I love this video created by the Australian Ballet. The dancers give us a peak into what their different rituals and techniques to make their pointe shoes work best for them. This is so revealing to every aspect of dance to me because beyond pointe shoes, we all have certain things that we do our way.
Growing up I can remember one of my friends always did her bun in a very particular way so that it always looked the same. She wanted to make sure that this element of her was flawless and could be one less thing that she would have to worry about, whereas I threw my hair up at the last minute after making sure that all of my costume pieces were in order. Another friend would have all of her pointe shoes during performance week lined up in a row and ready to go so that when one pair broke, she could quickly jump into a new pair.
We all have our different quirks and ways of doing things because after all, dance is about the self.
Before I came to college my life was filled with classical pieces composed by Tchaichovsky, Bach, and others of the kind. My wardrobe consisted of tutus, pointe shoes, hairnets and bobby pins. I never challenged myself to see anything different and any work that I saw that strayed from my classical mold I considered to be strange or a poor performance.
My first year as a dance major was extremely difficult because I was challenged to see dance in an entirely new light. Yes ballet is a large part of the dance community, but it isn’t everything and that is something that I could not grasp. As I practiced Humphrey falls and C-curves all that I longed for was a ballet barre and a pirouette. Then, during my sophomore year I was required to take a choreography class and from that moment everything changed.
We had one particular exercise during the course where we were told to walk around the Arts Center and find five people’s gestures and to bring them back to the classroom. I chose a woman reading a book, a man talking with his hands, another texting, a woman talking on the phone, and a man grabbing a drink of water at the water fountain. I hated this exercise so much when I was doing it because I just knew that my professor was going to make us report them to the class and then try to create a movement phrase.
“You cannot make a dance from this,” I thought to myself as I showed the different gestures that I had seen. Then, my professor said, “Carly do all of your phrases in a different level than what you found them and make them tell a story.” I was at a loss of what to do, I had been placed in the hot seat. So, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath and began to do the movements in different ways to get this story across.
What I discovered that day was something beautiful that I cannot explain. I’ve always said that I dance for self expression but I never truly felt it until that moment. I close my eyes and I dance what I feel or what I want to get across. Whether that is doing a technically challenging combination or a sequence of gestures, I dance to express myself.