Saturday, March 12, 2016

Arabesque Means A Line


Arabesque the line in classical ballet.

ar·a·besque
ˌerəˈbesk/
noun
noun: arabesque; plural noun: arabesques
  1. 1.
    an ornamental design consisting of intertwined flowing lines, originally found in Arabic or Moorish decoration.
    "arabesque scrolls"
    • Music
      a passage or composition with fanciful ornamentation of the melody.
  2. 2.
    Ballet
    a posture in which the body is supported on one leg, with the other leg extended horizontally backward.

How did 1. get to 2.?

Many years ago I read in a dance dictionary that arabesque was so called because it was "a line". In art, arabesque - from the Arabic - was a style of lines, because in the practice of Islam artists could not draw images of the human form.

In ballet the leg is behind - and arms have a variety of placements. Yet, they
source.
should continue the line of the leg and the back and the neck.



Ballet has the best of both worlds - the lines, and the human form. 

In grand jete - most often a 180 degree line to the legs (a split), the upper body can be lined in first second or third arabesque, or rounded arm positions.

ballerina jete arms rounded


 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:From_the_ballet_Coppelia_cropped.jpg

The dancer can arch backwards and bend the back leg with arms arcing back toward the back foot, almost making a circle. It's a beautiful line.



Yet, the back thigh is still in a 180 degree line continuing from the front leg.

Extreme overstretching exercises.

If the front leg can raise upwards breaking that straight line, and the back leg 

does as well, there is now a shallow V shape. Or bow shape.

If the front and back arm are not parallel to the legs, it looks very odd.

In fact if they are parallel to the front and back leg, it still looks very odd!

It doesn't fit in any classical ballet!

Do I just sound like I'm complaining because I don't like it?

Yes, that's what I'm doing.I mean...take a look! 





Monday, March 7, 2016

Ballet - Ocean Waves - Fluidity

I was watching ocean waves recently and tuned into the rhythm of the flow.

I started to think about dance movement and the ebb and flow of tension.

Can A Late Starter In Ballet Achieve Fluidity?

source.

Perfect control is the control of tension.


A dancer learns how to be tense...then not tense.

There is a pas de deux between positions and movement. Ballet positions are practised for years!

Whether they are Vaganova, Cecchetti, R.A.D., or some other newer system, they are positions integrated into almost every class, exam, choreography...

The student dancer imitates, for years, the positions.

Yet ultimately all those positions are -- movement! In adagio, allegro, grand allegro -- it's all movement.

I learned the most about ballet from non-dancers.

True! I learned the most about dance from a friend whom I'd given tickets (back in the days when I could) to not only ballets but to a few progressive choreographic workshops danced by professionals and senior students.

"She moves like water." A remark about Karen Kain way back. This dance observer saw her in Swan Lake, and then in a workshop where she danced "Emily" choreographed by Anne Ditchburn.

Years later I got a good review from critic Deidre Kelly who remarked that in my choreography the dancers' arm movements never came to rest, but defied positioning in a constant flow.

When I started to write this blog, and found myself describing plies, tendus, and ronde de jambe exercises, I found myself careful to repeat that tension in barre exercises, is fluid.

Muscles must be held, as strong as a muscle can. At the top of a jump, at the height of an arabesque.

And, let go immediately! If needed, or if not, gradually, according to the need of a safe landing, or to stay in time with the music, or for a dramatic moment.

The ocean reminded me of this. Every wave is unique. The tension of the waves interact with other waves flowing in or out from different directions. Intercepted by undercurrents, blocked or augmented.

And dance is like that. Every performance is different with new energies, new tensions, new joys. Ditto for the musicians.

And isn't that great? Every show is like "you had to be there".

The audience is not aware of the dancer's incredible control. The audience is mesmerized by the ebb and flow of the tension, and release, in the technique and the artistry of its presentation.

I don't know why I'm thinking all this tonight. Maybe it was the booming crashing thunderstorm I woke up to this morning.

Here is one (in a million) example of that fluidity.


  

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Concussion And Dancers

When I think of concussions, I think of football players. Who, to non sports fans, are kind of crazy guys (some of whom earn millions a year) who slam themselves into other crazy guys to forward a ball...a few yards?

I was stopped in my digital tracks when I read the article on The Dance Current about dancers and concussion injury. 

Recently I've talked to two people who saw the movie "Concussion:" with Will Smith. One loved it and the other didn't like it. But it is an important issue.


It's football. I get it. And casting Will Smith.

But what about dance? And concussion? I've worked in a chiropractic office, and yes, concussion IS a big deal.

I can't add anything to the movie trailer or the article in Dance Current.

Whether you are a ballet dancer, break dancer, ballet teacher, adult ballet beginner -- or a high school football player, I hope you'll read this article and expand your awareness.

I searched "ballet concussions" and came up with nothing. But please don't let that discourage you from thinking about this.