Technique and Thought Over Tricks In Ballet

Dance Teacher Katrena Cohea takes a look dance technique v tricks.

Today I saw an Instagram video of a beautiful dancer. She was being coached on what looked like a rond de jambe en l’air.

She had lovely feet and a wonderful extension; her leg was nearly up to her ear. And while this is impressive, and earned the Instagram post many ‘likes’, I couldn’t help but think… ‘But that’s not rond de jambe en l’air.’

(In laymen’s terms – technically, in rond de jambe en l’air, the lifted leg is supposed to draw a line towards the standing leg, making either an inward, or an outward circle once it meets the standing leg. It’s a preparation for a petit allegro jump that’s done later on the class.)

The leg being so high obscures the technique and integrity of the movement.

Yes, the dancer was amazing, and her coach may have been instructing her in a movement specific to her choreography/vision, but I know more people than just me are recognizing the issue of ‘Fast Food Dance’.

In an age where dance competitions and prime time TV favor in your face, all or nothing, borderline outrageous dance feats, our dance community has become a culture that favors tricks over technique.

We’ve begun to value ‘watch what I can do!’ more than ‘see me inhabit this story/role/movement with my entire being’.

While that has pushed dancers and their technique to new, often amazing levels, I can’t say I believe it’s done anything to promote or preserve artistry in dance.

We tap to ‘like’ something audacious before considering the true value of the message. What are we actually liking and reinforcing?

Ballet isn’t a costume that you can put on. It’s not something that can be placed on a body.

It’s something to be found from the inside out. It lives within you.

Practice, dedication and passion are the means by which dancers create the costumes they will ultimately wear onstage (and I’m not talking about tutus and tunics).

So what’s to be done? I believe awareness is key.

As you scroll through the many pictures of dance superstars on social media, check in with yourself. What are you drawn to, and why? There’s no right or wrong, simply observation.

Observation is what brings light into the shadows, in dance, in art, and in life. How can dance benefit from a little more thought and a little less tricks?

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