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Thread: Figure Skating and Ballet

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    Figure Skating and Ballet

    Quote Originally Posted by AmuChan363 View Post
    (I'm not quite sure if this is the right section....)

    Lots of skaters have ballet and dance training which is said to make them better on the ice. My mom put me in figure skating because it was the closest thing to ballet (which at 3 years old, I knew I hated), but it makes me wonder, is it? I've been in skating long enough to know there are some similarities (grace and strength bound into one, layback spin/attitude position) but lots of differences (I'd like to see a ballet dancer skate for the first time, and you don't point your toes technically... see?)

    I'd like some thoughts on what you think about Figure Skating and Ballet, do you need ballet to be successful in figure skating, and is it really that similar?

    I've combined some recent quotes from the Gracie Gold thread which I thought had bearing on your question, AmuChan363.
    Last edited by dorispulaski; 03-06-2012 at 11:04 PM.

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    Custom Title christinaskater's Avatar
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    I agree modern dance and ballet lessons can be very helpful. Gracie has it, she is only in her juniors shifting to seniors so we still have to remember that. I do believe that she has a really great team so all the best to her. I am really proud of her and her achievements this year!

    No matter what hue of medal she gets, her name and looks are good as gold!

    I believe the glamorous and gorgeous look (beauty points), maturity, wonderful and humble attitude will work for her. The next key is to connect to the audience using the most effective choreography (by doing more dancing), incorporating more transitions, attaining consistency- more clean run-throughs, exquisite and glorious music to compliment her personality and beauty - skate from the soul (feel the music). She should video her performances- look at the small details on how to improve further a move like this and that. Nitpicking in short. I believe Gracie is a perfectionist and has learned that life is not perfect all the time and carries this wonderful attitude to go with it- but she still seeks for perfection like all skaters do.

    For a lot of skating connoisseurs , especially the purist, figure skating is the ballet on ice! So it's an absolute joy to see someone who fuses ballet and skating perfectly. In reality figure skating is totally different from ballet- but ballet training and I guess modern dance nowadays can really make a difference in a performance and in the judges scores!

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    Figure skating isn't ballet on ice. It really isn't. Don't understand why people are always so eager for ballet to have a monopoly on the words graceful, elegant, good posture, lines, etc. As if it were the only source of those things.

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    Like subtlety in ice dancing Serious Business's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DianaSelene View Post
    However, you should remember that a lot of modern dance still takes some basics from ballet.
    Indeed it does. As does figure skating itself along with many other dance forms. But that's partly my point: you don't have to take ballet to learn some of the lines and posture in ballet that apply to figure skating.

    Quote Originally Posted by brightphoton View Post
    Figure skating isn't ballet on ice. It really isn't. Don't understand why people are always so eager for ballet to have a monopoly on the words graceful, elegant, good posture, lines, etc. As if it were the only source of those things.
    This is very true and important to remember. Figure skaters absolutely do not need pointed feet and turn out and everything else to do very well in the sport. Figure skating has its own orthodoxy, no doubt, but within its framework, it allows many, many, MANY kinds of styles, narratives and forms to succeed. And I feel that coaches/choreographers need to keep this in mind more often. The balletic style is often not the right one for a skater. I mean sure, a skater who is resistant to it may be able to finally pick up a bit of ballet after a lot of work. But why not save that effort and time when there are so many other things to train in figure skating? Find a style that suits a skater, one that allows him/her to express him/herself fully and honestly. I think that's what most audiences and judges will connect with.

    So I don't actually think it's a priority to make sure Gracie has the best posture and lines (she's not so shabby currently). I'd rather see Gracie get some sort of training so that she's more aware of how her movements are talking, and taking ownership of what they're saying. I want to see her feel her movement and make the audience feel it, too. That, I think, is what her skating can use the most improvement in currently.

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    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    I'll expect that you'll get lots more answers if we put this in The Edge folder, but here in the Lutz Corner, you'll be most likely to get people who skate seriously to answer you. This is the place to ask, "Do I really need to take ballet?," and the conventional wisdom is that you do, but it would be interesting to hear what other skaters have to say.

    If you'd like me to move this to the Edge, just PM me, or ask on this thread, because the intersection between ballet and skating is something skating fans will definitely have opinions about. The answers you get in The Edge are more likely to be to the question, "Is it really that similar?," and, "Should it really be that similar?"
    Last edited by dorispulaski; 03-06-2012 at 11:06 PM.

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    yes please move it ;D

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    Ballet helps teach grace of movement to people who are not naturally graceful. A skater who is more technical would benefit more from a ballet class than someone who is already artistically inclined.

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    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    I think this is an interesting question, because frankly, I think figure skating is a lot more than ballet.

    In fact, I like to watch non-balletic skaters who still have a good sense of musicality; in many cases, they are a lot more interesting to me.

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    I have several questions about this issue, and I wonder what everyone's answers might be, especially those of you with expertise in these matters.

    Did Soviet skaters have a choice about taking ballet as part of their training? What about some of the later Russian skaters? I'm asking because presumably the Soviet skaters were all different types of skaters, but certain aspects of training were probably mandated for many or all of them. They might have used ballet to gain flexibility, posture, and positioning even if their actual skating style was not balletic at all.

    Is any other form of training equivalent to ballet in giving these benefits? For example, would rigorous modern dance training be the equivalent of ballet training?

    It's too bad that some of the best exemplars of ballet-trained skaters weren't able to sustain a competitive career: namely, Emanuel Sandhu and Jennifer Kirk. Sandhu actually had at least one quad, but he was too temperamental to attain consistency. Kirk wasn't the world's hugest jumper, and she had the misfortune to skate in the Kwan-Cohen era as well. The other really ballet-trained skater I can think of is Katherine Healy, who didn't want to spend time in the judged section of skating and so turned pro and skated exhibitions at a very young age--fourteen or somesuch. She was amazing to watch except for jumps: the Ina Bauer that girl could do was insane, for instance.

    Does anyone know of a skater who devoted as much time to modern dance training as these folk did to ballet? What was/is the effect?
    Last edited by Olympia; 03-07-2012 at 12:04 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Olympia View Post
    Does anyone know of a skater who devoted as much time to modern dance training as these folk did to ballet? What was/is the effect?
    I don't know how much time was devoted to the dance training, but here are a couple of examples:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_k2VHW7zu4
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-k2Rc9hK4A

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    Top level skaters, who started trainig Ballet seriously for years before and while competing, that come to my mind are: Sandhu, Lambiel and Yukina Ota.

    Yukina's elegant style, felxibility and lovely musicality, which she mostly achieved through her long-term Ballet training as little kid (plus piano lessons, probably?), was admired and is still remembered by many skating fans.

    But her flexibility eventually forced her into retirement while still so young and promosing. She injured herself from one to another by practicing harder jumps, such as Lutz. Her 'too flexible' ankle and knee just could not hold the impact of toe jumps.

    I am no expert in skating, but I agere with brightphoton and SeriousBusiness.
    I understand trainings thru Ballet and/or other modern dance are of great help to develop as a skater and can be advantageous.
    But there are more important things to learn first as a skater in order to protect his/her own body and prevent from probable injuries. They need to learn 'proper' jump technique and spin technique. And it is a must to learn at an early age how to fall on unsuccessful jumps.

    Even among elite skaters on Grand Prix level today, some of them scare me with their 'improper' jump technique, e.g. mule kick on Flip/Lutz.
    Last edited by deedee1; 03-07-2012 at 01:23 AM.

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    Custom Title spikydurian's Avatar
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    This is an interesting topic discussion, AmuChan363. Food for thought.

    In an ideal world, if a brilliant ballet dancer is also a brilliant skater, this person is likely to dominate the current figure skating competitions. To me, ballet is performance arts whereas skating as in the Olympics is sports. Both require years of technical training and definitely innate talent to ever be an elite player. I don't think however much you train that you can be the world's best without innate ability. The ability to focus under intense pressure and scrutiny is also what makes or breaks the top players. Even in team sports, I have seen how focus was disrupted and the actual more skilful team lost when they forget to play as one or they just lost the ability to adapt during the games.

    The question I ask from sports and dance experts ... is...is it easier better to be a ballet dancer first and skater second or vice versa? gskelly's videos (thanks gskelly) of Ranke and Cassar who both are gorgeous skaters but never quite able to dominate the sport indicates that it may be better to be a skater first and dancer second? Are there good examples to show which is more beneficial?

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    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    I'd like to know too.

    The most balletic skater in the US that I have seen currently is Gretchen Donlan, of the pairs team of Donlan & Speroff. And pairs is where I like to see a balletic presentation the most, especially because we are treated to all these lifts, where the excellence (or not) of the lady's positions is very evident.

    Of all time, the most balletic would be Kathryn Healey.

    I do know one skater that did a lot of modern dance: that would be Kim Navarro of Navarro & Bommentre. She graduated with a minor in dance at Columbia University.

    Wynne & Druar spent over a year taking tap dancing, in preparation for a tap dance based FD, again about 1989.

    Tessa Virtue and Naomi Lang were both very serious about ballet, AFAIR.

    The ice dancers still do take ballet, but they are taking a lot of ballroom these day.

    The Carlo Fassi students Caryn Kadavy and Jill Trenary took a lot of jazz dance back in the late 80s and early 90s, and the moves used to work their way into their routine. I remember Dick & Peggy one time laughing while commenting that Fassi's students did the same jazz moves on ice and had the same jazz teacher.
    Last edited by dorispulaski; 03-08-2012 at 05:35 AM.

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    Thanks for the info, Doris. And thanks for bringing up Caryn Kadavy. I believe her mother was a ballet dancer--or at any rate some kind of professional dancer. The attention to dance training always showed up in Kadavy's skating, both as an amateur and as a pro. She didn't do the super-flexible gumby moves of Sasha and some of today's skaters, but she skated with wonderful carriage and a lovely fluidity that set her apart from other skaters.

    One interesting thing once shown on TV was a split-screen comparison of Oksana Baiul at her peak and Cadavy, both skating to the Meditation from Massenet's Thais. At that point Baiul was for many people the last word in Russian-influenced artistic sensibility, and it was quite a tribute to Cadavy that anyone would compare her to Baiul. To my taste, Caryn even came out a shade better, because her style was simple and flowing, whereas Oksana tended to over-gesticulate and flutter, and her posture was always a bit hunched.
    Last edited by Olympia; 03-08-2012 at 08:19 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by spikydurian View Post
    The question I ask from sports and dance experts ... is...is it easier better to be a ballet dancer first and skater second or vice versa?
    By "first" do you mean chronologically or in terms of priority?
    If your goal is to be a world-class figure skater in a balletic style, then I think you need to be a figure skater first -- from a very early age (Johnny Weir is the only world-class skater in the modern era I can think of who first stepped on ice at a double-digit age). And you have to train hard for years to master the skating skills.
    Ballet lessons would be a form of off-ice training to enhance the quality of the skating but wouldn't replace figure skating lessons or practice.

    Someone who comes to skating in middle childhood having already taken several years of ballet lessons would have better body awareness, flexibility, etc., than someone who started figure skating at the same age with no dance or sports training experience. Same for anyone who starts as an adult. But if the goal is to be a better figure skater, then someone who started skating earlier, even perhaps just having gotten comfortable balance on blades without formal lessons, would have an advantage over both.

    Too much ballet before starting skating would mean a lot of ballet habits that don't work well on ice and that would need to be unlearned.

    gskelly's videos (thanks gskelly) of Ranke and Cassar who both are gorgeous skaters but never quite able to dominate the sport indicates that it may be better to be a skater first and dancer second? Are there good examples to show which is more beneficial?
    gkelly; Jahnke

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