(I never check my Google search strings–don’t even know how–but I bet that post title will bring out the kinksters and porn seekers.)
Some of you know that I’ve been taking ballet–again, for about the 12th time in my life–for a year or so. In October, I cautiously re-started dancing en pointe after 20 years. I’ve been wondering if I should post here about ballet or keep it all about ballroom. What do you think?
From what I’ve seen online, the prevailing question about ballroom dancers doing ballet is “Will ballet help or hurt my ballroom dancing?” In my experience, it might do both, but I think it helps more than it hurts. My perspective may differ because I did ballet pretty seriously as a child and have done it on and off since. As a result, I’m sure I would not be nearly the ballroom dancer that I am if I had no ballet background. Ballet works flexibility, foot articulation, leg strength, core strength, knee bend (good for smooth/standard), turnout (good for rhythm/latin), extension, arm position, and probably some other stuff that I’m forgetting. But the number one benefit of ballet is that it absolutely drills you on correct, upright posture. If you need a lot of practice keeping all your blocks aligned (as Valentina explained it in a workshop I attended last year), ballet is the way to go.
A close second behind improving posture is ballet’s ability to develop a kinesthetic sense in its practitioners. See, ballet is old-fashioned and traditional: it’s based on a lot of repetitions of a lot of basic exercises, day after day, year after year. You learn steps and positions and body lines and you do them over and over until you can make them look good without ever having to check yourself in a mirror. You imitate your teacher as he or she shows combinations and you get more and more accustomed to picking up choreography.
Maybe because I started out as a ballet dancer, I tend to see ballet as the foundation for all other dance forms. Not in the sense that they evolved from ballet in any direct line, but that studying ballet prepares a dancer to succeed in other genres of dance. A lot of dance schools require a minimum of ballet study before or while a dancer starts in other styles. The relative availability of ballet versus ballroom can be an advantage too. We’re lucky to get 2 ballroom lessons a month but I can easily take 2 ballet classes a week. Of course, I have to be willing to dance with kids a third my age!
That’s one of the few disadvantages of ballet (if you want to call it a disadvantage; I don’t mind): not every studio offers adult classes or welcomes adults into their classes. My studio offers a Teen/Adult class aimed at older beginners; I started in that class and am now in the “Pearls” level which is a transition-to-pointe class. That brings me to disadvantage #2: I sometimes worry about getting injured in ballet and not being able to do ballroom as a result. My teacher (whom I love, by the way) put us through a wicked “Approaching Pointe” barre yesterday; we did not so much approach pointe as rush up and tackle it, and my feet were on fire by the end. But obviously nobody made me start dancing en pointe again, and I can quit if it gets too difficult. A random injury (slippery floor, careless move, pushing it too hard, whatever) could just as soon happen in a ballroom lesson as a ballet class.
Ballet will teach you to move differently than ballroom does, and that could be a disadvantage. I have a hard time doing cha-cha locks and rumba walks correctly because keeping my hips still & level is so second-nature to me. Occasionally a move perplexes because my muscle memory wants to do it the ballet way, and the ballroom way is something different. Someday I’ll have to tackle my tendency to dance Smooth with a bit of turnout. I know it’s not technically right but it is both habitual and (to this ballerina’s mind) better-looking.
So I’ll ask again: should I write about ballet on DLDancers.com? I can tag the posts “Ballerina Corner” or something,