I have no dance quality – HELP!
Though we master the moves of ballet over time, it is always more of a journey to feel comfortable doing them, to feel that we are dancing as opposed to simply connecting a series of poses! Feeling like a dancer and being at ease in your movement is very difficult. If you feel a bit wooden or awkward and are wondering how you can make everything look a little bit more interesting, read on!
Use your third eye
Your ‘third eye’ in ballet is situated on your chin, and you should always position the head at an angle as though you were looking out of this eye. This simple elevation of the head alters the execution of every move. It is more difficult than it sounds, because in ballet we end up trained to look down (we often start out looking at other people’s feet in the mirrors so that we can copy them and most of us never lose this habit). So, lift your chin up and you will create a sense of confidence in your movements
Let your gaze follow your hands
One of the most difficult things to master is where to look! Our heads can sometimes feel lost as we may have no idea about how to use them stylistically. Our eye alignment and face add substantial quality to our dancing and it is important we don’t forget these very important assets. Over time this will become natural – teachers rarely set head alignments, because each student feels the music and movement slightly differently. In general, to create more dance quality, remember to alter your gaze, do not always fixate on one position, move the head as the body moves. If you are lost and nothing feels natural, allow the eyes to follow your hands, when you open the arms, follow the hands, when you lift the arms, follow, and always look into your front hand in arabesque. This helps to create more fluidity in your movement and better coordination between the head and body
Smiling and relaxing your face helps to reduce the tension in your upper body. Try smiling throughout your next grand allegro – you will be amazed by how much lighter you feel. Reducing tension can give you greater elevation and more ballon (bounce) in your dancing. It is also automatically more engaging for the audience or those watching you. Anytime you enjoy what you are doing, this translates to those around you!
Move through positions
One thing that reduces grace is a failure to move through the positions, for example moving from one arm alignment abruptly to another, without going through transition movements. Or doing a set of turns and abruptly halting to a finish (I am guilty of this). You need to create a feeling of finishing everything – extend to your fullest point, and if you are using your head to look at your hands, create a feeling of looking beyond something, not just at something. Fill out the music by creating a sense of continuously growing and expanding as opposed to reaching a position and pausing. Though the moves– the arabesques, the turns, the balances are important, it is transitions, (the moves between the moves) that create a sense of fluidity and continuity. So remember to play close attention to the small linking steps
Light and Shade
Light and shade is what makes dance exciting. It is understanding the contrasts within your movement, at what points are things soft and fluid, when are they precise and sharp? When can you linger behind the music and when do you need to be exactly on the beat? There is no right or wrong way about this, it is about listening to music and responding in a way that feels natural to you. Light and shade is about ensuring your entire dance or routine isn’t executed at the same pace, with the same intensity, with the same emotion. Changes in your emotions, energy and precision are what makes your dancing a little unpredictable and that is what makes it exciting. In other words, feel the music and allow your body to be a vessel to express what you feel.
We go into dance classes wanting to dance, because of the inherent joy humans feel through movement. It is easy for this to get lost over time as we focus more and more on mastering the movements. But the pursuit of technique and skill must remain secondary to your love of dancing! It is this feeling, this enjoyment, that helps to develop a unique dance quality and connect a dancer to their audience.
Do you have any other tips? Share below!