Finish What You Started

Birdie gave us an amazing piece of advice on Thursday. Like most good advice, it seems trivial: finish each movement. Don’t sneak out of a rond de jambe as soon as your foot is out of your sight – make sure to bring it all the way to the back. This, she said, goes for all kinds of dance, not just ballet.

This seemingly trivial observation struck a chord with me, because I’ve thought something similar before, I could just never put it into words properly. Whenever we work in groups during class, I make a point of observing my classmates and noticing what looks good and what doesn’t. I don’t do this to judge my classmates, but to try and improve myself. Dance is so complex that you might not be aware of everything your body is doing. Am I pointing my feet during floorwork? Am I lifting my leg high enough into this passé? And, most importantly, do I execute each movement wholeheartedly?

The latter makes an enormous difference to the quality of the dance. In jazz, there is this one girl who is technically very good, and yet, she often executes the movements without any real enthusiasm, immediately losing the viewers interest to the less technical but more engaged dancers.

There is another, similar correction that we often get from Y.: even if you’re just learning a step, do it with conviction. If you forget what you were supposed to be doing, cheat. If you cheat with conviction, most hypothetical audience members will not notice. They will notice if you stop in the middle of the dance and crane your neck at the other dancers to figure out what that move was.

This might work better in jazz and modern, because it’s very hard to cheat convincingly in beginner ballet. But even in ballet, you can execute every movement like you mean it.  The proper finishing positions and port-de-bras both at the barre and in the centre are also a part of this. You may not be a professional – you might not even be very good – but you’re going to look so much better if you dance with conviction, finish your movements and smile proudly when you’re done.

Like when you can’t really turn for sh*t but you still go for a nice pose at the end. 😂

Have you received similar advice from your teachers?

2 thoughts on “Finish What You Started

  1. We get this sort of correction all the time! It happens most frequently when we can’t move our legs fast enough to stay in time. What should be a point ends up a wet noodle leg, or instead of a jump in 5th position followed by a nice crossed over point, there are two little jumps in some sort of weird over-crossed 4th position with no difference between them. Almost every class my teacher tells someone to finish their movement!

    We also recently had a presentation workshop and one of the lessons on stage presence was, in a sense, “fake it ’til you make it”. This is exactly for the reasons you said – amazing technique won’t be noticed by the judge if your body language says you’re uncomfortable or wrapped up in yourself, while a good stage presence may kick you out ahead of the other dancers even if you aren’t as technically sound (engaging the judging audience, I guess). Of course, both is best but presentation counts.

    You’re far from me and dance pretty different styles, but it’s always fun to read a connection and this post was especially strong. Dance really is a universal language!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You’re right, it’s really cool to hear that you get the same corrections! I imagine the first one is especially difficult to follow in Irish dance, seeing how fast and precise it is.


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