From Class to Performance: How to Enhance Your Appreciation of Ballet

By Annemarie Brissenden (Ballet Espressivo student)

Like many people, my love for ballet began with The Nutcracker. Every year I would attend the National Ballet of Canada’s production with my mother, always entranced, even as the story became as familiar as a pair of old slippers. I’ve loved going to performances ever since, but lately — thanks to my study of ballet with Donna Greenberg through Ballet Espressivo — I have gained a whole new appreciation for the art. In June I saw the National perform Swan Lake and found myself studying the dancer’s arm movements, not just for how they evoked swans’ wings, but because I am working on my own arms. I couldn’t help noticing the movements engaged from the back and flowed — like feathered wings — right to the fingertips. You couldn’t do that, I realized, if you weren’t initiating the movement from your core. And when the dancers jumped, I was laser focused on their feet, noticing how keenly they moved through each part of their foot when they landed, before moving into a plié. Last month, I was lucky enough to see Mayerling performed by The Royal Ballet in London. It was stunning: the dancing was so crisp, so clean, so clear.  There were no extra trills or frills, the hand was where it should be, and was just so, without artifice. It isn’t to say that there was no artistry; in fact the opposite was true. The artistry was elevated because the movements were so precise. Again, I zeroed in on what I’ve been working on in class: placement and positions. Because each dancer was so precise in their movements, multiple dancers were always so perfectly in sync. I also couldn’t help noticing how every movement had a purpose, and I think that helped the dancers sustain their energy throughout the performance. It was incredible. I don’t think my appreciation for these performances would have been quite so nuanced had I not had the opportunity to study ballet, and I’m really grateful to be working with Donna. If you love ballet, consider taking a class; it will only increase your enjoyment of this amazing art form.

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