January 23, 2014 by Nicole
As dancers, we learn a lot by watching – our teachers in class, ourselves in the mirror and our fellow dancers on stage. But what else are you watching?
I think, especially for dancers, inspiration and education can come from anywhere. But we have an especially big opportunity coming up very soon – the 2014 Sochi Olympics!
What does watching the Olympics have to do with your dance training? There are some obvious examples, like figure skating and ice dancing. Those sports are a pretty close parallel with what we do off the ice and watching those athletes can give us great perspective on body placement and lines. Which can then be applied back to your own technique. When you watch the ladies (and gentlemen) skate, pay attention and really watch the mechanics of what they’re doing. Chances are, you’ll see some slightly bent “standing legs” in extensions, tension in the hands & fingers and my personal favorite, à la sebesque (that’s that lovely position somewhere in between à la seconde & arabesque). Seeing these mistakes (for us, they’re mistakes) is really helpful. Sometimes it’s easier to see an alignment issue (like that à la sebesque) when it’s someone else’s body. And seeing/understanding it is usually the first step in fixing it. Seeing a “claw” hand/fingers or what it looks like when your arabesque isn’t behind you can be a great reminder of why you don’t want to carry that on stage with you!
When you’re watching figure skating, you hear a lot of commentary about the artistry…..that is 100% applicable to what we do as performers. Watching other performers can be incredibly valuable. Observe the musicality – are they interpreting the music with their body & choreography? What about their face and performance level….do they seem tired and lethargic in the movement? Does their face seem disconnected from what they’re doing? Or can you read the anxiety on it? Those are things that can happen to us too….and seeing it in someone else can help you not only identify with the athlete but those tendencies in yourself.
I think a not so obvious one is speed skating. A race can be exciting TV viewing, but take a second to appreciate the movement. These are really strong & conditioned athletes! Watch how they move and use their bodies, how they use their legs to push and propel themselves, where their balance is. Our movement may not be identical, but it’s the same set of equipment (minus the skates).
It also works the other way! Dance has contributed to many Olympians in a multitude of ways, from teaching movement to instilling body awareness and focus. Many skaters have dance backgrounds & Gracie Gold told Today that she still takes ballet twice a week, leading up to the Games. Somewhat more surprisingly, Canadian skeleton athlete Sarah Reid credits ballet as contributing to her Olympic journey.
Taking a step back, it’s inspirational just on a human level to see individuals excelling at their passion and chasing a dream. If anyone understands that, it’s dancers! Seeing that energy and drive in others helps keep the fire lit in yourself. Use that! When you hear these Olympians talk about their struggles and their training and their sacrifices and their triumphs and even their disappointments & set backs, take all that in. That’s a road we all share as artists and athletes alike. Let it remind you that you’re not alone and you can do it – whatever your it is.
What do you think? Do you find the Olympics inspiring? Educational? Let me know in the comments!