Samuel Beckett spoke those words, and I don’t believe there are truer words. I have danced my entire life, mostly ballet, and I would say that it is an incredibly important part of who I am. Ballet is a particularly demanding past time, and if you commit at all, it will have a lasting effect on you.
I am in trained in the Royal Academy of Dance school- it is the English style of ballet. It is commonly found throughout the Commonwealth, and is recognised most everywhere in the world. It is a technically demanding style; we do not sacrifice form for style. Every school of ballet is known for something: the Russian school is highly emotive, the American school is dynamic and powerful. The English school is precise, systematic, and thorough. You will not see an R.A.D. trained dancer whack her leg up to gain as much height as possible. You will not see an R.A.D. trained dancer warp her alignment for a more dramatic and lilting port de bras. I believe that the manner in which you dance, and how you treat the dance, is one of the most important factors in ballet. Balanchine, the god of American ballet, wanted STRONG. POWERFUL. FORCEFUL. I find Balanchine’s works rough and damaging and lacking a certain finesse. They can be loud and brash and in your face, and that is not ballet to me. (I know that countless dancers will disagree with me on this point.) Frederic Ashton’s ballets are elegant and controlled and are fun without being in your face- they allow you to meet the ballet on equal grounds. I believe that these differences hugely affect the dancer.
The development of a dancer is carefully plotted through the R.A.D. syllabus, and I think that the style of ballet that you study will greatly impact your ballet- and your personality. You will start with relevés at the barre, and then relevés in the centre, and then single pirouettes, and then double pirouettes, and so on. Once you begin pointe work, you will go back to relevés at the barre, relevés in the centre, and then finally pirouettes again. You start with petite jeté, then move to grande jeté, and eventually to grande jeté en tournant. All of these sequences reinforce the fact that we as people are not meant to go from knowing nothing to knowing everything in one step. We have to learn and progress and master one step before beginning the next. As everyone who has ever heard anything about ballet will know, ballet requires perfection, and as a result, most ballet dancers are serial perfectionists- myself included. There are always ways to improve, things to be aware of, a next level to work towards. Complacency is no one’s friend in ballet. This has particularly helped me in grad school (while simultaneously driving me crazy). It is a lasting impact on all of us.
Ballet is still important in my life, and I will have more blog posts and the current state of ballet for me!