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Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Challenge of Contrasts

It's fascinating (and sometimes frustrating!) to be working on classical ballet technique, and then to switch to something wildly different like the Tibetan dance I'm rehearsing for an upcoming show. Ballet is, as most dancers say, is 'up', referencing the pulled up, elongated muscles and posture, while Tibetan is 'down'.

Now, there are many different kinds of 'down'.  When I was in NYC studying latin jazz with Maria Torres, I learned to put my weight into my steps to get that deliberate, pert forward momentum that makes this dance style so alluring.  That's one kind of 'down'.  However, the torso is still very much held upright, making latin a kind of contrast unto itself.  

But Tibetan?  It's closer to what looks like a relaxed version of knee-bending seen in some styles of hip-hop, but with a fluid upper body and precisely placed arms and hands.  It's new to me, and I still haven't figured it out yet.  I'm still too 'up' and it makes me look awkward in a number of moves; the straight legs and trained upper body break the flow of the movement.  I still have a little bit of time to get it right before I go onstage.  I'd better keep practicing with the mirror and internalizing the Tibetan feeling - fast!

At the same time, I love the feeling of being pulled up all the time in technique class.  It's like my bread and butter (or, for my Asian side, rice and vegetables); very basic and yet oh-so-satisfying.  This morning in class, our instructor, Rika, told me to hold onto my rotation three times as much on my way up from plie.  It turns out that I've been letting it go ever so slightly, which results in my tush sticking out in a very un-balletic manner.  I sweat all through the barre, and by center all the muscles in my groin were especially tired.  It was an exhilarating feeling - I'm starting to get it, a little!  That's all I can ask for - progress, one bit at a time, in whatever style I'm working on.
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