Sunday, December 1, 2013

Lessons Learned From Ballet

Ballet Is a Microcosm of Successful Approaches to ________
Donna Sapolin, Forbes 11/18/2013


While the original article (cited above) was applying these lessons to the business world one might just as easily fill-in-the-blank with "success in music."

Listen intently.
     This one may seem like a given for those in music, however many times musicians become polarized in themselves or the music they are working on so much so that they do not listen very well - to people or to other people's music.

     By listening to music I not only stress the listening and learning from others' music, but also stress listening to LIVE music, not the polished studio engineered music. 

     (Come to think of it,, how much live music have you listened to in the past week, month, year? If you think about it, it may not be as much as you think.)

Take many steps. 

     This lesson stresses the many steps, or the process, it takes to achieve success. To successfully perform a dance there are many steps, gestures, etc to learn. So too in music there are many steps, or measures, or phrasings, etc. to learn.

     Don't try to skip a step. The outcome may not be what you desire it to be.

     I think back to math class in high school. I recall being excited when I learned the answers were at the back of the book.  I was still excited when I learned that only the odd answers could be found there. I recall being frustrated to learn that my teacher was more interested in HOW I got the answer.  He stressed the PROCESS rather than the end result.

     So, work out each piece measure-by-measure.  It will make the end result so much sweeter!

Collaborate face-to-face. 
     Dancing involves a lot of up close and personal contact.  So too should music.

     Collaborating with others is important for it enhances the learning and challenges one's rehearsal techniques.

     Too often musicians isolate themselves in practice and performance and don't even think there might be another approach to something.

     Get out of the practice room or classroom and talk with other people. Actually talk to them in the same room, not just on Facebook or Twitter.

Smile through it.

     Regardless of how the dancer feels, whether her toe hurts, or that the music is going slower than in rehearsal, she SMILES.
     Sometimes things don't go as planned. Learn the stage presence to perform with the appearance of excellence. Facial expressions give it away. Responses after playing can give it away.   Work through it and move on.

     Have you ever played with an aching arm or hand? I have.
     Have you ever sang with a cold or sore throat?  I have.
     Have you ever conducted with a fever? I have.

     Like the ballerina I worked through it gracefully and with a smile on my face and all was well.

     In other words, be professional, stop your whining and move on.

Show some leg. 


     No, this is not necessarily what you may think.

     Ballet dance outfits often leave little to the imagination.

     I am not advocating that musicians do this. (Unfortunately some already do.)

     I am meaning that in music when one puts him or herself "out there" (whether it be in the classroom, on the performance stage, or on the podium) in doing so one is leaving little to the imagination - by being put into a position of vulnerability.

     This is beneficial because it allows the audience or other musicians to engage with you for a performance is a collaboration with the listeners.

Lend a hand, take an outstretched one.

     Ballet dancers depend on the other dancers during their performance.

     Musicians need to learn to do the same for other musicians.

     Once again, the isolated musician often does not know how to ask for help nor do they even think to offer help.

     Help can come in the form of an encouraging word or being open to someone asking you a question.

     Be friendly.  Make friends.  Those friends will help you out when you need it.

     Need encouragement. They are there.

     Need stage hands for your recital.  They are there.

     And you, in turn, can do the same for them.

Stay active, keep moving.

     Ballet dancers are in excellent shape.

     As a musician, are you?

     After all, you are dependent on good health for breath support.

     After all, your body must be able to move to play your instrument or sing.

    I recall some of my students - singers - who ran each morning. I, not being a morning person, thought them crazy, but encouraged them.  Shortly after they were running a couple of weeks each one commented to me how their running was affecting their singing and overall well being.

    So, walk a little further. Take vitamins.  Eat right.  Be healthy.

    You will notice a difference in your rehearsal and performance.

So, can a musician learn something from ballet?


Does it involve dancing or wearing tights?

Only if you are so inclined! :)

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