ballet, however, resides in the nuanced presentation, the strength and vulnerability, not only of the body, but the emotions evoked (not displayed in caricature on the scrunched up facial expressions of angst), and the fine tuning of knowing when to serge forth, let go with abandon (exquisitely contained), and when to hold back.

 

I don't believe many --if any--- of the ballet 'competitions' are capable of discerning this. And certainly the current structure does not encourage it. Rather, the gymnastic-like circus tricks are encouraged,probably because they are more 'bang for the buck' and easier to obtain in a time frame than the true heart and nuance of the art form. Unfortunately, I believe, by rewarding this aspect and encouraging the display of this aspect, the younger generation believes this is, in fact, ballet. I believe it does a disservice to the art form in the long run.

 

In the short run, as a builder of costumes, I love the opportunity it gives me to practice MY art form. :)

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Momof3darlings

Yes, that discussion is on music forums. However, the artistry of the performance still is first and foremost one of the top qualifiers in scoring of Instrumental Music Competitions and those vocal competitions in which Classical Voice is first and foremost. (Not American Idol type where the higher, longer does exist much to my chagrin). I think the difference in ballet competitions is that the bravado can in fact win out over the artistic. In Classical music competitions given a tie, the artistic will win out almost everytime because how Beethoven, etc. wanted it played is still important. I also think music educator's "get this". DD recently competed in a State Music Evaluation for Soloists. While there was a marking on the metronome she was supposed to hit while playing, the focus of her training was never to get to that speed without taking the artistic qualifiers of intonation, vibrato, etc in order to raise her score. So how artistically she played still was the most important of the list of things to judge.

 

Like ascballerina, I think just the entry into competition makes the focus of the creative process different. Just like it makes the focus of the learning process different. In a perfect world, we could balance the two. Don't think we live in a perfect world though.

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Miss Persistent

I don't believe many --if any--- of the ballet 'competitions' are capable of discerning this. And certainly the current structure does not encourage it. Rather, the gymnastic-like circus tricks are encouraged,probably because they are more 'bang for the buck' and easier to obtain in a time frame than the true heart and nuance of the art form. Unfortunately, I believe, by rewarding this aspect and encouraging the display of this aspect, the younger generation believes this is, in fact, ballet. I believe it does a disservice to the art form in the long run.

 

 

I second your post Dance Maven! I completely agree.

 

In Classical music competitions given a tie, the artistic will win out almost everytime because how Beethoven, etc. wanted it played is still important. I also think music educator's "get this". DD recently competed in a State Music Evaluation for Soloists. While there was a marking on the metronome she was supposed to hit while playing, the focus of her training was never to get to that speed without taking the artistic qualifiers of intonation, vibrato, etc in order to raise her score. So how artistically she played still was the most important of the list of things to judge.

 

That is very interesting Momof3 - so do you mean that the artistry required is essentially recreating the experience that which the composer intended? That would have very interesting implications if we transposed it to ballet - the classics would again become about the story, while many of the contemporary neo-classical plotless ballets could essentially retain their athletic/gymnastic without being "untrue" to ballet. As you say - in an ideal world...

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sgmca

Couldn't say it any better ascballerina. I am a photographer and have been involved in some photography contests in the past. Changes the whole way I go about taking the photograph.. I don't think competition has a place in the ballet world and my daughter did her share of YAGPs over the years. It should be about the art and artistry not who can do more pirouettes.. Just my personal opinion of course. Happy Monday!

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dancemaven

I wouldn't have a problem with the ballet 'competitions' IF they weren't promoted and perceived to be THE way into a company or the best way to obtain scholarships for elite training opportunities. The emphasis in the marketing, First Position included , that YAGP and others, etc is THE way to ''see and be seen" by ADs and to be offered those special scholarship opportunities, and to "win" second company and trainee/apprentice contracts or positions is another aspect of this competition route structure I find to be a disservice to the art form.

 

I realize auditions are a type of competitions, but there is something more much level-playing-field about an audition for scholarships, company contracts, or trainee/apprenticeship positions than the Competition circuit's mode of concentrated coached performances of a single variation performed without context.

 

The competitions may have a place and may service an itch, but touting them ---or ADs using them---as THE entry to the elite training levels or company entry seems, to me, short-sighted, perhaps lazy (on the part of the ADs), and destructive to the art form

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trythis

I have recently introduced both my DD's (ages 16 and 14) to dance/ballet competitions.

 

Neither is considered the best of the best at our home studio. There are other dancers chosen for lead roles, and solo parts when it comes to company productions. But both yearn and desire to get the chance to do the solo roles and perform in the pretty tutus.

 

So to my way of looking at it. YAGP gives them an opportunity to challenge themselves in a way the home studio does not. To select a variation and work through all the technique and transitions and to learn it to the point of being able to "perform" it, not just to dance the steps.

 

This is the second year that we have done this; and there is an arc of learning. Excitement, ambition, frustration, tears, adjustments, additional work, confidence in the performance. This arc is character building. And for my daughters to learn that they CAN do this, and have fun on stage amidst all the pressures, is a wonderful realization to witness.

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buzzandmoo

We are not a "competition" family. But having said that, personally I'm kinda neutral on the whole topic with one exception, age. Where the appropriateness of competition in the dance world comes into question for me is the 10 year old on pointe or for that matter the 7 year old in sparkly hot pants shaking her booty during one of the many dance competitions. Yes, to me there is no difference between the gyrations of the hot pants and the ridiculously young pointe dancer. DKs should know the WHY behind the movements. And I am sorry, there is no way a 10,11, or 12 year old has any clue of the emotion of many of the variations they do at competition. How could they? In order to perform at that level they have spent every waking moment in a dance studio, not to mention many do not even attend normal school with all of the attendant experiences that help shape them into functioning adults later in life. True, dance is a youthful endeavor, but when is it just too young? Why can't these competitions be the culmination of years of studying to be an artist instead of a hurry up to get there? I'd rather see an older teenager shine as only they can, perched on the edge of adulthood with the promise of many good things to come.

 

To connect with the article, sports in this country is no different. I think the movie First Position just shined a light on the same culture of sooner, younger, faster that our society seems obsessed with in both sports and dance. It has always been there, just now with media and more accessibility more widespread. This brings me back to the "Baby Ballerinas" of Balanchine. This is not a new struggle, but one now highlighted by the media.

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firedragon0800

Lol, After 70 nutcrackers you start focusing on the extraordinary detail.

 

We, myself and a number of backstage parents spent a lot of time on counting Tea's jumps 2-8, Hoop's complete hoop rotations or "hoop throughs" 1-3, and the cavalier's fouettes/pirouettes or turns 18-40 with up to nine different castings per role it was very revealing, particularly the wide range of physical and artistic ability between dancers. The audience responds to these extended displays, but only because even the professionals see them as amazing feats of physicality and endurance.

 

According to anecdotal info from my dd and others the company dancers themselves backstage try to one up each other, show well or push the limit, clapping in the wings when a company member really does "Go Big". Granted no one is really "keeping score" although one Mom did keep track and we all anticipated the next dancer to see if the current record would stand or be broken and who would do it.

 

However, each dancers strength is different and it remains the ones that have as complete a package as possible that truly are transcendent.

 

Personally, I also think if it starts too young before your mind and body have developed fully you end up with some aspect of your either character, body or artistry that is atrophied and will work against even the best of intentions to be the best.

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Miss Persistent

So to my way of looking at it. YAGP gives them an opportunity to challenge themselves in a way the home studio does not. To select a variation and work through all the technique and transitions and to learn it to the point of being able to "perform" it, not just to dance the steps.

 

This is the second year that we have done this; and there is an arc of learning. Excitement, ambition, frustration, tears, adjustments, additional work, confidence in the performance. This arc is character building. And for my daughters to learn that they CAN do this, and have fun on stage amidst all the pressures, is a wonderful realization to witness.

 

I think that is the correct use of competitions - education, performance experience and a bit of enjoyment (or tears! you never know). I did those sorts of competitions when I was young and they helped me develop my stage craft. Using them for any more than that, especially using the for prowess and advertising at parents or students expense as some schools do - is wrong IMO.

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