I’ve always loved the Bryan Ferry song, Dance with Life and the idea that we partner with God or the Universe to choreograph our own dance and join in love with human partners to move in rhythm together.
I especially love contemporary (modern ballet) as the ultimate emotional expression of life’s joys and sorrows. I love its fluidity and rawness.
I’ve boasted before about Miss Yin’s dance prowess, so I promise to hold back on the pride in this post (just one little shout out – she’s now doing contemporary dancing with the older students, and is learning a lot as a dancer, and a person – she’s showing her talent, but it’s also challenging her emotional maturity, and I’m very proud).
The studio encourages students to do classical ballet as the foundation for all the forms of dancing. Classical ballet is structured, while contemporary is freeform and jazz is fun and energetic. Ballet is all discipline and technique and some kids don’t stick with it.
But even though I’ve never learned dance (secret admission – I really wish I had) I can see how ballet form enables the best dancers to shine when they put emotion into it.
Miss Yin must flip, walk-over, cartwheel, jeté and pirouette more than 200 times a day – she is constantly (and almost unconsciously) doing dance and acrobatic moves, practicing, perfecting (and actively meditating even without knowing it).
It is this commitment to (and joy in) each individual move that enables them to come together, effortlessly, in a beautiful dance performance (and in life).
So here are some life lessons from common ballet positions.
This is the very first (of course) standing position in ballet (there are five – the fifth being the hardest). To me first position is like Tadasana (mountain pose) in yoga – the position that grounds you in the earth and sets you up for movement.
In first position, the balls of the feet are turned out completely. The heels touch each other and the feet face outward, trying to form a straight line.
I’m sure its familiar (think of a duck), and it’s rather awkward (especially if you have larger calf muscles). If it feels strange to stand so tall and straight in Tadasana, then first position feels even stranger. But if you can somehow feel comfortable, I suspect you can feel at ease in lots of other poses.
The life lesson – get grounded, even when it feels awkward – it will stand you in good stead, literally.
Means “bend”, from the verb plier, to bend – a smooth and continuous bending of the knees outward from a standing position (1st to 5th), with back held straight.
The life lesson of a plié is to be prepared to bend, to change, even when things feel uncomfortable. The rigidity of the standing positions is relieved in the bending into plié and the rising back up again.
Is the position of the body supported on one leg, with the other leg extended behind with the knee straight. The standing leg may be either bent, in plie, or straight. Arms are stretched out, one behind and the other in front.
To me Arabesque is most similar to the Warrior 3 yoga balance pose – it represents a thrust forward, while remaining grounded in the present, the other leg linking with the past.
Life’s lesson is that being strongly in the present is the only way to balance the past and the future and move forward with confidence.
Similar to Arabesque, the bent leg is held at right angles to the standing leg, which is kept straight. Arms are raised to form a circle above the head.
This pose is most like a backbend twist, demonstrating that we need to be prepared to turn corners when life bends and twists – the arms representative of the circle that is life.
(Oh and Miss Yin is rather good at adopting the Attitude pose, no surprise there!)
Jeté is a jump from one foot to the other similar to a leap, in which one leg appears to be “thrown” in the direction of the movement.
This pose is like the splits in the air. To me it symbolises making the most out of life – literally jumping for joy, and also being prepared to take a leap of faith.
A pirouette is a turn on one leg, often starting with one or both legs in plié and rising onto demi-pointe or pointe (for women). The non-supporting leg is held in Passé (similar to tree pose position in yoga). A pirouette may return to the starting position or finish in arabesque or attitude positions, or proceed otherwise.
Ballet pirouettes are performed with the hips and legs rotated outward (“turned out”), while it’s common to see them performed with an inward rotation (“parallel”) in other genres of dance, such as jazz and modern.
The best ballet dancers can do multiple pirouettes, mesmerizing us with their dizzying ability.
The life lesson is that sometimes it feels like things are going around in circles – but if you can just stay balanced and centered you will be OK when things stop spinning.
So that’s it for a ballet lesson (well Ok – a couple more photos cause I’m proud).
What lessons will you take with you? Did you learn dance as a kid or wish you had? Do you dance now?
Linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT.