Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Irony of the Industry

The dance industry is a tough one to break into, and it’s made even tougher because of the talented people in it. It’s hard to find success as a professional dancer, but we are making it even harder for ourselves. As if remembering steps isn’t hard enough, we keep pushing the limits of physical and mental capacity with ungodly flexibility, technical trickery, and obscure choreographic nuances. The talent in the dance world is developing much too quickly, making it rather difficult to keep up. So…how about we take all this technique down a notch? Let’s just band together to make things a little easier on ourselves, purely in an effort to make dance more of a realistic career goal for the greater majority of dancers. There are plenty of opportunities for us to cut back, we just haven’t exactly embraced them yet. For instance, maybe the entire concept of turnout is overrated. Maybe, turn-in is in fact the new turnout; that would spice things up a bit since we have been dancing turned-out for over a century now. Not only would that minor adjustment make dance easier and put everyone on more of an even playing field, but it would also save us from years of injury and pain once we have retired from the world of dance to start our normal lives. Parallel is obviously more comfortable, so let’s just decide to look the other way while we eliminate turn out from our entire dance vocabulary. While we’re at it, let’s all just agree that extension isn’t that cool, especially if you are not born with it. This is our chance to welcome low extension as a new alternative high extension; then we can all feel good about how our lines look. If everyone’s legs are low, it’s like nobody’s legs are low! Just think, forty-five degrees could be the new 180. Do I really need to explain what should happen to pointed feet? Those of us who were not born with daggers attached to our ankles should not be discriminated against; therefore, the pointing has to go too. While we could jump to the opposite end of the spectrum and try flexing our feet instead of pointing, that really would not be fair to those with a short Achilles. So starting today, dancing is done with turned-in, very low legs and limp, dangling feet. As the bounds of technical difficulty in dance continue to be expanded, many of us are left struggling to keep up with the backwards switch tilt axle leaps and other tricks. Everyone knows of, has a friend, or at least watched a thirty second Youtube clip of someone who can pirouette an inordinately large number of times in a row, or those little-bitty “performing artists” who contort themselves into somewhat of a vertical split involving one leg being wrenched up to the height of, or extending beyond, their head while simultaneously turning, or tap dancing, or basket weaving. All I have to say to that is stop. Honestly, how many people on this earth can do that? Not many (I don’t think), so stop making the rest of us feel bad. We already have to wear a leotard and tights; don’t make me develop even worse self-esteem. (That brings up another good point: who likes the leo? The combination of the unforgiving spandex and with the not-so-slimming pink tights is sickening. With all the advances we have made in society, you would think someone could have come up with something better.) Anyways, I would like to hope that there is a place in the dance world for those of us who are not capable of such daring acrobatics. We all say that dance isn’t about the steps or the tricks, it’s about the passion and communicating and emotion and what not. This is why I love when competition and convention teachers go off on a tangent about how they want the dance to come from the heart and how the movement should be so much more than the steps; then they proceed to teach a combination that starts out a little something like: step, turn, turn, kick, run, run, leap, roll to the floor, step, turn and jump at the same time, and shimmy. Really? The only thing more confusing than those inspiring speeches is why teachers always expect all 150 of us to be able to do everything full out in those carpeted ballrooms. How about instead, we keep the intent behind the dancing but knock out some more of those technicalities. Of course it’s cool to make up intricate choreography or concepts for dances, but let’s all come to a consensus that the next time we start making up a dance, we begin weeding out anything that involves turning multiple times or balancing on one leg for a long period of time. That seems like a reasonable start. After all, we train our entire lives to become brilliant artists, not just a flexible facility; so let’s quit doing so many tendus and grande battements everyday. Every other industry makes it a point to take future applicants under the wing of those who have found success; why can’t we implement a similar system? Let’s set up some dance internships where we get coffee for members of the company and miraculously end up with a job there. It’s time we take control of the industry and do what we have to do to keep the dance alive! If that means that we dance turned-in, don’t balance, and never point our feet, so be it. I know I’ll do my part to keep the technique to a minimum, and in the meantime, let’s not get any more talented.


SMUjazz said...

Funny. Very good.

waitingforlight said...

I'm a film student at UNT and I'm trying to get in touch with a girl with whom I once had contact whose name is Allison Cassidy. Seeing as she was also a ballerina, and she lived in this part of the country, I think it highly likely that this was written by the girl with whom I am trying to get in touch with!

If any of you can help, please direct her to my blog where she can find more information about how to contact me. I'm interested in speaking to her about hosting/narrating a documentary I am working on.

Cheers, and sorry for invading your boards!