Lets do Ballet Class Differently for a Change...?

May 13, 2018

I recognise I may come under some scrutiny for this viewpoint but thats ok... Lets begin some dialogue and discussion on this topic.

I have had numerous conversations over the last week about dynamic stability and strategies that the body adopts in order to keep itself balanced. This has led me to entertain two big questions for Dancers and Dance Teachers.

 

If you ask any Dance Teacher why they do Barre, they will tell you it aids to get a Dancer 'On their leg' before performing the centre practise and allows an opportunity to practise artistry and upper body movements in a stable environment so that we do not need to worry to much about the lower limbs. Yet at the same time Teachers would state that it allows them to work on line and the positions of the body without challenging stability. My questions come from two potential outcomes that this evokes.

 

After a weekend with some of the leading minds in Dance Medicine and Science from around the world, there is a certain common theme that lies beneath all the great literature produced. "We must communicate the language of science with respect to an art form steeped in tradition". SO I am going to attempt to do just that.

 

If we take the wobble board and BOSU ball arguments where by some Dance teachers and Dancers believe that this acts as a device to enhance balance... by the way it doesn't in healthy Dancers... yet once they have performed these wobble tricks, they proceed to go straight to the barre where they spend half an hour with the stability aid that is THE BARRE. So neither have replicated actually standing in the centre... Why do we spend all this time in extremely unstable or very stable environments? Surely that is not training Dancers for actual Dynamic Balance tasks like adage and allegro in the centre?

 

Before my second question, as no doubt this line of questioning will evoke defensive responses as I am vastly generalising. I must emphasise that I am still a Ballet "Purest". I love the artistry of Barre work and I fully understand it. I believe it has a crucial place amongst Dance Training and Preparation. I am simply suggesting some discussion and some adaptations we could make to Ballet class to make it more time efficient when developing the coordination and balance of Dancers. I want to enhance their performance with my questions and suggestions.

 

My Second Question is... Can we mix up the way we do things to gain a greater physiological and neurological stimulus for our Dancers? By adding stability to a situation like Ballet Class we are diminishing the chances to develop proprioception and Dynamic Balance due to decrease muscle activation in the supporting legs. If we performed the full Barre without hanging on to anything... Could we potentially improve a Dancer's placement, alignment and coordination in the Centre? I would appreciate your thoughts as we do not want to decrease the muscle activation of Dancers and by simply coming away from the Barre throughout certain classes NOT ALL... we could potentially increase this muscle recruitment and enhance the motor control and ultimately Dance Performance.

 

I think all Ballet traditions have their place and I do not wish to change things drastically. Yet, in a rehabilitation environment, upon asking individuals to perform an arabesque following activation work or soft tissue work a student will invariably go and stand at the barre to perform this. Whereas in Dance Performance... There are no Barres...

 

To finish... A quote from the Science in Dance Conference 2018 and Sy Wiggall "Get Comfortable with being UNCOMFORTABLE"

 

 

 

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