Being able to adapt to all styles of dance is extremely important in being successful in the dance world. As students, it is in our best interest to absorb all types of dance that are available. Being strong in ballet, modern, and jazz can open so many doors to a dancer. Coming into SMU I was viewed as your typical “bun-head” a girl who was strong in ballet, but could not move like a jazz or modern dancer. As the year progressed I like to think that the stereotype on me changed. Second semester of freshman year when I got cast to be in Twyla Tharp’s, Octet, I felt well prepared stylistically because of my background in jazz. Although the piece was in pointe shoes and had a lot of ballet vocabulary, without the jazzy flavor the piece would not live up to the style of Twyla Tharp. We had to move both with a sense of being grounded and smooth, and at times had to move quickly with attitude and flare. Jazz influenced this movement so much in the sense that in a lot of the choreography your body was off center, you were off your leg, or low, or contracted. While in ballet you usually stay on top of the music and ride along the phrases, in jazz dance you learn to dance off the strong beats, you are given more freedom to syncopate and suspend movement, and you often ride the downbeat of the music. Typically, jazz dance has stronger and sharper movements with rolling hips and ungulated torsos. In classical ballet we are mostly upright and very clear. In jazz I feel that I have more freedom to make the dance my own instead of being bound in the confines of being upright and “correct” all the time as in ballet. Octet had a very down-to-earth pedestrian like feel to it. Without ever taking jazz, I do not think I could have ever adapted to the style of Tharp’s piece. I cannot imagine how awkward I would have felt when someone told me to do a hip roll and pop your pelvis forward without ever taking a jazz class! Absorbing the feel and essence of jazz dance is key in being a versatile dancer. To get a feel for Tharp’s jazzy style of dance check this out! Here is a piece of work from the Broadway musical Movin’ Out with choreography by Twyla Tharp.
So, to all those ballet boys and girls out there, don’t give anyone a reason to call you merely a “bun-head”…get out there and try anything and everything that you can get your hands on! Being versatile is the only way to make it out in the dance world! :)