Saturday, January 30, 2010

Doing versus watching ballet

A central dichotomy in the ballet world is the one separating the act of doing ballet from watching ballet: 'You have to do it in order to understand what it's like.' It seems primarily to be the physical exertion of dancing that makes dancers distinguish themselves from the audience in general, and from critics in particular. The vulnerability is another important feature of the stage experience. A leading woman dancer explained to me: 'You're completely naked out there. They see what you have inside!' There is also a subtle boundary between dancers who have danced a particular role and dancers who have not. All this goes into a scepticism of translations of dance to other symbolic modes - be it text, photographs, video or film. Something inevitably gets lost on the way. This elusive quality is, however, still a part of the experience of ballet art - in fact often the heart of it. Watching themselves on video, dancers note that the dancing does not look from the outside like it feels from the inside when doing it.

Ballet Across Borders: Career and Culture in the World of Dancers by Helena Wulff. 1998. Page 8-9.

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