Acting and Ballet

posted in: Ballerina Blog | 0

Teaching the “ballet walk” to my Classical Child students (three year olds) has been challenging, trying to find the correct phrasing that will create that “ah ha!” light bulb moment to these students have been next to impossible until it was the week to read Thumbelina.  The theme with Thumbelina week was light, “Thumbelina is soooo tiny, she’s soooooo light.”  Soft feet.  Soft hands.  Then I got to the part of the story where Thumbelina wraps a leaf around her because it’s so cold out and she’s walking through the forest during winter.

“Touch the ground with your toe to see if it’s too cold.”

Ah ha!  My three year olds were doing ballet walks and I wasn’t even trying.

“goodGoodGOOD!  That’s GREAT!”

Every ballet class we have a “Pantomime” section, where we incorporate some acting with the ballet moves:  Clara throwing her slipper at the Mouse King, Trick or Treaters making their way to a haunted house, The Prince waving the Firebird’s magic feather for help.  In acting classes, verbs are the key:  To beg, to love, to sympathize, etc. and I find the pantomiming part of the class melds the acting and ballet quite perfectly.  I have a tendency to think of my dance and my acting as two different crafts.  I find myself amazed at watching ballets, saying nearly every time, “Wow, the dancer playing so-and-so was actually a great actor!”  I shouldn’t be amazed.  Ballet is so personal and the music played during a certain part of a ballet tends to reflect the emotion of the characters- how could the dancer not be completely lost in character?  A goal many actors strive to achieve being on stage or in front of the camera.  Often times being on set, I’ll listen to music in order to access a certain emotion for my character and it all seems so obvious.

I do feel like the youngest of ballet dancers seem most excited in “playing” with ballet- loving it the most when they’re actually playing ballerinas.  Like Lili at the Ballet, Angelina Ballerina, or Ella Bella Ballerina and Cinderella.  After all, these are the students that come to class in their full get-up:  pink leotards, headpieces, incredible tutus, sweaters.  They love dressing up for ballet class and love being in ballet class because it helps them “play the role” of a ballerina.

My epiphany as both a dancer and an actor is that I should see them going hand-and-hand.  Dancers should be taking acting classes and actors should be taking dance classes- and that all in all, it will make them a better performer.  Not to mention every once in a while you might have an “ah ha” moment in how to execute a move correctly by just playing pretend. 

~  Miss Jenna

Acting is behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances.”-Sanford Meisner 


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