Look at this stunning picture of Margot Fonteyn and Tamara Karsavina! There is so much passion coming right from inside both of them, and this is in the studio! Not even a performance.
This is what we need to strive to do more of in the classroom with our students and dancers. We all focus so much on technique, but what about the technique of the carriage of the arms, the co-ordination of the head and eyes following the hands, the techniques of acting, the techniques of conveying emotion through your movements to the audience. There are so many aspects of Port de Bras, Performance and Presentation that we neglect to rehearse in the studio.
Yes of course technique of the body is important, dance has evolved and changed so much these days, and so much more is required of a dancer now that without a solid base the dancer is lost. But I think that many teachers and choreographers, have a natural feel for performance and forget to spend time working on this major part of the dance. The new generation of dancers is so focused on performing amazing “tricks” because of the development of our dance styles and the fusion of things such as acrobatics, gymnastics, and break dancing.
Not that there is anything wrong with these styles collaborating, because that is pushing our art further and creating new and exciting things for all of us.
What we are loosing, is the connection with the audience and many young dancers I see don’t realize that if they dance with soul and passion, it lifts their technique to another level and the movements start to work and technique falls into place, because of that passion.
We all need to remember every time we get in the studio, why we are dancing in the first place. What was it that made you want to dance?
Who or what was it that you saw, that first inspired you to move to the music, or attend your first dance class?
No matter what style you are training or working in, dancing is a way that humans communicate to each other and express something they perhaps cannot express in words. Dancing is also the visual representation of what is being heard in the music. Students really need to listen to their music more and work to bring out all the little accents and nuances that are there.
Take another look at this gorgeous picture, and just notice the projection of the arms, neck and head from the sternum. Both of these dancers are opening up right from their chest and are using their arms from their centre, not just from their shoulders.
They are “turning out” from their hearts.
So many of us forget to work on arm positions and port de bras, and it is absolutely vital. A non-dancer is of course impressed by the legs and acrobatics, but what they watch and most importantly what they relate to, is the use of the eyes, head, hands and arms.
People use their hands when they talk to each other all the time, and if someone pointed to something “over there” you would instantly look, wouldn’t you? The connection of the hands and eyes isn’t just something dancers do, it’s something we all do in everyday life. That’s why it’s so important to work on the shapes you are creating with your hands and arms, and to make sure you are lifted through the chest and using your arms from your centre – from your sternum and from the upper back between the shoulder blades.
In Ballet the mission is to make everything look so effortless that anyone could do it, so you can’t show any tension in the arms, upper body, or neck. There are still sharp passages of port de bras that call for a stronger presentation, but still it should look easy. If it’s a more modern form of dance, like Hip Hop, then the aim is to show the effort and drive that it takes to achieve each movement and therefore the arms and hands need to be shaped in a way to convey the tension in the muscles and the power behind each movement.
Whatever your dance style, the presentation of your work and the carriage of your arms needs to be practiced. Not everyone has a natural sense of line, or a natural musicality, or perhaps even a natural sense for theatrics and acting. So teachers need to help students practice these aspects and dancers should address them with their choreographers in order to get the best performance.
This needs to start in the studio, which seems to be the place where dancers hold themselves back the most. It’s too late to wait until you get on the stage, you need to work on it now!
So turn away from the mirror, use your imagination and pretend there is an audience of hundreds sitting out in front of you.
How are you going to express to them what is happening inside your heart?