Developing Artistry

Today we discuss a much under-discussed topic in the world of ballet…and that is developing artistry.

Let’s jump right in, because I’m very excited for the information you will be presented with today.

What is artistry and its importance?

Let’s face it…ballet isn’t a sport.  I know that it’s just as hard if not harder than any and all sports in existence everywhere in the world, but it’s not a sport.  Above all, it’s an art.  An athletic art.  So, if you don’t have artistic qualities and artistry in your dancing, why even bother to dance?  It will look boring.

In sports, doing crazy stunts and other athletic things look cool, but that’s because you have the energy of the competition supporting it.  In dance, you can make these stunts, turns, leaps, etc. look really amazing, but only when you have artistry, creativity, and beauty to support it.

What does all of this mean?  Well…dancers are artists.  If you are not creating art when you’re dancing, you’re doing something wrong.  Today I’m going to teach you  how to fix that problem.

The first matter of business: The physical qualities

The first matter of business, as usual, is how you appear.  You alway shear your teachers saying, “chest up, lift up, be confident!” to you during class.  All of these things are completely necessary and help you appear more lifted, confident, and large when you’re onstage.  Confidence, lift, and presentation of the torso and entire body has so much artistry to it.  If you skip this step, you’re already off on the wrong track.

Here is a list I constructed of artistic qualities that can be found in technique itself:

  • presentation of the feet and leg
  • lift and posture
  • presentation of the chest and confidence in the upper torso
  • shoulders down and back: holding the arms from the subscapularis
  • facial expressions

So, just by fixing some basic fundamentals of technique, you artistry can be helped a lot.  You DO NOT want to see a ballerina onstage that is hunched forward, slouching.  You want to see a confident, well placed, energetic ballerina on stage.  Do’t be the sloucher, be the artist!

Facial expressions

Let’s talk more about how we can use our facial features to convey emotions.  There are different emotions that we must display when dancing on stage.  Some are listed below:

  • happy/joyful
  • confused
  • curious
  • sad/depressed
  • angry
  • amused
  • cocky/sassy
  • evil/mean
  • scared/surprised

These are only a few!  And also, to make everything even more confusing, combinations of these emotions are very commonly seen in ballets.  For example, Odette in Swan Lake when she first meets Siegfried is all of the following: happy/joyful, confused/curious, sad/depressed, angry, scared/surprised.  That’s all but 3 emotions.  Now you can see why Swan Lake is so difficult, not to mention all of the technique entailed.

Here are some tips that I have for you to help in your development of your facial expressions that convey different emotions:

  • Practice makes perfect!  In front of the mirror, practice some different facial expressions that represent emotions.  Try them, take a picture, print them out, and the analyze them.  It may look extremely odd, but it works.  Try highlighting things on your face that represent the emotion in a unique way – such as crunched eyebrows when you’re confused, or squinted eyes when you’re happy.
  • Practice with music.  Music can help you feel emotions, so your facial expressions will ultimately be better.
  • Study others.  Do the same analysis that you did with yourself with others.  Print off pictures of famous ballerinas/artists in action and analyze their facial expressions.  It works!


This topic is extremely hard to explain.  It’s more of a feeling of the soul and the heartbeat than it is a physical condition or trait, like the rest of the items of artistry are.  This is a somehow invisible thing, but the audience can see it.  Parts of it are literal, but a lot of it is what’s going on inside your brain and body.  It’s separate from the rest.

I think that you all know what Energy means.  It’s something that comes out in suddle places when you’re not expecting it.  It’s when you’re onstage and you get that adrenaline rush.  You just keep moving faster and faster, kicking your legs higher and higher, turning more and more, expressing longer and longer, and building energy more and more.  Those are the moments that we do ballet for.  That’s what ballet dancers LIVE for.  Those moments.

Now, let’s discuss how we can find those moments of ultimate happiness…

  • Listen to the music.  The music’s ups and downs, highs and lows, cresendos and drecresendos, and volume and softness, all have an effect on your energy.  Try listening to the music and doing your dance.  I really have no idea how you can technically practice to create energy through music appear, but it is the main source of it when you’re onstage.
  • Be well-rehearsed.  If you know what you’re doing when you go on stage, you won’t have to worry about the steps and the counts, you can purely focus on the task at hand, feeling the music, hearing the dance.  Finding energy inside of you.

Let’s review

So, let’s review the principles of artistry:

  • physical
    • technique
    • posture
  • facial
  • energy
    • music
    • rehearsal

I hope that this somewhat makes sense.  Please comment if you have any questions on what is written hear.  I’m always happy to respond!


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