ballet shop talk

Not sure the “May Term” is working out that great for the Dance Department at Hope. I put it in parentheses because as far as I can tell, the college itself is on break.  The Dance Department has invited three profs for a one week class each. Unfortunately last night only one student showed up.

I was a bit off my game of improvising. This is understandable because I wanted to make sure I could do what the visiting prof needed. I find that simplifying helps me control what I am doing. Sure enough, the prof complained that some of my introductions (called “preparations” by dancers) were quicker than my tempos for the dance (which she typified as correct).

This sort of thing is tricky. Walking home I reflected that I probably have been letting my introductions at church get sloppy tempo wise. If for no other reason that the tempo of the introduction doesn’t seem that critical to a group of lay singers whose collective sense of tempo often wavers.

During class my solution to the instructor’s admonishment was to make the introductions have more melody to them. It is my impression that dancers listen mostly to the melody, some to the chord progression. Rhythmic aspects are curiously lower on their perceptions than melody and harmony. The rhythms are like a bonus to their dancing.

It’s counterintuitive until you realize that so much of dancing is mental, remembering routines in order and giving silent directions or corrections to yourself as a dancer.

This makes it very important to know where you are in the melody.

I also think that what was happening last night was I was correcting my tempo instantly after the introduction to reflect what the teacher wanted.  To get a sense of what is needed I watch dance instructors closely, especially their body language. And I adjust pretty instantly if my improvisation feels like a wrong choice.


The teacher didn’t seem too dissatisfied with my work.  She mentioned working with the famous dancer, Nureyev.

I had the music she requested ready to play (a scene from the Ballet “Ramonda” by Glazounov). She didn’t call for it.  She stopped the class after an hour and half. The chair of the department danced along for most of the class, drawing the line at some pretty vigorous steps due to age and an old knee injury.

I managed to pace myself yesterday and was still refreshed in the evening. Of course I am tired this morning and am looking at three more evenings of dance class and an evening gig on Friday.


Women Against the Hangman by Roger Cohen –

Challenges being faced by brave women on the ground in Libya.


Mothers We Could Save by Nicholas Kristof –

Needless deaths in Somalia due to poor pre-natal care and no contraception. Kristof’s Mother’s Day column.


Why We Celebrate Killing Bin Laden by Johathon Haidt –

Haidt is a Psychology professor who claims that it was patriotic not nationalistic for Americans to celebrate the death of bin Laden. I don’t think he quite has this right.  While I don’t think the jubilation seen in America over the death of bin Laden warped us, I do think it is humans behaving badly.


Shampoo Free!

My niece Emily just about has me convinced to start washing my hair with baking soda and then rinsing with vinegar. I stopped by the local Natural Foods store last week and tried to purchase some things I needed there. Unfortunately the costs were astronomically greater for recycled products than cheapo Meijers versions (recycled napkins = $10 for a package, Meijers cheapo napkins = $1.50). Had to go with the cheapo, of course.


Watery Grave, Murky Law –

Interesting explanation of the history of Islamic burial practices.


The White House’s Bedtime Bombshell –

I put this link up on Facebook. I think it’s interesting how newspapers arrive at how they report a story, especially factoring in websites.

For visuals on this same story:

The Times in Overdrive – Arthur S. Brisbane – The Public Editor – The New York Times –


Why Should Teachers Be Blamed? –

Some interesting letters to the editor about recent education reporting. I especially liked the first one:

“Ironically, the poor treatment teachers endure in America has to do with the high hopes we vest in them. We widely believe that, no matter what forces shape a child’s life outside school, teachers can level the playing field, neutralize the negative effects of poverty on learning, and raise every kid to proficiency in every standard. But this generally doesn’t happen.”

Brooklyn, May 1, 2011
The writer is principal of the James Baldwin School in Manhattan.


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2 thoughts on “ballet shop talk

  1. When in school at Central, I worked as an associate in the Theatre Department. So, when special events occurred, i.e. Nureyev doing a dance recital, I would get to do some special element to make the show come off. When Nureyev did his number, I was chosen to follow him with a spot light. I discovered very quickly, that he could jump. Man could he jump! Right out of the light. I was sweating more than Nureyev after that performance. I still remember meeting him and him thanking me for my efforts. He said that he would always try to stay in the light, but sometimes it was very difficult on the lighting people. One of my many memories of theatre at CMU.

  2. Very cool. Nureyev’s jumps are legendary and often the topic of comment by my ballet instructors.

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