10 Reasons Why You Should Do Ballet
Ode to Ballet
Are you a discombobulated, maladroit, tactless slob? Do you like listening to classical or soothing music? Have you dreamt of being less clumsy and more charming? Then you’re in luck, because today I’m going to tell you how to become a graceful, light-footed, coordinated performer and the envy of many small children. Okay, so maybe it won’t go that far, but I can give you some tips and some reasons why dance is an overlooked sport that both women and men should seriously consider.
So, you want to be a ballerina? If you’re still reading then you might as well admit or at least admit that ballerinas have an unequivocal beauty and style while they prance across the stage. The first reason for doing ballet is not only the coordination, but the quickness necessary to increase your body’s agility. A true professional ballerina has mastered the coordination and agility necessary to appeal to their mystified audience. The ballerina’s coordination stems from her ability to dance with the music. The symphony that is typically used in theater shows are composed of a series of instruments all of which combine to form a flowing melody. Dancing against this flow is like a guppy swimming against the tide. The moral of this story is, don’t be a guppy!
Grace is the second reason for the allure of ballet dancers. Ballet was invented by the French under the patronage of King Louis XIV. The body positions necessary to make ballet appealing was strategically lined out by its inventors. Have you ever seen the Nutcracker? Giselle? Swan Lake? The intention of the arm positions, encircling the head or encircling the chest and abdomen is to frame the body. The arms serve as an oval picture frame to emphasize the grace of the refined body positions. You may have also noticed straight lines using the arms, the back and legs. As the neck and chin are lifted, the arms and legs extend from the torso and serve to elongate the body. Watching some dancers on stage makes them look ten feet tall. However, when you meet them backstage their really tiny, like five foot even. Have you ever been to a photo shoot for your school’s yearbook or a family portrait? The postures are typically unnatural, but the pictures turn out great. These same “unnatural” and sometimes uncomfortable postures serve to make ballet look even better. With all this sophistication you could get a monocle and a diamond studied walking cane. Sophistication is definitely apart of the package but it’s not like you’ll come out knowing unrelated etiquette like the difference between a soup spoon and a dinner fork.
Parlez-vous francais? Peut-etre un peu? Would you like to speak French? French is among the fastest languages in the world, and also the most beautiful. It’s befitting that such a lovely culture shared such an elegant dance style with the world. In ballet class there is no immediate English translation for the ballet moves. You can learn a stylized dance and pick up on some French words. Allegro; arabesque, pas de bourree, tour en l’air, rond de jambe, pique, et fouette. Oh, so many lovely words. They sound even better than our English butchering of them. Whatever you do when speaking a little Francais to pick up the ladies. please say “Pas de deux” and not “Pas de chat”. I think a lady would rather have a dance for two instead of a dance of the cat!
A fourth reason that I think should be briefly touched on is the lightness on the feet. They float in and out of the stage wings like little humming birds. Ballerinas have an incredible ability to not stomp around. You know those people that you can hear coming from a block away? They’re so heavy on their feet the floorboards shake like a small tremor. Could you imagine a ballerina leaping to do a grand jette and coming down so hard she busts a hole through the wooden stage floor? That would never do. If nothing else, with this mastery of the light footedness, you could sneak up on people. Like a super stealthy ninja, they’ll never hear you coming. Either that or people will just admire you for floating on a cloud as you walk by.
Sit up straight! When I was young, my mother, my teachers and my dance instructors always scolded me about how I would gradually and subconsciously slump over while I walked or sometimes at the “barre” in ballet class. Ballet teaches strict poise and a specific way of carrying yourself. When we think of someone with good posture who makes strong eye contact, maybe has a firm handshake, we think he or she has high self-confidence. It’s all in the package.
A second important teaching of ballet is ambidexterity. Dexterity in both the left and right hand or parts of the body is not easy to come by. When we think of “handedness” we typically think of right handed versus left handed, but it’s more than that. Typically people have a dominate side, but ballet helps to even this imbalance out by stressing the need to perform using both sides. Both directions are enforced and every side of the body is incorporated into the movement. Even though you may still have an imbalance of dexterity, ballet certain helps to even this out.
Have you ever misplaced your house keys and couldn’t remember where you put them? When talking to someone, have you ever just completely blanked and forgot what you wanted to say? Theses are common little mishaps that occur in our memory and some people’s memory is just worst than others. Studies have shown that children can really benefit from memorization tasks needed to perform in the arts, and it may not be too late for adults too. For example, playing an instrument is an example of an art that can improve a child’s intelligence, especially in mathematics. When learning music lessons like to a piano, the child must stretch their mind, coordination and memory in order to learn to play the instrument. Ballet is no different; it requires vast amounts of memorization from barre combination to floor combos like petit allegro and adagio. For a young child, anything that requires memory tasks and a high need of concentration like ballet and music will help improve intelligence. Strive for a connection between body and mind!
A sound seventh reason for doing ballet is the health benefits. You can get in shape and have fun in a creative way. The level of fitness required to perform well in ballet is equivalent to strength training and aerobic work-outs. Flexibility is another plus, but a gradual accomplishment. Push your body along through mild discomfort stretching your tendons and muscles along daily or weekly. The height that you can kick or bend to touch your toes isn’t important. It’s the position of your body and the awareness of your figure in space that gives the dancer some appeal. Ballet also incorporates an understanding of anatomy, the mechanics of the body and how it is being perceived by others. It’s all about the placement of arms, legs and the torso.
So now you’re getting in shape and gaining gracefulness, but you’re also building lean muscle. We call it lean because it’s not built up in the same way that a muscle man or Mr. Universe stacks ripples of muscle in the gym. Using isometric techniques you can build elongated yet strong arms and legs. Using the weight of your body against gravity strengthens the lean muscle. To continue on the physiology of a ballerina, an interesting little fact about ballerina’s that many probably don’t know is that pointe work builds not only lean muscle, but resistance to pain. The pain of going up on your toes goes straight to your brain and gradually the body can fight the pain receptors. I guess this means if you punch a ballerina in the face it won’t hurt as bad as a regular person because they have more resistance to pain. Ok, maybe not in the face, but if you step on her foot she won’t feel it? (but please don’t, that would be mean)
Reason number nine and we’re getting down to the nitty gritty. Just for the record, you don’t have to be a twig in order to dance well, and don’t let anyone tell you that. I’ve seen people with powerful thunder thighs dance with more appeal then super skinny bean pole legs (no offense to either). You don’t have to be young to enjoy dancing either. I’ve met plenty of forty to fifty year olds who can out dance teenagers. I’ll admit that children are a little more resilient to bounce back if they fall, but other than that age is not a factor. I think this is a good reason to do ballet just to prove that anyone can enjoy its beauty. So if you have web feet, seven fingers, buck teeth, and a receding hairline get out there and show them who's boss.
So now you’re an elegant lean-mean pain-resistant powerhouse ready to dance. Now what? Perform! Life’s a stage dance on it. If you’re not considering joining an amateur dance troop or even a professional one, then you can still perform if dance is what you love doing. Find a volunteer group or make one and dance for underprivileged people. I appreciated dance and life even more after I danced with people in wheelchairs. Here are some tips and motives if you’re still a little iffy. Get over your stage freight – falling happens. I blacked out on stage and fell, but got up with grace and students dancing along with me thought it was apart of the show! Wear an awesome costume and be adored by small children! My fondest memories of ballet performances were signing autographs afterward. Granted, I was only seventeen at the time, but it was still fun to have elementary aged fans.
Now you’re ready to take on the world. With your ballet moves and knowledge of the dance you are nimble like a deer, swift like a fox and lissome like a butterfly. However, if you’re still feeling a little insecure about wearing skin tight clothing and flopping around on Marley floors, then there are other options. Aerobics is fun and can get you up and moving if you’re searching for the health benefits of ballet. Modern dance has captivated people of all dance levels because the range of dance movement is limitless and not as strictly defined as ballet. Can't do it on your own? Then try ballroom or salsa dance with your boyfriend or girlfriend. You might be surprised to find out you weren't born with two left feet. Got happy feet? Then try tap dance, especially rhythm tap and get those feet moving. Dance is a beautiful art form and an energetic sport. There’s a type that fits all personalities, so find it!