Today's post is from Program & Production intern Nick Velleman.
Before attending Jean-Philippe Malaty's ballet Master Class in the Filene Center rehearsal hall, my exposure to ballet consisted of a thorough enjoyment of Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan and nothing more. Not once in my life had I taken a moment to understand what makes ballet such a popular, significant, and long-lasting art form. As Malaty taught roughly 30 students from various stages of development as dancers, I observed and learned how much it takes to move your body like a work of art.
Dance to some people might mean impulsive, sometimes feverish, movin' and groovin'. This is not ballet.
Ballet is a dance form of control and precision. It takes a deep understanding of how your body works and how all of your different body parts are connected in order to become a good ballet dancer. Throughout the class, Malaty frequently talked about body parts. He would select certain dancers and explain how they could use their body more efficiently to aid their dance. With one student he talked about how flexible the vertebrae in the back are, with another he demonstrated how lifting legs is a function of one's abs and not one's leg muscles, and with a third, who was balancing on one foot, he showed that even the stationary leg can be activated to support the movement of the rest of the body. With all of these references to the body, Malaty seemed to take on the role of an anatomy professor as much as a ballet master.
This illuminated something very important to me about ballet. Just as a musician has a mastery of an instrument or painter has a mastery of the paintbrush and the palette, a ballet dancer has a mastery of the body. The body is the medium in this art form. Some people reading this might think, "Well, duhhh, Nick," but I never knew there was that much to think about when moving your body that way. And these were just the rudiments! The music hadn't even been introduced yet.
When I attend tonight's performance of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, I'll be more prepared to follow how the dancers are moving onstage. I'll have a better appreciation for the performance know that I know how much it takes to move so skillfully and effortlessly.
From now on, ballet and the art behind its movement will be more meaningful to me.