Ginger Rogers (Dean) here, coming at you backwards and in heels fro the other side of the country *waves enthusiastically while singing Adel’s ‘Hello’*. This week’s ‘Fridays With Dean’ is dedicated to new beginnings. We’ll be discussing why basic technique is important, something you will hear a lot when starting out or learning a new style, and how you can keep track of where you’re at.
When we are learning or just starting out, there is nothing worse than feeling like you’re stuck repeating the basics of a dance style. Over and over again you get drilled on proper technique in a plié, how to hold your back straight and where your weight needs to be. It seems like an endless battle between your teacher and your body. Some of us run for our lives at the mere sight of a Ballet Barre or the teacher announcing “Okay, let’s move on to Pliés.” So why is it drilled into us, even when we become professional dancers?
How often do you find yourself looking at a professional dancer and being awed by their Grande Jeté, their effortless Entrechat Quatre, and that flat Penché line? Has it made you wonder, “how do they do that?” Good news, I have the answer! You wanna hear it? Here goes.
Why do we need it?
A Grande Jeté is not impressive if you can barely get off the ground, an Entrechat is pointless with a flexed foot, and a Penché can quickly turn into a stage dive if your centre of gravity and alignment is off. The big secret? Every Ballet step, is made from the basics you do at the Barre.
Don’t believe me?
- Grande Jeté: The power comes from a deep plié and the height comes from the coordination of stretching from your plie, your Port De Bras and pointing through your feet. The position in the air? Those pesky Grande Battement‘s we all enjoy at the end of Barre.
- Entrechat: Petite Battement, plié, turnout and articulation of the feet.
- Penché: Forward weight placement, Dégagé, arabesque position, squared hips, pulling up with the transverse abdominal muscles.
The other reason why you need basic technique is injury prevention. If you don’t have a firm grasp on proper posture and alignment, how to turn out from your hips and not your knee, how to safely land from a jump; you WILL get injured. It’s not a question of whether or not you’ll get injured, it’s WHEN. Turned in knees on a landing can tear muscles, ligaments and even dislocate your knee and ankle, so it’s always important from a safety standpoint to know the basics.
A little side note to prove my point
Yesterday during a tumbling foundation class, our trainer Alex stopped us to explain why we drill handstand technique. His main point was that most tumbling elements, like handsprings, cartwheels and saults; all use the handstand position to execute. If your handstand technique is poor, your tumbling will suffer. Can you still do a forward handspring without having a solid foundation in handstands? Yes. Is it more likely you will get injured? Yes.
How do we get better at the basics?
Do them over and over again, but with intention. Listen to your teachers, ask questions and watch intently when they demonstrate. I myself find it useful to have a small notebook with me every class. In it, I write any general notes we got as a group, any notes I specifically received, and then my own reflection on what i’m going to do to take on board these notes.
Never get discouraged if someone else has moved on to a higher level of an exercise, or achieved a skill you don’t have yet. They didn’t get there because of luck or genetics as people seem to believe. They worked hard at the basics. Keep working hard, and you can achieve amazing things.