One of my favorite teachers recently posted a link to a helpful article titled Questions to Ask Yourself While in Ballet Class. The piece opens with a beautiful quote by Miami City Ballet founder Edward Villella: "What's so wonderful about ballet is that it's mind-driven physicality.” The compilation of question focuses on priorities like alignment, breathing, and injury prevention. These are indeed crucial and it’s well worth making sure to keep them always in mind. But the opening quote hints at a deeper celebration of the cerebral dimension of dance and the artistry that thoughtfulness helps us to cultivate. In a video called Physical Intelligence Mr. Villella’s further reflects,
“The premise here is information. It’s an ongoing process of feeding information. From alphabet, vocabulary. We now take that vocabulary and pass it into poetic gesture. In order to have poetic gesture, you have to have all of the intelligences that can bring you there….You can’t do this without having passion…As the mind is driving this, we reach the point where we don’t have to think our way through every step in the ballet. It becomes a conditioned reflex. It is so instinctive to us that it just flows out of our bodies.”
An essential element of developing intelligence and of maintaining passion is inquiry. So, in the spirit of Mr. Villella’s inspiring ideal, here are 7 more questions to consider during dance classes -- a dancer’s work is never done! Share questions that help you focus and progress in class by tweeting them to @TheWorldDances.
1) What changes do you notice if you dance the same combination while focusing on different elements in the music?
2) What happens if you try dancing the same combination while attempting to channel different characters?
3) Do you catch yourself “just going through the motions” or are you remaining attentive and intentional throughout class?
4) Are you susceptible to particular distractions?
5) How does what you’re learning in one class or movement style relate to what you’re working on in other classes or styles, and are there effective ideas or images in one class that you could use to make breakthroughs in another?
6) How do your corrections and/or mistakes relate to corrections/mistakes you’ve made in the past?
7) How do your improvements or “on moments” relate to corrections or efforts you’ve been making lately?