As someone who absolutely lives and breathes everything ballet, I have to say I was a little shocked the first time I was asked a question like this from a student. Why do you NEED it? You mean - you aren't obsessed with it like me?!
But after several years of teaching in a variety of studios, I realized that the way I've always viewed ballet isn't exactly the way the rest of the dance world views it. The "mandatory" status of ballet training that exists in many studios often has a direct psychological effect on the way dancers view their ballet classes - all of a sudden, ballet is something a student HAS to do, instead of something a student WANTS to do. And that viewpoint immediately creates a negative attitude toward ballet training.
However, there's no getting around the fact that ballet training is an absolute must for any student pursuing dance on a serious level. The benefits are endless, and the difference between a student well-versed in ballet technique and a dancer who studies ballet maybe once a week is incredibly evident. The turnout, lines, posture - everything about a classically trained dancer is more fine-tuned and technically strong.
But too often I see teachers forgetting to remind students of exactly why they have to take ballet, or even informing them why it's important at all. So here are a few reasons why your teachers make you take ballet - and why a ballet foundation is crucial if you want to reach your full potential as a dancer.
I think I'd be correct in assuming that this is the main reason that pops into everyone's heads when they're asked why ballet is so important. Classical ballet classes train a dancer's body to properly use turnout, extend the directional lines of the body, jump higher, turn more, develop spatial awareness, and the list goes on.
But here's the thing - ballet training doesn't work unless YOU do. Simply attending weekly classes isn't enough to give you that solid training foundation you're looking for. It's important that students attend class both mentally and physically, taking an active role in each barre and center combination and critically applying the instructors' tips and corrections. It's not enough to just be in class - if you want the technique benefits that ballet can provide, you need to BE in class, and be an active participant each time.
Most students, if they start dance young enough, begin with ballet - and it's simply because it is truly the base of all other forms of dance. Imagine a tree without its trunk - that's dance training without a ballet foundation.
In addition to a technical foundation, ballet classes also introduce a student to the level of discipline necessary for a dancer to succeed. It begins in the earliest levels of training with simply learning to stand in line, keep quiet during class, and point the toes.
Repetition is introduced from the very beginning and is a continued element of ballet class even at the professional level - to do something over and over and still be working toward perfection instills a level of discipline unlike almost anything else.
Students learn early on that improvement in ballet and dance in general is entirely self-dependent, and that no one else can achieve a higher level of dance performance for them.
It takes an athlete to dance, but it truly does take artistry to be called a dancer.
Ballet training not only provides a technical foundation, but an artistic foundation as well. Students are encouraged from their very first ballet classes to open their imagination and visualize their dance training. A simple hand gesture becomes a floating butterly, a movement of the arms becomes tree branches swaying in the wind.
As students progress in their ballet classes, the use of epaulement (use of the head/upper body) is introduced to evoke emotion and develop artistry further. Students begin to study the characters of story ballets and learn how to blur lines between the dance and the perceptions of the audience. Ballet provides the artistic building blocks from which dancers can truly branch out and discover new and unique methods of expression - rules must first be learned if they're to be broken.
Company representatives and casting directors love nothing more than to see a dancer come through with a strong ballet foundation. With a classically trained dancer, the limits are endless - stronger technique and well developed artistry allows choreographers to be able to push boundaries and create exciting new work with solid dancers that are able to anything thrown at them.
Injuries can happen at any time, but dancers with a strong technical foundation are always less likely to get hurt and be out for several weeks - or months - at a time, making them much more appealing at an audition. In the end it comes right down to reliability, and directors know they can trust a dancer who's classically trained.
With all that being said, versatility is also a highly valuable trait in the dance world today, and in our next post we'll be talking all about the benefits of training diversely.
Hope you enjoyed this one, and maybe gained exposure to a new benefit of ballet training you hadn't thought of before!
Happy dancing loves:)