Dance like nobody’s watching? – Why students should see more ballet
What is it about a dance performance that makes it an inaccessible, unpopular activity for students? I don’t think there’s any doubt that going to the ballet, for example, holds definite connotations of an activity that is reserved for the elite. I can easily understand how some might see it to be similar to going to the opera. You’ll feel like an outsider if you don’t dress up, and you’ll need to pay an arm and a leg for a ticket, so why bother when there’s a film you’ve heard great reviews about that’s on down the road for less than 10 quid?
Leeds happens to be home to a range of incredible dance companies such as, the Northern Ballet, the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, but how often do you hear students gathering a group of their friends together to go and see a performance of Casanova? I am yet to witness such a scene. Leeds has a bustling arts scene that is changing more and more each week, and as students, we will certainly try our best to keep up with it. But with so much on offer for us to see, it does fell like dance is being ignored.
How often do you hear students gathering a group of their friends together to go and see a performance of Casanova?
Realistically, tickets will only be unaffordable if you refuse to see a ballet anywhere else but London’s Royal Opera House. If you get out there and find what dance companies exist in your area, seeing dance on stage can sometimes even cost you less than a trip to the cinema. Going to see a dance performance definitely does not just involve delicate sparkly tutus or admiring elegance and grace in a grand setting. Like film, literature, music and art, dance too has its own history, and it has evolved into something far more complex than a few pretty pirouettes.
I go to witness how these dancers use their bodies and music to create stories in such an intricate way.
It is true that dance does not make it easy for its viewer to relate the story it portrays to real life. Any dance form, from contemporary to Irish, or ballet to ballroom, does not make use of a narrative involving speech and dialogue. Instead, dance uses music and movement of the body. In that respect, it differs to both theatre and film. Its audience does not hear a conversation being exchanged between characters and so whatever story or concept dancers try to portray on stage will inevitably more difficult to understand.
Nevertheless, that feeling of never knowing completely what is happening on stage is what brings me back to see a dance performance every time. I don’t go to the ballet expecting to see a story with that is easy for me to comprehend. I go to witness how these dancers use their bodies and music to create stories in such an intricate way. I realize my opinion is by no means one that is shared by a majority of students. So what is it that makes dance less exciting than the latest blockbuster? Perhaps we’re too scared to get out of our comfort zones and challenge our minds?
Image courtesy of Brian Slater