Tuesday, April 15, 2008

An Eye-Opener to the 
World of Commercial Dance

Dancing at a studio for sixteen years where ballet dominated the other dance forms limited my knowledge of the outside dance world. For so long I believed that being a successful dancer meant that you were a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre or New York City Ballet. I was ignorant to the fact that commercialized dance networks existed. I only knew of tap-n-twirl studios in my area that did not take dance seriously enough to enforce any form of foundational technique. Now that I am in college and dance with people who have very different dance backgrounds, I have been exposed to a fascinating side of the dance world where the spirit of dance is at its highest.
Learning the technique of classical ballet is important and enables a dancer to adapt to different styles of dance. I used to believe that perfect technique would get a dancer a free pass into the top dance companies, but after attending college for two years and experiencing auditions for many different dance styles, I have learned that it is the inner light of energy that transforms the technically-correct student into a performer. After speaking with several friends about their years in dance competitions, I learned that it is not just about the glitzy costumes or superficial, cheesy smiles, but it is about the passion that produces the dancing. Since I have been in college, I have taken several jazz classes that integrate elements of competition jazz and were more difficult than I had imagined. I am used to being graceful and making my movements flow, so when I took my first commercial jazz class, I was in for a real surprise. The combinations did not involve flailing of any sort like I had once imagined; there was a real art behind the quality of the movement. Matching the new choreography perfectly to the fast music felt like a foreign language to me, but once I allowed my body to relax and sink into the choreography, it became quite enjoyable. A side of me that I was not familiar with began to show through and because of that, I have been able to perform with different intentions. When I watch my friends who grew up with this style of dance perform, they automatically catch my attention. They may not have the strongest technique, but the performance quality of their movements makes my eyes only focus on them. The driving forces behind the choreography perfectly match the dynamic changes in the music and their organic productions of the movements are breath taking. No dance combination is produced with superficiality; everything is organic and comes from the heart.
Presently, dance companies are performing contemporary works that have strayed from the traditional. Contemporary ballet companies incorporate elements of hip-hop, jazz, and modern, and the little ballerina inside is transformed into a powerful and versatile dancer. Commercial dancers grow up learning these amazing other dance forms that are rarely offered at strict ballet studios. They are learning key performance qualities that go along with the different techniques. Their foundation techniques may not be as strong as a dancer who is trained at a strict ballet studio, but they have learned and applied a performance quality that makes them unique.
At my ballet studio, I only took one modern and jazz class per week, but it was not required. I am thankful that I took these classes because my passion is no longer classical ballet. Even though I have had minimal experience with these other dance styles, I am continually working on improving my skills in these weaker areas so that when I audition in the real dance world, I can be given the opportunity to dance with a prestigious dance company. I learn by watching others and I admire the grace and excitement that commercial dancers put into all of their movement. For so long I was naïve and close minded about the dance forms that were not ballet and now that I have a better understanding for this other dance form, I can incorporate what I learn from my peers and produce more eye-catching qualities in my own dancing.

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