CriticalDance Forum

Is there a 'particular way' to talk to dancers????
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Author:  angela [ Mon Dec 24, 2001 5:11 am ]
Post subject:  Is there a 'particular way' to talk to dancers????

From the 'gala' thread,I thought this would be a good thing to discuss.<BR> Some dancers seem reserved,shy;I even heard the describtion 'snooty' and 'dumb'(now I CERTAINLY dont believe these are true).<BR> Is it because of most of the public as Azlan sorta hinted 'dont talk their language?'What language is that?

Author:  Tom Skelton [ Mon Dec 24, 2001 5:24 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Is there a 'particular way' to talk to dancers????

Many dancers, alas, have little formal education. This is particularly true, of course, among ballet dancers, who must be at a very high level at an early age if they are to have professional careers.<P>Those dancers who are educated and articulate tend to be very much so, but there are many who simply can't (or perhaps won't) maintain a conversation about anything other than dance.<P>At that, they're better than actors, many of whose alphabets end with the letter "I".

Author:  Basheva [ Mon Dec 24, 2001 6:15 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Is there a 'particular way' to talk to dancers????

Well, I have been called many things, but shy isn't one of them. However, I do have a shy streak that I hide beneath chatter. Usually, however, I can make conversation with just about anyone.<P>But some of the things that I find in the way of conversation as a dancer are off putting. Picking up from what Tom said above, sometimes it is assumed that because I dance I am therefore uneducated, dumb, and inarticulate. While that may be true, it's not really conducive to conversation to have that thrust at me.<P>I have also, quite a number of times, had it assumed that because I dance I couldn't possibly have a normal home life - a child - a husband - a home, and yes, morals. That I am some sort of gad-about - and worse - much worse. No, I haven't found that assumption among the men, but among the women. <P>Some were actually astonished when introduced to my husband that indeed I was not a gad-about (using a polite euphemism here). <P>I don't mind ever - ever - being asked questions about dance, but I do mind people insisting upon their preconceived notions. For instance, telling me that "of course there are pieces of wood in your toe shoes," and refusing (laughing even) when I say (politely of course) t'isn't so.<P>Then there are the people who insist that all men who dance are gay (so what?), or dancing is not a "real job", or I am doing this because I can't do anything else, or surprise that dancers get paid at all, or if my name isn't Russian I am not really a dancer, or ...or....or...<P>The above are really not good ways to begin a conversation, with anyone, let alone a dancer.<P>

Author:  Basheva [ Mon Dec 24, 2001 6:44 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Is there a 'particular way' to talk to dancers????

....oh yes, forgot one...<P>The absolute insistence that my feet must be very ugly, deformed even...<P>Makes me wonder..if that were true why would anyone use that as a conversational starter?<P>And, it happens not to be true. (sigh)

Author:  Red Shoes [ Mon Dec 24, 2001 11:18 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Is there a 'particular way' to talk to dancers????

I'm just wondering if one should get miffy about Tom's statement that many dancers are lacking in formal education.<BR>I didn't dance, I taught. But a few of my co-students danced and I certainly wouldn't consider myself or any of them educationally or conversationally challenged.<P>(...Flounces off in a melodramatic balletic huff...)

Author:  Tom Skelton [ Mon Dec 24, 2001 4:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Is there a 'particular way' to talk to dancers????

<sigh> I *knew* this would happen.<P>I said, "many".<P>"Many" does not mean "all".

Author:  Azlan [ Tue Dec 25, 2001 8:32 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Is there a 'particular way' to talk to dancers????

I have to agree with Tom. Most of the professional ballet dancers I know do not have a formal academic education beyond highschool. The ballet track here in the US pretty much precludes college. There are exceptions however (right now, I can only think of one exception among all the ballet dancers I know).<P>At the same time, the education that professional ballet dancers do receive focuses very much on their art, with classes and coaching day in and day out.<P>The biggest pity is for those dancers who opted for the ballet track but never really made it professionally -- they lack formal education in either world and must do their best to re-acclimatize themselves to the business world. I can think of one such friend who went back to college to become an architect. Some however still cling on to dreams of succeeding as artists and have to educate themselves in ballet, as they take on amateur gigs without the daily professional exposure one gets in a company.<P>So, going back to the idea of this interesting thread (thanks, Angela), most ballet dancers have a language -- rich it may be -- that is not so compatible with those spoken by the "business/college world." Conversely, most in the "business/college world" are almost completely ignorant of the language spoken in "ballet world."<P>There is however some common ground, which I will explore in my next post.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Tue Dec 25, 2001 8:45 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Is there a 'particular way' to talk to dancers????

In the UK, most of the younger contemporary dancers I meet have a degree as that's what most study for at the practise schools, leaving at 21. There are very few ballet dancers with degrees, as they join the Companies at 18/19, although some of the companies such as Birmingham Royal Ballet are introducing vocational degrees up to MA level.<P>It doesn't seem to make much difference to be honest, the most articulate dancer I know is Deborah Bull, a non-graduate. Some dancers are extrovert and happy to talk to fans and some are not. Nearly all would rather talk to other dancers. <p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited December 25, 2001).]

Author:  Basheva [ Tue Dec 25, 2001 9:02 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Is there a 'particular way' to talk to dancers????

I think, if I am understanding the topic of this thread correctly, it is not the educational level or even the conversational skills of the average dancer - but:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>is there a particular way to talk to dancers?<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>Which brings up the question - is there a particular way to talk to anyone? <P>I would say 'yes', there is. Be open, be courteous, be receptive, show honest interest. It's no great secret. Dancers like anyone else can pick up on false conviviality, and false assumptions.<P>Surely we don't initially ask ourselves "shall I engage this person in a conversation" based on the attainment of a college degree? That would be as unhappy a situation as asking ourselves if we wish to engage a person in conversation based on an equally equivocal standard as wealth. <P> I would hope we wish to engage that person for the delight of simple human communication.<P>

Author:  Tom Skelton [ Tue Dec 25, 2001 9:57 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Is there a 'particular way' to talk to dancers????

No, Basheva, but whether or not there's a common language certainly dictates whether communication is even possible.<p>[This message has been edited by Tom Skelton (edited December 25, 2001).]

Author:  citibob [ Tue Dec 25, 2001 1:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Is there a 'particular way' to talk to dancers????

There seems to be a line of reasoning, that lack of education leads to bad conversation with dancers. I think the poor conversation stems from other sources.<P>I'm by far the most educated ballet dancer I know, in a company full of college graduates. I'm also one of the less talkative. One reason I dance is so I don't have to talk; I can relate through movement, even while someone else is talking to me.<P>Dance is a complete expression in itself. As a dancer, I often don't have much more to say about it, either to the audience or to other dancers, especially not after finishing dancing. Plus, I may be exhausted from focusing a day's worth of energy into a short dance, and I may not want to examine my performance's shortcomings right there. So I try to be polite, and say "thank you" to audience compliments.<P>Dance can also be a very technical subject, but it's rare to find people, even other dancers, who want to "talk shop".<P>I have encountered people who treat me like I'm dumb when I'm trying to find a conversation topic other than dance by relating to their lives. Obviously, quite a turn-off.<P>I exist also in the business/college world, but I find gala parties different from that. In the business world, I interact with ambitious people in their 20's and 30's who are working their way up in their careers. Gala parties seem to be filled with wealthy older individuals who have retired and are NOT engaged in the current business world, at least not in a way that resonates with twentysomethings.<BR>

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Tue Dec 25, 2001 2:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Is there a 'particular way' to talk to dancers????

What I usually find even with some of the better known, but not famous ones is that people recognise dancers so infrequently that if you have seen them in a couple of things and have some nice things to say about them, they will be pleased to chat for a while. <P>But my advice is not to outstay your welcome. I saw someone collar Tamara Rojo in the interval at a performance and she clearly wanted to go and talk to her friends, but he just carried on and she was too polite to break off. So, be sensitive.<p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited December 25, 2001).]

Author:  Maggie [ Tue Dec 25, 2001 2:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Is there a 'particular way' to talk to dancers????

I have met many people that I find more educated and learned than some people I have met who have graduated from a university with a degree, or degrees. In terms of being interesting, or being able to carry on a conversation, one may, or may not, be educated in one way or another. Some of the "stupidest" people I know are college graduates, some of the most "educated" are not. Of course, I've met the reverse, too! The way to talk to dancers, or anyone, as Tom suggests, is to find a common thread. I have not always been able to do that, but I learned to because there is always something interesting out there in some form or another. That thread may have the diameter of a spider web, but there is one, and it's worth bringing out. Because someone is more used to other forms of communication, as citibob pointed out, doesn't mean they can't be drawn out. <P>There is a saying; "The most interesting person is the one who listens." (heh-heh!)<p>[This message has been edited by Maggie (edited December 25, 2001).]

Author:  Azlan [ Tue Dec 25, 2001 4:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Is there a 'particular way' to talk to dancers????

CitiBob wrote:<BR> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>There seems to be a line of reasoning, that lack of education leads to bad conversation with dancers. I think the poor conversation stems from other sources.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>Very true. The point is that there are very diverse educations out there. Even within the "business/college world," you have huge differences. Have any of you ever been to a party with microchip engineers and painters? Or investment brokers and novelists? It takes effort for these separate groups of people to mingle with each other. When you are educated a certain way and deal with one set of rules day in day out, you tend to develop a language and the habits that make sense in the professional/education group you belong to but not to anyone else.<P>In the same vein, the education that ballet dancers receive is very focused. As Basheva and Maggie may be eluding to, the most stupid comments I have heard made at a party come from those outside "ballet world." To quote myself from the previous thread:<BR> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>..., most patrons who attend a party don't know how to talk to dancers -- in fact, many don't have a clue what dance is about... I have found that most dancers will warm up to me, as a guest, because I speak their language and I show appreciation for what they do beyond "You were wonderful."<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>When having to deal with such incredulity, most people, including dancers, just avoid it altogether. It's easier and safer to stick to your own kind. You can talk about who flubbed what and whose pirouettes stuck, with confidence that your own kind will understand you, just as a microchip engineer can talk about EPROMs and EPLDs to their own kind (mind you though that I personally don't know zilch about microchip engineering -- I just read a lot).<P>Also pretty chatter won't get you very far. As Tom pointed out, a common ground is required. And how do you find that common ground? Well, let me try to give it a shot, and hopefully bring us back to the original point of this thread.<P>For dancers:<P>1. It's okay to solicit audience comments. You crave attention anyway -- so go ahead and ask a patron what they really thought of a performance. Help them out by suggesting particular moments in the ballet that was successful and moments that were problematic. Avoid ballet terminology, at least in the beginning. Be patient with the patron's response;<P>2. Educate the patron about ballet terms. As you describe the moments above, tell them the name of a step. Demonstrate if necessary;<P>3. Tell the patron how much you appreciate their comments, even negative ones (most don't realize that dancers crave correction);<P>4. Talk about any subject you watched on the news or in the papers. Current news always interests people no matter the profession -- that's why it's in the papers or on TV;<P>5. I'm not sure about this one but I would avoid the weather as a subject -- it may sound trite.<P>For patrons (which is really converse to the above points):<P>1. Be honest but polite with the dancers about your impressions of the performance;<P>2. Ask the ballet dancers to name a step that you saw. Don't be afraid to demonstrate;<P>3. Tell the dancers you appreciate their efforts, even bad ones;<P>4. Bring up the news! You will be surprised how current most dancers are. Even those who aren't are appreciative of what you have to tell them;<P>5. Same as above.<P>There are more of course. But hopefully this will give some an idea of what I mean about searching for a common ground. And really it applies to any group of people talking to any other group of people.<p>[This message has been edited by Azlan (edited December 25, 2001).]

Author:  Azlan [ Tue Dec 25, 2001 4:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Is there a 'particular way' to talk to dancers????

And, oh, as most of you know, my partner, Lauren, is your fairly typical professional ballet dancer (and Artistic Director -- have to say that or she'll correct me again) who did not go to college. Yet she is one of the most intelligent people I know -- she has to be to run a ballet company.

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