Today is a blog post all about improving your contemporary skills. Contemporary is becoming an ultra-pronounced and mentioned aspect of ballet and dance lately – pointe magazine is starting to feature those absent pointe shoes. Today we’re going to talk about ways for classical dancers to embrace the presence of contemporary in their career and navigate its difficulties as well. Let’s jump in!
Define it? Okay.
Contemporary is truly a branch of classical ballet. In some pieces, choreographers choose to have dancers wear pointe shoes, whereas in some choreographers choose to have dancers go barefoot, in socks, in character shoes, flat shoes, sneakers, or other non-pointe footwear.
The difficulties for classical dancers
Many contemporary choreographers choose to use ballet-related vocabulary and terminology to notate their steps. But sometimes that “sissone” the choreographer calls a “sissone” has a turned in working leg and displaced hip. These distortions to the classical technique often times make it difficult for classical dancers to quickly learn this type of choreography. In my opinion, it’s much more difficult to learn contemporary than it is classical, just because the choreographers get more specific with the distortions and variations to the classical step they give the dancer.
In addition, the displacement and distortion of the steps themselves can be difficult for classical dancers to manage in themselves. Often times classical ballet dancers get tense necks and shoulders due to the holding and specific, coordinated movement issued by their primary art form, but in contemporary it’s necessary to have fluid and flexible upper bodies. It’s important to do some stretching and releasing of these areas outside of contemporary class, just like you would for ballet class.
How to embrace contemporary
This is one of the most difficult parts of contemporary ballet for most dancers. Often times, contemporary can feel uncomfortable or weird at first, and therefore dancers tend to hold a grudge with the art. A new way of movement can feel very displacing and odd at first, you just have to stick with it and eventually it will feel more natural. Don’t get a bad first impression of the art.
Remember that there are many different kinds of contemporary to learn and different branches and styles to discover. Just because you have one contemporary teacher that likes on kind of dancing, there are many others out there that can do very different things with it. In companies, contemporary ballets tend to be more classical-based, speaking for the large classical companies, especially American ones. At least for now, choreographers allow for these movements to be executed in pointe shoes and often times with pointed feet. You just have to keep discovering the different styles and use all of that knowledge in your career.
In regards to classical dancers’ difficulty in learning contemporary choreography, another issue that may arise is the lack of patterns. It can be difficult for classical dancers to go without their typical “tombé pas de bourrée glissade saut de chat” pattern. There are often times no evident sequences in contemporary, just certain steps jumbled together. If you exercise your visual learning and really get some muscle remembrance into your body by marking, your problems should be at least partly solved.
Lastly but not least, the difficulties of learning another art form is ultimately what will make us better at our primary one. Once you’ve mastered learning combinations and choreography absent patterns and sequences, the next day back at ballet class will feel like a breeze. So, embrace contemporary and other art forms, and I wish you well in your studies!
Thanks for reading today’s blog post. Expect them at least every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. See ya later!
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