any method of controlled systematic indoctrination, especially one based on repetition or confusion
I have posted previously about ballet. I feel compelled, almost against my better judgment, to get a little more blunt, because it is very, very important – IMPERATIVE – that I do. I will offend a lot of people with this post. I don’t like offending people. For anyone reading who is NOT in the dance world, it’s important that you understand the indoctrination of the dance world. Anyone and everyone who has started a serious study of dance of any genre, has heard the following. It is repeated THOUSANDS upon THOUSANDS of times. I have gathered the following from various sites over the course of 20 minutes. I could write volumes if I spent more time, but just to give you the flavor:
Ballet is the most important genre because it is the basis of most other genres and it’s where all technique comes from. Without ballet all movements in most other styles of dance would never be preformed properly, and this is something all dancers must realize. For example, if a dancer wants to be the best jazz dancer, they must also take ballet. Ballet is the foundation, it is a form of classic academic dancing based on the 17th century; originally descended from court dances. Movement in jazz, lyrical, contemporary, and modern derive from the five positions of the feet created in ballet. To master those positions and movement one must take ballet to be able to apply it to the other styles of dance
Becoming a professional dancer is like building a house from the ground up. You can’t start by adding the roof and interior decorations; rather, you must start by creating a solid foundation to support the structure and make it last. Similarly, a dancer must establish that foundation in technique before adding all the “tricks” and performance quality. And that foundation, according to many dance teachers and professionals in the field, is ballet.
(This site also claims that ballet has evolved over 400 years and “has arrived.” And that any other effort at a foundation is “too limited.”)
This form serves as an excellent foundation for all type of body movement. (Local dance studio website)
And several quotes from famous dancers/choreographers:
Plie is the first thing you learn and the last thing you master.
(Plie is the first step done in ballet class, and is repeatedly done, more below)
There are three steps you have to complete to become a professional dancer: learn to dance, learn to perform and learn how to cope with injuries.
When I miss class for one day, I know it. When I miss class for two days, my teacher knows it. When I miss class for three days, the audience knows it.
-Rudolf Nureyev- (One of the few world famous male ballet dancers)
Ballet is not technique but a way of expression that comes more closely to the inner language of man than any other.
Okay, so having established the above foundation, pun intended, let us expand. I argue the fact that ballet has evolved. No, it has evolved, but maybe not in the way it is implied. It has become more focused, and more intense. It has become more challenging, and less accepting of imperfections. But by and large, the foundational steps, such as plie and releve, have stayed the same, despite the fact that modern science and kinesiology have shown the risks and danger to the body with the way it is done, and despite the alarming number of knee and hip and ankle injuries and surgeries. (Mikhail Baryshnikov has had at least 3 knee surgeries). Darwin’s theory on evolution spoke of survival of the fittest. In one sense, ballet has become so elite that only the “chosen” can survive. But “survival” in this sense, dooms them to a life of injuries, surgeries, and pain. This type of evolution would not work so well in the animal kingdom.
For example: Say I was a doctor, and I wrote up a prescription for your 3 year old daughter. On this prescription, I notated something she needed to do, 3-6 days a week, for the next 15-20 years, and at the end, the guaranteed result? Greater health? Strength? Happiness? No, the guaranteed result is injury and pain. No parent in their right mind would accept such a prescription….. right? Oh, but they do, and it’s called: Ballet.
All of this has frustrated me, as you know if you’ve talked to me or read previous posts. I’ve constantly said, “There HAS to be a better way!” I just don’t think it’s right to doom dancers to such an existence. I truly, DEEPLY believe that dancing can and SHOULD be done in a way that is sustainable for LIFE. And not a lesser, watered down, un-interesting and crude version of dance. Strong, solid, beautiful, aesthetic dancing that heals the dancer’s soul and uplifts and impacts their audience. I just knew it.
Then, in a conversation with the lovely Mia Michaels, she listened to me and said, “Then create it, there should be more than one way.” At first I internally scoffed. I’ve attempted many impossible things, but this, this really IS impossible. But then, I started to ask, “What if?” So many of the pieces are already in place. My focus on kinesiology and body health, my understanding of body mechanics, and my awareness of what is needed and required to be a professional dancer. What does this “foundation of ballet” accomplish for other dance genres?? It comes down to two main things: Intense body control and body awareness. Simplified down to those two things, why couldn’t these be accomplished another, more safe and healthy and STRONG way??
And so, in the midst of a literal hurricane in Central Florida, the ideas began to flow, as they often do during crises in my life. It was so simple, so clear, and as I went through the plan and created something brand new – not a copy or branch or alternative way of DOING ballet, but it’s own method, own order, and own original creation, I found the questions and doubts rising up – “what about this (insert ballet step), or training for (insert another step)? But the mantra in my mind kept repeating: “Question EVERYTHING.” If the training’s only purpose was for one step that only a select few are able to accomplish anyway, it was then easily let go. In the end, very little if any ballet was actually left.
This is new. This is powerful. This is meant to change things. But….
The dance world is too small in lots of ways – it’s too intense, it rattles around itself, and it needs exposing to other ideas.
Do I suggest here that ballet dancers should follow my beliefs? Heavens no. What they do is beautiful and amazing. What I am suggesting is merely that we shake up that idea that ballet MUST BE the foundation of all other genres of dance. I suggest that there is another path possible that will be worthwhile, and much more sustainable, and that I am excited to be a part of it. I hope that it will extend the life of dancers, and make dance more accessible to more people, of all body types, and of all levels of turnout, foot arch, knee extension, and goals in dance.
Learn to dance, otherwise the angels in heaven won’t know what to do with you.