“I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each, it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one's being, a satisfaction of spirit. One becomes, in some area, an athlete of God. Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.” ~ Martha Graham
Live your truth. Express your love. Share your enthusiasm. Take action towards your dreams. Walk your talk. Dance and sing to your music. Embrace your blessings. Make today worth remembering.” ~ Steve Maraboli
“To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.” ~ Osho
It is a very common question that teachers and directors hear from students often, "why is it so important that I take ballet?" and I am excited to say that I am here today to answer it!
But in order to do so efficiently, we must first begin with a little dance history.
Ballet originated in the Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th century and it was later developed into a concert dance form in France and Russia. Since then is has become a widespread, highly technical form of dance with its own vocabulary based on French terminology.
There are several different methods/styles of ballet; the Vaganova (Russian) method created by Agrippina Vaganova, the Cecchetti (Italian) method created by Enrico Cecchetti, the Bournonville (Danish) method created by August Bournonville, and more. However despite the array of method options, the core of ballet technique and terminology has been, and continues to be, the universal language of dance.
With that bit of history in mind, we can get back to our student question at hand, "why is it so important that I take ballet?"
And here is the answer - Ballet is the foundation of all other technical forms of dance. Students might not notice, but when they take a jazz, tap, modern, lyrical, or even hip-hop class, they are practicing adapted versions of ballet. That parallel pique' turn in jazz began as a turned out pique' turn from ballet. That position the instructor told the student to stand in while warming up the upper body in hip-hop is second position in demi plie' from ballet.
The creators of other styles of dance (jazz, tap, etc.) compiled, adapted, and added to ballet movements to create something new. Therefore, students will find that instructors often use ballet terminology to guide them to proper movement understanding and technique execution no matter what style of dance the class is focused on.
Even if a student wants to grow up to be, say, a professional hip-hop dancer, during their training they will need to be able to identify and understand ballet terms and use proper technique in order to build on it with the hip-hop style and excel to professional status.
Try thinking of it this way, imagine you have a bunch of miscellaneous car parts and you want to build a car. Think of the (very) rough outline of what essentials would be needed in order to do that: axles/wheels/engine and the body/frame... Can you imagine it? Good!
Now, we are going to build our very own personal "dance car" by thinking about it this way:
Wheels/axles/engine = Ballet technique and terminology Body/Frame = Favorite style of dance (jazz, tap, etc.)
Your "dance car" can be whatever "model" you want by personalizing the look of the body/frame - i.e. your favorite style of dance. But that car won't start or get very far if you don't have your axles, wheels, or engine - i.e. ballet technique and terminology.
Make sense? Great!
Now admittedly there are some people out there who have excelled in other styles of dance without taking ballet. But if you speak with someone who has accomplished that, you will likely hear them express that they felt their dance training would have been less of a struggle if they had received ballet technique and terminology training during their formative years. Or that when they decided to go to college for their dance degree, they struggled in their required ballet classes.
Here is my point, just because something can be done, doesn't mean it should. Ballet provides a foundation upon which other forms of dance can be built more safely and efficiently. In order to avoid injury and progress properly, it is vital that ballet classes be a priority. When that happens, students usually notice how quickly and easily they are able to grasp the other forms of dance.
In a world where fast paced = better, it is important to understand that becoming a trained dancer does not happen overnight or by "skipping" ballet. However, with the proper focus, attitude, and commitment to ballet students will be safer and stronger while training and their study of other styles of dance will begin to make a lot more sense.
Emily Lacey is the directing author of the L.C.A. Blog. She enjoys bringing her extensive teaching experience and passion for the Arts to the public through inspiring images, articles, and quotes. She also enjoys sharing related material created by other experienced and inspirational authors as well. Please check back frequently for updates!