It is in Something’s Absence That We Learn to Appreciate It

The topic of this post is inspired by my experience working on my own at the studio yesterday. Read on for my new insights into music as an integral part of ballet — and please, feel free to share your opinion and offer your own experiences. I would love for this to be the start of a comprehensive discussion on the matter. It is quite relevant to all dancers! But first, a quick update and summary of yesterday!

Yesterday, Tuesday, was the first day I was completely on my own in the studio, without a class to follow my private rehearsal time.  It went well and I enjoyed it so much that I am thoroughly looking forward to my studio time today! It could have gone better — I will admit, I had some trouble getting over my tiredness to work as hard as I would have had someone been watching. But I realize now that it doesn’t matter who is watching; I am there to work hard, not to work at any less than my best. I can make a lot of progress by going to the studio by myself every day, if I work as hard as I would any other day. My ballet teacher is right, I need to not be a student anymore, but rather to learn how to be a professional artist. That means learning to work because I have to, for myself, and not just for an audience.

So today when I go to the studio, I will go in with the mindset of a professional, ready to put myself to work even though no one is there to call me out on any slacking off. Slacking off — that sounds bad! No, I did not slack off yesterday (those who know me would probably argue that they don’t think I could ever slack off no matter how hard I try!) Let’s just say that barre went by really quick. Too quick!

Part of the problem was the music. I brought my ipod to plug in to the CD player. But I found myself having to continuously stop in between the exercises to change, restart, or pause the music, and I found that to be very frustrating! I like flowing through barre with minimal interruptions between exercises, and I was unable to do that while keeping track of the music at the same time. So I ended up doing barre without any music at all! And now, I can’t decide what I like better or what I hate worse: using music but having to stop constantly throughout barre to fix it, or not using music and being able to flow through the exercises but not having the beautiful music to accompany my movements and inspire them.

I think, however, that I will go the no-music route. Why? It’s a good lesson. It’s an experience I need to know how to deal with and manage. I need to learn to feel the music created from inside of me, and to translate it into my movements.

Part of the way I visualize success in my dancing is the ability to make an audience feel music when there is none, to stimulate their sense of sound even when only their sense of vision — watching me dance — is actually being used. 

Ballet requires music; ballet would not be what it is without Tchaikovsky, Minkus, Adam, Shostakovich, Saint-Saens, Chopin…

But imagine what great feats a dancer can accomplish with music if they have the ability to creatively transmit music through their motions when there is none. It is, I think, in the absence of music when we are most able to understand and develop our connection to music.

This would be an opportune time to share ilyaballet’s most recent video blog about some of the male students at the Bolshoi Academy. I forgot about it until now when what I was writing — about the music — was very similar to a situation his boys were in a few weeks ago. Their pianist was ill, and so they carried out several classes without any music at all. It turned out to be an invaluable experience, and everything Ilya and his boys say in the video rings true to my opinions, as is reflected in this post. To see the video and gather more insight into the topic, check out the video titled “5 – Bolshoi Ballet Academy VideoBlog” on ilyaballet’s YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/ilyaballet

So today, when I go to the studio to give myself a class, I will keep all of this in mind and really work toward establishing a deeper connection with the music by learning how to dance without music. I feel that this is a good step toward acting on what my teacher said I need to learn to do — behave like an artist, instead of like a student. The time has come for me to take my dancing to a different level. I am certain that putting myself through such an experience is exactly the way to start doing that!

And just for fun, here is proof that I did work hard yesterday even though I did not work my hardest! Can you see the sweat glistening on my face and shoulders?!

6 thoughts on “It is in Something’s Absence That We Learn to Appreciate It

    • Hello Noa

      Thanks for the invite to comment on this via Twitter.🙂 I love the blog–welcome to the online dance community! I hope you find it as welcoming and rewarding as I have…

      Music….yes! It is hard to do without this vital component. I’ve been forced to teach without it, and it is quite a challenge! It does require you to focus though…

      As you’ve discovered, if you don’t have a live pianist, putting music together for class is quite difficult. But I admire your dedication to give yourself a class, despite the obstacles.

      All the best to you in your quest. I’ll be back to check on this blog!
      Happy Thanksgiving!

      • Thank you! I, too, hope to find this a rewarding experience, one that will add more dimension and complexity to my dancing; as for being new to the online dance community, so far I have found it very welcoming!

        I have had the pleasure of having a live pianist in different settings — generally at summer programs, also when I was studying at Atlanta Ballet — and it was wonderful! I very much wish that my ballet school could have a live pianist, but unfortunately it is simply impossible. My teacher does a wonderful job of using music on CDs, but I know that she longs for a pianist, too🙂

        I’m glad to hear you’ll be back to check my blog! Thanks again for the well wishes!

  1. Keep up the great work, Noa!

    In my opinion, the dancer should be visual music. They should make the audience be able to see the sounds they are hearing. The dancer should work with the music in order to communicate the story with the audience In some cases this may mean dancing “against” the music whereas in others it may be dancing “right on top of it” or even harmonizing with it.

    Just my thoughts🙂

    • Thanks, Rebekah!

      I am curious, have you ever seen a work of choreography in which the dancers were dancing “against” the music on purpose? I don’t ever recall seeing that, but you are not the first person that has mentioned such a scenario. I ask because I simply cannot imagine how that would translate comfortably to the audience! Perhaps I am naive. As well, it seems to me that intentionally dancing against the music would be a technique limited only to neoclassical (or, as it would probably be better called, non-classical) choreography.

      Just wondering out loud here…well, in type😉

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