Monday, December 15, 2008

Ballet Positions, Use of the Eyes in Ballet Training and Revealing Your Talent

Ballet dancers don't usually think like other entertainers. They don't think in terms of "sell yourself". Belief in talent starts inwardly for a ballet dancer. All the long years of training, enduring corrections from good teachers and criticism from less nurturing teachers shows belief in one's talent. How to mesmerize your audience is a quality some are born with, and yet doing a good ballet audition is not necessarily a result of that.

What is the performance presence? Where does it originate from? How does it affect doing a good ballet audition?

Observing a ballet class, I notice that when concentrating on ballet positions and ballet movements, the gaze of many ballet students is aimed downward, or aims in a fixed a point forward.

As teachers gain experience, they learn ways to keep the students focused, literally, on points in the room, as they concentrate. This allows expression to flow more naturally throughout ballet training, but it also has a different purpose, related to ballet technique.

Visual information is essential for the maintenance of balance and posture. The brain perceives from information received by the inner ear, eyes, and the soles of the feet, exactly where we are in space. And we therefore constantly adjust our posture and balance, whether we are mid-plie or mid-pirouette or mid-overhead lift.

After years of practicing posture and balance correctly for ballet technique, will an artist be able to express her/himself with total freedom of movement, offering the best and revealing talent?

Once a ballet student moves from barre work to the center, more emphasis on movement rather than posture is needed. Proper use of eye focus is even more essential now. Body awareness keeps perfect placement in the class structure, as it does in the corps de ballet on stage. Students who have learned to concentrate while focusing outwards, with attention on everything around them, have an extra advantage.

Every time a ballet position calls for inclining or turning the head, the eyes should focus instantly in the new direction, on the most distant physical object. A spacey or otherwise unfocused expression does not grab the attention of those watching, or allow them to feel included in what is going on. As in, your audience, auditioners or examiner.

So focus is part of both visual stabilization, as in doing turns, and also part of being an entertainer, catching those eyes watching you. I have also found that reminding students to focus their eyes delivers more natural head movements, completing ballet positions beautifully.

Ultimately, to do a good ballet audition, mesmerize your audience, and excel amongst entertainers, the use of your eyes has a place in your classical ballet training.

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