This week in class, I had a great discussion with Glenn about wanting to learn and do something. I brought up how I always knew I wanted to be a ballet dancer. I told him about how when I was 7 I told my mom I wanted to be enrolled in a ballet class and that I have been dancing ballet ever since. Wanting to go to class was never a problem for me. The highlight of my day, every day, was going to ballet class. I never had to worry about being graded on anything which made my experience that much better. Because I wasn’t being graded, I felt safe to take risks and make mistakes. This is what Glenn was discussing in his TED Talk. After talking with him about why and how I started ballet, we got on the topic of CSULB. I told him how CSULB doesn’t have the ballet heavy program I was looking for, but I didn’t have the right body type to even be considered for a ballet heavy program. He asked me my opinions on modern ballet, otherwise known as contemporary ballet. After I expressed my hate for it, Glenn explained how important it is to learn about the things you hate because you might discover that it is actually revolutionary.
At CSULB, the dance department mostly focusses on modern but does offer some ballet. For the BFA classes, I am a BFA, we are given a modern class and a contemporary ballet class instead of a classical ballet class. One of the reasons I despise contemporary ballet so much is because ballet is structured and orderly. I really dislike how wild contemporary ballet is. Contemporary ballet is also a lot less musical than classical ballet. Contemporary choreographers like William Forsythe and Jerome Robbins wanted to test the limits with how they could change up the ideals of classical ballet. With classical ballet being very musically driven, these dance revolutionaries decided to change the music, make the movement less musically driven, and even in some cases took away the music. Although I think that movement without music or with sound scores as opposed to music is interesting, I don’t think it mixes well with the highly structured ballet vocabulary. It makes sense to mix abstract movement with abstract ideas. I don’t see the sense in mixing a style that developed from European court dances with abstract ideas.
As a dancer that is studying both classical ballet and contemporary ballet, I find contemporary ballet to be less healthy. Classical ballet has a very specific set of rules of technique that are taught to dancers to protect them from injury. For example, while performing a petite allegro combination, a classical ballet dancer is taught to drop the pelvis, close the ribs, have both heels connect to the floor every time you land, and to have the knees exactly in line with the lower leg when you land. This is alignment is important because it protects the lower back from the stress of the landing. In BFA contemporary ballet class here at CSULB, our professor tells us to release our spine when we perform petite allegro. Without protecting our lumbar spines by holding our alignment, we are playing with fire a bit. I find myself, as a dancer, having to make decisions about what is right and healthy for my body in this contemporary ballet class that I wouldn’t even have to think about in a classical ballet class.
All that being said, I have tickets to see Alexei Ratmanksy’s new contemporary ballet work titled “Whipped Cream” that he choreographed on American Ballet Theater this Wednesday. Although I dislike contemporary ballet, I do still respect the work that is being done. I think that “Raven Girl” by Wayne Mcgregor is a crazy interesting piece of work that I could watch over and over, but I would never want to dance. I enjoy performing pieces that flow along side the music rather than challenge the music. This is important because I now know that when I graduate and start looking for a job I will be steering away from the contemporary ballet companies.