Blogging Ballet: Why is ballet {still} important?

We have a lot of interesting ballet-related conversations at my house. Even those guests who have never taken a ballet class in their lives realize-from having known me for so many years-the value that ballet has for both dancer and spectator. Because of a recent conversation (and the impending Nutcracker season) it seemed like a good time to revisit the article from (Ballet 101: Why is ballet important?).

Why do people still do ballet? Has it lost its relevance? Is it dying? Is it stagnant? These are questions which were pondered and discussed. Honestly, I wish I had recorded the conversation because it was that good but here is a general summary:

First of all, ballet is the history of dance. This is an art form hundreds of years in the making. Attend a class or watch a production of The Nutcracker, Swan Lake or Giselle and you are experiencing history and it is so important to remember those who came before us. Albeit instructors and choreographers today do take "liberties" with technique and choreography, that just leads to my next point...

Ballet is always growing and evolving which is why it keeps its relevance. Can you imagine if ballerinas were still using the "pointe shoes" from 100 years ago? Or if we kept the original production of The Nutcracker in its entirety (which we understand wasn't very good)? Orthopedic surgeons and snarky critics would probably be extremely happy but it's less likely the world of ballet would be spread as far and wide as it is today. It is because ballet develops as society-and, consequently, technology-develops that it remains on the radar.

And ballet continues to live on in and for the dance forms it inspired as a strong foundation. Most of the more "modern" dance techniques have their roots in ballet (jazz and modern just to name two). In fact, to be a successful dancer in those styles of dance, one still needs to study ballet. The discipline, alignment and musicality required for ballet are still unsurpassed and a benchmark for a well-rounded dancer.

The world of ballet (and many other dance styles as well) has always been empowering for women. Long before suffrage and women's rights, women could control their destinies and bodies on the stage. This brings to mind a quote from George Balanchine:
"In my ballets, woman is first. Men are consorts. God made men to sing the praises of women. They are not equal to men: they are better."

While I do believe men and women should be equal, Balanchine's words are a nice sentiment for an era passed where women were fighting for the right of free expression and equal opportunities.

Lastly, ballet also provides much for the spectator. Exposure to the arts (and specifically ballet) stimulates the brain. In fact, a recent study shows that the brain activity elicited by watching a ballet performance in particular may actually draw in the audience more than other types of dance. Spectators actually showed "showed muscle-specific responses in their brain as if they were expert dancers." So, even though the people watching the performance were not able to actually dance the steps, they felt so drawn in as though they were able to do so.

So, what are your thoughts? Leave your comments in the box below.



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