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Quote of the Week 10/4/11

by Ellen on October 5th, 2011

“There can be no such thing as a ‘correct standing position’ for each and every person. The question is not one of correct position, but of correct coordination.”

This quote resonates strongly with the dancer in me. Most traditional dance training, particularly in ballet, places an enormous emphasis on proper alignment. The idea seems to be that there is exactly one ‘right way’ to stand, and we must all strive to be as close to that ideal as possible. I struggled for many years with my own failed attempts to match that ‘right way’ of standing in ballet. In contrast, Alexander’s words remind us that each and every person is different. Our unique body types and weight distributions mean that five people performing the same movement may result in five movements that look completely different—on the surface. What’s important, though, is not how the movements or positions look, but how the body as a whole is coordinated.

In dance, this means that the focus should really be on the internal impulses and energetic directions behind the movements, and the intentions behind those impulses, rather than on the exterior appearance of the movements themselves. Rather than trying to imitate the teacher’s movements exactly and match her form, emphasis should be on identifying her directions, her initiations and her intentions, and matching those. That way, even though every dancer’s arabesque might look slightly different, their directions will be consistent and they will still appear to be “together” in a group piece.

As an example, consider the following video. This is the ballet company Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, an all-male parody company. (Yes, these ARE in fact men in drag.) This is an excerpt from “Go for Barocco,” their parody of Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco. (I chose The Trocks because they are one of the better examples in today’s ballet world of a company composed of many varied body types. Big companies tend to have one body type they prefer and hire based on that, to achieve a more uniform look in performance, which defeats the whole purpose of my argument.) As you watch this video, notice how the same movements appear different on each dancer, and how they are tied together into a cohesive whole by the clear intentions behind their movements.

Forward and Up! is a Pittsburgh-based private practice offering quality instruction in the Alexander Technique in a positive and supportive environment.

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