Expressing Myself And Social Experiments In Modern

While I’m happy to report that my minor injuries are doing much better (especially given the fact that the cold has not eased up at all), I still haven’t officially been to a ballet class since the last one I mentioned over two weeks ago. Part of it is that I’m still really nervous about reinjuring myself by doing any position besides first and second, part of it is just scheduling (I was really hoping to squeeze in Basic beginner class this weekend, but there was just no way, time-wise). This last week has been beyond hectic with long hours of rehearsals, studying for finals and other school stuff. However, as I’ve found, when you’re obsessed with ballet, somehow it finds its way into your life anyway.

 

I’ve done barre a couple times at home, though a very conservative beginner level barre. Plies, tendus, degages, releves, and a little bit of fondues – nothing too crazy. When I’m feeling better I desperately want to leap and twirl, but there’s the feeling of not wanting to reinjure myself before the performances. So I hold back, which is harder than I anticipated on the days when I’m feeling like my old self.

Another unexpected way ballet has crept in has been in Modern class. This week we did more improvisation stuff, instead of our usual structured warm up and class. M Teacher had us partner up and assigned one person in each set as the leader. The person following was to do exactly as the leader did. First there was a walking exercise, where we walked around at various tempos, depending on what the leader was doing.  We both took turns being the leader. Then, M Teacher switched it up and said that there was no leader, but we were to stay in our partnerings and stay close together to see what happens. That was so weird!

Then, after switching partners, we began a new exercise, which we started off seated facing each other.  This was an exercise in mirroring. My partner was the leader first, and she just had me do basic hand motions (and I think she ran out of ideas pretty quick). Then it was my turn, and I brought some ballet into it. We did pretty seated port de bras, going through the different positions first slowly, then at a quicker tempo. I had us doing swan arms, then stretching our legs out to the sides so we could do side bends resembling a barre stretch. As M Teacher called out that we were free to move and didn’t have to just stay seated, I got more into it. We stood up (in the way I figured out how to not stress my knees, by going into a plank and pushing up my hips to a downward dog position, then planting the feet and rolling up gracefully. More port de bras, then I added chasses and tendus, then temps lie. The girl I was partnered up with and I had spoken before, and she had told me that she’d never done ballet but she was curious about trying it (though afraid of wearing a leotard, and the body size pressure). So I kept it relatively slow and simple, but very flowy and graceful, sort of similar to the moves we’ve done before in a ballet class reverance (but without the bows). It felt so lovely to dance! When M Teacher told us to finish in a pose I brought us to a chasse into arabesque, holding first arabesque with my back leg just barely touching the floor. It was so pretty, and my partner told me she had a lot of fun.

The second day I had Modern this week we did more improvising, this time going across the floor. M Teacher divided us into groups and would call out the theme that she wanted us to do, like ‘slow’ or ‘fast’ or  ‘heavy’ or’melting’, etc.  There were some awesome displays of creativity from some of my classmates (especially the guys who’s theme was ‘heavy’ – they did this thing where they were almost dragging themselves across, simulating increased gravity. It was very entertaining to watch).

The first time my group went across, our theme was ‘low’ (as in low to the ground), so it was a little hard to pull off. The second time we started off with ‘melting’, so I did chasses, making sure to not lift my feet off the ground, nice and slow. Then, mid way through, she changed it to ‘happy’. I don’t know what it was, but I was totally feeling it. I took off, doing little leaps and saute arabesques across the floor, enjoying the lightweight flying feeling, feeling free, feeling actually happy. Afterwards I was really hoping that I wouldn’t regret all the jumping, but my body didn’t complain to me.

It’s funny, because I’ve heard from several dancers who were ballet trained but then prefer modern that the reason they prefer modern is because they feel like they can express themselves. But whenever I’m asked to improvise I find myself doing ballet. There’s nothing wrong with feeling like that’s how you express yourself the best, I hope. This may sound bad, but I really love doing ballet during modern because as long as you remember to use your plie it’s not quite wrong, and I can just dance without having to correct every single thing.

We also found our that for our Modern final we are going to be choreographing a short dance in partners. I love choreographing (not saying I’m good at it, just saying I enjoy it immensely), so that was a pleasant surprise.

I learned stuff about myself during this week of Modern though – and not just that I like to express myself balletically (which I think I already knew?) : while it’s hard to be a leader (unless it’s doing something I love, like ballet), and I am comfortable following, I was absolutely at a loss of what to do when there was no appointed leader. Like, I wanted to take the lead, but I was afraid the other person wouldn’t follow, so I kind of left it up to them.  And  the thing is, I’ve totally seen examples of this in real life, where I’ve been like ‘why is so and so telling us what to do?’. However, with my second partner, since she was so… I don’t know, I want to say ‘submissive’ but that sounds bad, it was easy for me to assume the leadership role when the teacher left it up to us. It’s like I want to be a leader, but I can only lead if the other person is content to follow, and anyone that’s more stronger willed won’t let me lead them. I don’t know, it sounds weid but I feel like I understand  myself – and society – a little better now. Like, there can never be a vaccum, it will always be filled by the person who exudes the most control, I don’t know how to explain it better.

Anyway, that wraps up this ramble. I am committing myself to attend ballet class this week, so we’ll see how it goes.

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6 thoughts on “Expressing Myself And Social Experiments In Modern

  1. meetatbarre

    The last show I did had improv, and it was hard to adjust to for me. It’s funny how people approach it differently. For me, it was only comfortable when I understood my character, motivation and emotions, even in an abstract dance piece! Technique wise in improv, I think my improv trends towards release technique and floor work and taking cues from the expansion and contraction of my breath.

    Reply
    1. kit Post author

      I can definitely see how understanding the character’s motivation and emotions would make it more comfortable to improv. I think release and floor work can look so beautiful – or the opposite, if that’s the choreographer’s intent – but as I’m not there yet modern-technique-wise, I’ve noticed that when it comes to improv those are not my go-to moves. Perhaps this may change as I grow as a dancer.

      Reply

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