Bravo for Ballet
Ballet gets a bad rap. Kids complain: it’s boring and tedious, old-fashioned, rigid. And the music! All those old guys. Ugh. [Cue universal eye-roll.]
These complaints have been around for ages, despite the fact that they’re not true—or they don’t have to be. Imaginative teachers keep their classrooms lively, use music the kids like, and help them understand why ballet gives them a foundational technique and discipline that help them be better contemporary dancers, or tappers—or better anything. A young man I know who didn’t enjoy taking ballet said, when he switched to martial arts a few years later, that he was glad that he had gotten that training. Ballet helped him, he said, with his stance, his balance, and his ability to move quickly in any direction.
But I’m preaching to the choir; as dance teachers, you know all that. Still, I was happy to hear teachers at last summer’s DanceLife Teacher Conference emphasize the need for ballet training—and good ballet training, said Joe Lanteri. He’s not a ballet teacher, but he thinks this fundamental training is vital. Don’t send a teacher who knows only the rudiments of ballet into a class of unwilling teens, he said—give them someone who will infect her students with her love for this art form and train them to their highest potential.
In this issue we give a nod to ballet. For bunhead students, consider exposing them to Bournonville technique (page 90). Introduce a different kind of fun—character dance (page 84)—into classes for young enthusiasts. Ballet has history and style and relevance, and it’s on Broadway (page 74), changing the face of musical theater. It’s an essential part of dance training. Let’s keep it that way. —Cheryl A. Ossola
DSL editor in chief Cheryl A. Ossola, a former associate editor at Dance Magazine, is a writer for San Francisco Ballet and a member of the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. She holds an MFA in writing from the University of San Francisco.
Paris Opera Ballet, Virtually
Many casual dance fans came to know Benjamin Millepied through his work on a film (Black Swan), so it’s fitting that Millepied—now director of Paris Opera Ballet—would turn a camera on his own dancers as a way of promoting them to the wider world.
“3e Scène”—translated as “third stage”—is an online showcase of original short films and photographic series that use dance, music, or the Opera House as subjects. No dull “set-up-a-camera-and-go” rehearsal footage or redundant talking-head interviews, the initial 18 offerings on “3e Scène” (operadeparis.fr/3e-scene/) are well-thought-out artistic statements written and directed by film directors and other professional artists.
As a digital format, it exists not to raise revenue itself but to serve as a kinder, gentler form of advertising. Fairly certain that an in-person visit to Paris is not in my future, all I can do is click and enjoy.
I spy a black-and-white study (Etoiles, I See You) of Lil Buck and the Opera House’s resplendent artwork and architecture. Other videos’ juxtaposition of vintage and modern footage—duos in Balanchine’s Apollon musagète; male leads in L’Après-midi d’un faune—not only encourage comparison of dancers from different eras, but how dance is and was filmed, as well. (And let me add—the “vintage” faun is Nureyev.)
In Laura, a young dancer traverses a hall worthy of Versailles, accompanied only by ragged breathing and the squeaking of her bare feet on the parquet floor, while in La Grande Sortie, a struggling dancer has a Hitchcockian meltdown.
Of course, in most the narrative or dialogue is in French. Yet I easily figured out what was going on when dancers leave rehearsal for a séance, although whose spirit they appear to conjure up at the end escapes me.
No matter. I’ll go back and watch them all, because these films not only stand alone as art, but introduce me to dancers half a world away that I would never otherwise have the chance to know. At this moment, the benefit is all mine. —Karen White
DSL associate editor Karen White, a former newspaper reporter and freelance writer, has taught dance in private studios and choreographed musicals since age 17 and has no plans to stop.