CriticalDance Forum

Ballet in the Olympics?
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Author:  Michael Goldbarth [ Sun Feb 12, 2006 12:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Ballet in the Olympics?

I’m not sure if we’ve ever discussed this possibility before. Ballet most closely resembles ice dancing and therefore would appear to qualify. Of course, it would fall under the same problems judging wise. Any sport which requires its outcome to be measured by the human element is imperfect.

The Olympics may boost the image of ballet and boost dancer salaries through endorsements. Any thoughts :?:

Author:  ksneds [ Sun Feb 12, 2006 3:15 pm ]
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An interesting thought, but I very strongly think that ballet does NOT belong in the Olympics. It's really not a sport, in the sense that Olympic sports are - i.e. judgable, with set limits and expectations.

As to the comparison with ice dancing - perhaps to the untrained eye there would seem to be similarity, but actually ice dancing is very much delineated and regimented; even more so since the 'skate-gate' skating-judge controversies. When you look beyond the costumes and the music, ice dancing has perhaps the most demanding and rigid set requirements of the four ice-skating disciplines.

To start, the compulsory dance is a set pattern - i.e. the same exact pattern, steps and music for every couple. So there is a clear standard and expectation when it comes to judging. Deductions are made for missed or incorrect steps and deviations from the set pattern.

In the original dance (and I believe also now the free dance), there is limited choice in the type of dance (i.e. tango, quick step etc.) and also a whole host of required elements. Skaters are required to do step sequences, a certain number of lifts (which cannot go above the shoulder), etc.

In general, while there is a subjective element in ice dancing, especially at the Olympic level, a great deal is very objective. Just as importantly, I think, ice dancers emerge from a training system that is much more focused on objective, testable standards, rather than ballet dancers who train in steps and expression, and RAD aside, are not tested throughout their training.

At least in the US, by the time a skater has reached Olympic level, he or she will have had to pass tests on 20+ different set dances (all laid out in the official USFSA handbook). Flair and expression are more important in the higher levels, but the main focus of the tests in on peforming the correct steps and edges, having proper posture, knee-bend, edging, timing, parterning and lifts.

To sum it all up, I think that ballet is not really suitable for competitions and certainly does not merit nor should desire an Olympic slot. Ballet is an art, and to push it towards sport would deprive us of artistry that is so important.


Author:  Michael Goldbarth [ Sun Feb 12, 2006 3:38 pm ]
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I agree that ballet is art. I’m just trying to figure out a way to get it more exposure. It is getting kind of depressing reading about companies going under whiles others price themselves out of the reach of the average person.

Author:  salzberg [ Sun Feb 12, 2006 4:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Ballet in the Olympics?

The Olympics may boost the image of ballet

I hear the same thing every four years. It never happens.

My favorite restaurant is a Mexican restaurant in Houston. They have an eclectic jukebox -- everything from rock to country to big band to salsa get the idea (Glenn Miller, Jimmy Buffett, and Carlos Santana all on the same juke box -- that's a great juke box). Whenever I'd play the swing stuff, the entire restaurant would rock out. Everyone loved it.

Yet, I know that almost none of them said to themselves, "Gee, I could listen to this all the time. I don't have to limit myself to mindless mass-culture pablum."

It's the same with dance and the Olympics. Every four years, millions of people ooh and ahh and say, "That's beautiful," but almost none of them take that next step.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Mon Feb 13, 2006 3:15 am ]
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Interesting point, Michael and thanks for raising it.

There are many disagreements about the state of ballet and how best to go forward. However, there does appear to be a concensus that the current emphasis is towards technique rather then expression and many are concerned about this.

Ballet in the Olympics would surely push this even further in the technique direction: fouettes with a myriad of variations, rather than interpretation and character development over the 90-120 minutes of an evening length production.

So, I have to say that I'm not in favour of ballet in the Olympics.

Author:  Alex R [ Mon Feb 13, 2006 6:14 am ]
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I belive we had this discussion 2 years ago about the 2004 olympic gymnasts.

Author:  Michael Goldbarth [ Mon Feb 13, 2006 10:59 am ]
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I agree with Stuart that it would be a bad idea to assimilate Figure Staking and judge dancers solely on technique. That would demean the art form. If you compare ballet to some of the other sports allowed to compete in the Olympics, there is no question of merit. There was even talk of adding chess to the Olympics!

I know figure skating has been helped by the free publicity the Olympics has provided. Example #1: Jamie Salé & David Pelletier. Losing the Gold to a crooked French judge and then winning it back was the best thing that ever happened to them! Don’t believe me? Check out their website and busy schedule.

Ballet could benefit from ice dancing in regards to the programs they present. Have a look at Salé’s & Pelletier’s photo gallery. They’re having a lot of fun. People want to come away feeling good after a night out. Sorry but most people don’t go to Swan Lake to see the world come to an end. :wink:

My sincerest apologies to all you Kudelka fans out there who enjoyed his interpretation of Swan Lake! :roll:

Author:  ksneds [ Mon Feb 13, 2006 11:07 am ]
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Actually, the publicity has done little to help skating as a whole. Opportunities for skaters to make money - i.e. shows, promotions, ads - have actually decreased significantly since the last big peak post 1994 Olympics.

The majority of Olympic level skaters, in the US for instance, depend on cobbled-together assortments of USOC grants, USFSA grants, money made from skating and non-skating jobs and the occasional donation. More than a few drop out due to lack of funds. It's the same for most Olympic sports - there are few opportunities for making money and most only exist for medalists and only around the time of the Olympic Games.

BTW, Sale and Pelletier are pairs skaters - totally different from ice dancing.


Author:  LMCtech [ Mon Feb 13, 2006 3:57 pm ]
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I would like to point out that ballet is already judged at competions like Prix de Lausanne and Varna, so making the jump to the Olympics might not be as hard as we think.

Author:  salzberg [ Mon Feb 13, 2006 4:06 pm ]
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Good point, but I think it's unlikely that Olympic ballet would be judged by the same criteria that are used at those festivals.

Author:  Michael Goldbarth [ Mon Feb 13, 2006 6:47 pm ]
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BTW, Sale and Pelletier are pairs skaters - totally different from ice dancing.

Well excuuuuuuuuuuuuuse me! I have been outed. I’m no figure skating expert. I do know what I like and I like to think I could do a better job judging skating than the judges who didn’t provide gold marks for Elizabeth Manley along with Jamie Salé & David Pelletier.

One day, maybe not tomorrow but one day I think you will see ballet at the Olympics. Of course, only a few will go on to become millionaires. We live in a capitalist world. :wink:

Author:  LMCtech [ Tue Feb 14, 2006 12:53 pm ]
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Judging ballet is such a subjective activity. This is something that I have written about on other forums where the students ask what an auditioner is looking for.

The judges always know who the best one is but can't always explain what makes then the best because it is usually that indescribable element called "talent". Until you can quantify talent I don't think we will see ballet at the Olympics. I think we'll see Ballroom there first.

Author:  blbrown04 [ Thu Feb 16, 2006 6:37 pm ]
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Like LMCtech said, there are all ready multiple competitions for ballet. If the same judges judge the Olympics, then I dont see why it couldnt work. Unless of course, the "ballet bourgeoise" feels that relegating the "precious art" of ballet to the Olympics is unthinkable :shock:

I think if dance wants to survive as a profession it has to make some efforts to introduce itself to the mainstream. Of course it wont replace basketball at the top, but I could see it having an Olympic viewing audience, and besides, dancers are athletes in addition to being artists.

Author:  Michael Goldbarth [ Thu Feb 16, 2006 9:47 pm ]
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I think if dance wants to survive as a profession it has to make some efforts to introduce itself to the mainstream.

I could not agree more with the above!

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Feb 17, 2006 3:12 am ]
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Thanks for your perspective on this topic blbrown, but I think Olympic inclusion would make a much bigger difference to ballet than to ballroom dancing, say. Whereas ballet has competitions, top level ballroom is almost entirely about competitions, so little would change in this latter activity.

Including ballet in the Olympics would place an emphasis on technique and tricks that the art form doesn't need. I can see that schools and even companies desperate for publicity and advertising bucks would concentrate on this area and artistry and expression would go even further to the back of the queue. Give me a couple of uncertain spins plus emotional clout over wooden precision any day.

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