Thursday, November 6, 2008
Ballet? Who Needs Ballet These Days?
Well, the obvious answer to that question is any aspiring dancer who wishes to make it, in whatever world they desire. The competition world, professional world, or teaching world, all require a deep ballet foundation. My reason for writing this blog, and opening with the previous statement, is the disappointing fact that most main stream studios today lack the imperative emphasis on technique, and what better way to gain technique than ballet class? I’m not ignoring the fact that not all of us are bun-heads, I myself prefer jazz to ballet any day, but it has been my personal experience that studios that lack the ballet technical training also are lacking in the jazz arena. I place blame on the management, not the kids. I’m sick of seeing little dance divas walking around the competitions, weekend after weekend, acting like they own the place, but once on stage have nothing technique wise to account for the attitude. The little ones in studios around the country are amateurs, I realize this, but they need to be molded and guided in the direction of professionalism. It all starts with technique and the habit of being in class. I am a product of one of these “fluff studios” as I like to call them. From age 6-13 I danced my little heart out almost every weekend at competitions with little credibility, and had no technique to show for it. I would go to rehearsals instead of technique class and my parents would spend outrageous amounts of money on costumes. The competitions were fun, a nice social setting, and I grew to love them. However, with this expanding passion for competition I lost all desire for the structure of class. This is what happens to kids around the country, and it angers me that they won’t be prepared for any higher level of dance education outside of their competition bubble. I had an epiphany at age 13, and realized I wasn’t getting what I needed to be a better dancer at my fluff studio, so I searched for greener pastures. I found the greenest of the green with Tempe Dance Academy, and I considered this starting point at a new studio the starting point of my serious dance training. Within a year my talent as a dancer had doubled, because of the more technique less competition policy at TDA. We still competed, and won most of the time, but it was minimal. I still enjoyed a very social environment, but I learned that dance is discipline and I found a new passion in the sphere of dance, TECHNIQUE, TECHNIQUE, TECHNIQUE! I thrived on it, and I wish I saw this dedication to fundamentals among more young dancers today. I wasn’t gung ho on dance my whole life, and I realize that some just dance for recreation and don’t care about preparing for a professional environment, but I grieve for the little Margot Fontaines, Desmond Richardsons, Twyla Tharps, and Gus Giordanos trapped in the fluff of unprofessional studios. I grieve for the children who want to make dance their whole life but are caught in this downward spiral of the competition world with no true technical training to use later in life. Studio owners must take heed to the examples shown by School of American Ballet and many, many other renowned schools who produce such beauty among their pupils. Such pure technicians, yet such individual dance entities. It’s not about an army of perfectly tuned dancers. After the technique is established and nurtured from a young age, then maturity in movement and the essence of individual performance quality sets in. My wide generalizations may be too critical, I mean after all if one opens a studio they obviously are making an effort to share their passion for dance with children, but it is inarguable that there are truths in my words.
So studio owners, give them fun and competitiveness, but for GOD’S SAKE GIVE THEM BALLET! Otherwise you’re just a bunch of fluff.