"Can I ever get good at belly dancing if I've never had ballet? I mean...we all know that ballet is the foundation of all dance, right?"
Well, let's Google it. Here's a screen shot of what comes up in my search.
There are over 29 MILLION results on Google for ballet being the foundation of all dance.
Really? ALL dance genres? Hmmm...seems to me, that is a statement based on shaky ground. With respect to the accomplishments and opinions of the authors of these findings, as my friend, Steve, says, "Authoritative, but WRONG."
Yes, I realize I do not have an accredited college degree in any form of dance (just a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering and two decades of dancing), so I may be ruffling the feathers of academicians, but bear with me. I think I can shed some light, and even open new possibilities for us dancers, whether we be experienced or beginners.
These are the common themes that I think are the most "legit" reasons for claiming ballet to be the foundation of all dance:
It is highly codified*, and therefore has a well-developed methodology for teaching and measuring success. (*Codified is a hotsy-totsy term meaning that they got their "act" together and everyone calls moves by the same names and learns and practices in an organized and effective manner.)
Because of No. 1 (above), ballet standards are high which leads to competition, and ultimately, amazing technique and skills.
Because of No. 2 (above), ballet training has the potential to teach ANY DANCER rigorous training habits and self-discipline.
Is Ballet the Foundation or the Bottom Line?
The opinions about ballet being the foundation of all dance is NOT a fact, and arguably it is NOT an UNbiased opinion, either. Generally, the authors seem as passionate about ballet as I am about belly dance (btw, I love all dance, and yes, I mean all ).
Further, ballet is massively popular in Western culture with the dance academy industry in the billions of dollars. Thinking from a business perspective...if you can convince your little tap and jazz dancers that they need ballet, too...well, that could help the bottom line of the studio, couldn't it?...just sayin'...
But wait, there's more! (But you knew that, because you know me, right?)
On a historical basis, ballet is relatively new to the human scene. It's only been around for about half a millenium and has always pretty much been a formal type of dance, most often performed on a stage. Whereas the roots of belly dance are millenia older than that and have roots as a social dance. So, then, how could ballet be a building block of belly dance?
It's simple. Ballet is NOT the foundation of belly dance.
However...I think we can learn A LOT from the genre of ballet. Here's how:
Number 1: If we adopt the perseverence towards perfection in technique...WOW! Ooooh la la. What we can do...!
Number 2: If we continuously strive to improve and collaborate on the the codifying of steps and moves—without losing the beauty of individual styles—wow, again! I feel like the potential for our beloved dance form is infinite.
Which is exactly how I study it myself and teach (check out our tutorials here). In fact, it was very early on in my own study of belly dance that I saw the potential for taking this art form to a much higher level than what I had seen. I could see that if belly dance were studied and practiced with the tremendous discipline of ballet, that the dance as an artform could be phenomenal.
We can gain much in our beloved art form if we adopt the discipline of ballet practice. More dance for our belly. Who's with me?
Read this blog post comparing ballet with belly dance and specifically how ballet can actually hurt your belly dance...and how it can help.
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© Jennifer Carpenter-Peak & Robert Peak 2020