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 Post subject: Modern dance is good for you
PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2001 3:04 am 
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Joined: Sun Oct 24, 1999 11:01 pm
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
I spoke with a leading ballet dancer this week who told me how much performing work with a modern dance/hybrid movement palette has helped her. The benefits mentioned included a greater understanding of her body and an ability to relax more when she returned to classical work. Interestingly, tension across the shoulders can sometimes mar the performances of the younger dancers at the Royal Ballet. The Royal probably performs less modern ballet work than any other major Western company, but this is likely to change under Ross Stretton. <P>This is not the first time that such benefits have been mentioned. Olivier Wevers of Pacific Northwest Ballet has said that such work provided insights when he returned to dancing classical work. In addition Gailene Stock, Director of the Royal Ballet School, has supported this view and hopes to change the syllabus to allow some modern dance.<P>I am of course delighted to hear this as I am keen that ballet develops and builds on the avant-garde legacy that Nijinski and Nijinska developed 80-90 years ago with William Forsythe the leading advocate today. Incidentally one ex-ballet dancer friend tells me that he and his freinds would have loved to dance Forsythe. <P>I am aware that not everyone subscribes to my view. Any comments?<P><p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited June 29, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: Modern dance is good for you
PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2001 6:31 am 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
As my career in ballet waned - I was greatly tempted to take the opportunity to sample modern dance classes and I investigated and observed several of them. It looked like a lot of fun - and something I probably would enjoy.<P>However, in every case the amplification of the music being used in the class precluded my participation. In a couple of cases I mentioned it to the teacher (I knew both teachers very well) and was told that the students want it loud because their hearing had been damaged from years of listening to high volumes - and so to them it sounded normal.<P>But, other than that, I think it is something I would have enjoyed.


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 Post subject: Re: Modern dance is good for you
PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2001 6:59 am 
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Location: Seattle, WA USA
Basheva..I am surprised to hear about your comments about amplification of music in modern class. I have certainly experienced this phenomena in jazz, but I can't offhand think of an instance of this occuring in modern class...hmmm. Do you remember what style of modern it was?.just curious.<BR>In regards to the original issue. I can see how doing modern rep would help ballet dancers. From watching balet dancers learn modern movement, there is usually a difficult initial phase where modern feels very awkward. For example, just standing in "parallel" (toes turned straight ahead, rather than "turned out") feels incredibly "wrong" to most ballet dancers at first. But, as far as the use of the spine (spiraling, twisting, contracting/rounding)in modern, I think it could help ballet dancers tremendously in terms of strengthening those big back muscles (erectror spinae, quadratus lumborum)and expanding the range and amplitude of movement possiblities.<BR>As Paul Taylor once said, "it's easier for ballet dancers to do modern rep, than for modern dancers to learn ballet rep".<p>[This message has been edited by trina (edited June 30, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: Modern dance is good for you
PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2001 7:35 am 
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Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2001 11:01 pm
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Location: El Granada, CA, USA
Trina, I like that quote.<P>The school I work for offers a full course in modern whenever we can. It improves the center for most of our baby ballerinas and they love it. As one kid said to me " I actually get to MOVE!" Getting them down on the floor is always good. I'm always hearing the modern teacher saying "The floor is your friend..."


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 Post subject: Re: Modern dance is good for you
PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2001 12:34 pm 
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I will try to answer your question Trina - no, I can't say what style the modern class was. However, it was taught by the head of the dance dept at the college at which I was teaching ballet. She was an extremely knowledgeable teacher in both modern and ballet - but modern was her first love.<P>The music could be heard clear across the campus and then clear across a large outdoor college parking lot. As I waited for the ballet class to begin I would have to shield myself from the sound by going into the locker room and closing the fire doors. And even then it was overwhelming.<P>Occasionally, they had live music - but even that was super amplified.<P>But, as to the style - I can't say - <p>[This message has been edited by Basheva (edited June 30, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: Modern dance is good for you
PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2001 12:55 pm 
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Location: SF Bay Area
That does sound weird, Basheva. I'd like all potential ballet to modern crossover students not to be put off by this interesting but unusual experience by Basheva. I've gotten messages from a number of professional ballet dancers saying they've thoroughly enjoyed taking modern dance classes, none of which had very loud music.


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 Post subject: Re: Modern dance is good for you
PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2001 2:56 pm 
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Location: Seattle, WA USA
Wow....sorry that you had that "funky" experience in modern class Basheva. How bizarre...I have to say that I have taken literally taken THOUSANDS of modern dance classes in my life, and never once had that experience with recorded music. BUT, as far as live accompaniment in modern, occasionally there will be live drummers or percussion for class. It will be quite fun and energizing. That can be a bit loud, relatively speaking. This brings to mind the famous John Cage story: Composer John Cage was teaching a music composition class. He was playing for the class, a recording of some extremeley grating, dissonant, repetetive music. Very avant-garde. Not easy to listen to . After about three minutes, one student jumped up and screamed "take that off, I can't stand it anymore." (obviously agitated). After J. Cage turned it off, another student said..."oh wow, I was just starting to like that". (!!!!??????)<p>[This message has been edited by trina (edited June 30, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: Modern dance is good for you
PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2001 1:29 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Whilst I wouldn't claim to be an authority, the contemporary (modern) professional or pre-professional classes I have seen at the Laban Centre, London Contemporary Dance School, Greenwich Dance Agency and Rambert have had music, often live, at normal levels. I can believe that circumstances vary from place to place. <P>However, the aspect which i think is most interesting to explore is the impact on ballet dancers of experience of this style either through class or performance of such work. <p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited July 01, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: Modern dance is good for you
PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2001 6:05 am 
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Yes Stuart. It can often be a challenge for ballet dancers to attempt modern. But I believe that ultimately it will benefit them, overall as a dancer. I myself started out purely in ballet, attempted modern when I was 18 (my nickname in that class was "Dina Ballerina" because everything I did looked like ballet, even floorwork!), went to Juilliard where we had to take modern and ballet class every day, and later became more of a modern dancer. Although these days I teach primarily ballet! <BR>In my opinion, one of the hardest things for ballerinas (os) to get in modern in use of the floor. The floor is rarely used in ballet, except as something to jump from! IN modern, it is an integral part of movement. Ballet dancers usually feel very awkward at first, rolling, falling or doing any movment interacting with the floor.<p>[This message has been edited by trina (edited July 01, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: Modern dance is good for you
PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2001 7:14 am 
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I can't think of any reason why a ballet dancer shouldn't try this. Learning something new/different is always a good idea.


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 Post subject: Re: Modern dance is good for you
PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2001 8:25 am 
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Location: Basking Ridge, New Jersey, USA
I started with ballet, like Trina, and eventually studied and performed modern rep. It was an enriching experience for me to do modern. I have no doubt my ballet technique improved because of it. The "letting go" aspect, the use of the torso, the use of the floor, were all important. And it was fun! <P>The studio where I teach offers modern dance. I can see a definite difference in my "bunheads" who also study modern, even one class a week. They are more "movement intelligent." Generally,there is less of that upper body rigidity which is sometimes a challenge in ballet dancers. They have a better sense of flow.<P>My mantra in class is: "The floor is my friend." I got that from modern, and the application may be somewhat different, but it seems to me to be true in ballet as well. While we may not be rolling around down there in ballet class, the impetus for movement comes from the floor. Often in ballet class one is advised to pull up and be light. Modern made me understand that lightness can be achieved by dropping your weight and really working from the floor up.<P>My biggest challenge with modern had to do with being on the floor. I performed in one piece that had a lot of falls, turning around on the ground and getting back up facing a new direction. That piece was the bane of my existence on tour. Whenever we got to a new performance venue, I made sure to run those sequences before curtain. And I breathed a sigh of relief every time I came up facing the right way, thereby not messing up the rest of the cast...


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 Post subject: Re: Modern dance is good for you
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2001 2:17 pm 
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Location: El Granada, CA, USA
I also think modern forces ballet dancers to use their muscles in a different way. After I started taking modern I realized HOW to stop gripping even though I had teachers who had been telling me not to for years they never explained how. I found new muscles in my feet that eventually improved my pointework (and my rock-climbing). In general it made me less injury prone.


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