There is this belief: If you have never practised classical ballet, you’ll never get to dance bellydance (or any other dance form).
I’ve have students not sure about joining my bellydance classes because they never practised ballet before.
Is this all true?
Classical Ballet IS NOT the foundation of every other dance form
Don’t take me wrong, I love ballet. I just find very sad that the Western vision about dance prevents people from enjoying their dance practise.
My stance is that ballet usually leaves out many other dance forms, and even see those other dances as inferior. This has been the case of ballet vs African dances, or ballet vs Bharatanatyam, just to give a couple of examples.
What is classical ballet?
Classical ballet was born in the middle of the Italian renaissance period, XV and XVI centuries, in between 1400 and 1600. So here it comes my first question:
Had dance not existed before 14th century?
Well, as one of my favourite singers, Jorge Drexler says in his song “Dancing in the Cave” (translated from the original in Spanish):
“The idea is eternally new, the night comes and we still keep on going to dance in the cave”
Classical ballet in its origins was pretty much linked with aristocracy and wealth, so here it comes my second question:
Does people with less money not dance? Are dance and money necessarily associated?
And my answer: definitely not.
Your body is actually the only thing truly yours, and it comes for free!
Where does that idea of ballet being the foundation of all dances coming from then?
There are two important factors here:
- The wrong idea that everything that comes from Western countries is better. I’m not going to even start commenting this point 🤢 .
- The fact that learning a body technique is different to simply dancing.
Let me explain myself on this second point:
Following a body technique and its strict rules has nothing to do with dancing as you feel it.
Sometimes we can’t see that academic structure in the so called ethnic dances, but this doesn’t mean that there is no technique at all!
It often happens in classical ballet world that there is a norm, a unique and perfect way to execute every movement.
If you don’t own that body, those feet, that hip turn out, those hands… then you are out of the ballet game. This is fortunately changing at some levels.
Following the societal rules -the norm- affects us at all levels. In particular, in the dance scene, it leaves out great and talented artists that would have loads to share.
Practise ballet as a complement to other dance forms
On the other hand, learning ballet as a complement to other dance forms could help you on many points:
- It gives you a sense of discipline, which is something bellydancers usually lack. A regular ballet training includes an absolute minimum of two hours a week. Discipline in dance (an it live) comes with many other perks.
- It gives strength to your body. This will make your body able to more acróbata figures.
- You’ll improve your balance. So, just as an example, your choreographies with sword will be more stable.
- You’ll learn how to turn “correctly”. The quote marks on “correctly” are there because I firmly believe that there are so many different ways equally valid to do the same thing. What it’s true, it’s that having a system and a technique when turning, will help you a lot.
And that’s exactly why I did this video about how to spot when you turn.
- You’ll work out your feet. This is usually forgotten in bellydance, as we focus more on hip movement.
- You might gain some humility (if you are up to it). It’s true that I’ve known some arrogant ballet dancers, most of the ballet dancers I’ve tossed paths with were very humble and aware of their limits (as much aware they were about their strengths!)
To be honest, I’ve usually found more divas in the bellydance scene than I’ve found on the classical ballet one.
I believe this is because bellydance is not an extreme dance form. Bellydance is complex, don’t take me wrong, but it doesn’t demand a lot from our bodies.
Discipline is one of the if perks that comes with the practise of classical ballet. I spoke about discipline in my past article What bellydance can do for your freedom.
Some things that I don’t like about classical ballet
With not much space to explain myself, these are a few things I don’t enjoy from classical ballet.
- Ballet is a mostly technique focused dance form. Often feelings and emotions are left behind, as well as the spiritual and cultural aspect of dance.
- Technically speaking, the center of the body is blocked. The goal is always to hold, to contract, to keep your core still. Sometimes the core gets stretched, but it’s always from that perspective of stillness.
- Ballet is all about lines, arms and legs. Bellydance is quite the oposite, all about hips.
- As a result, I’ve had some students coming from ballet who struggled a lot to find this required core relaxation. When you need your abs to relax, contract and be coordinated quickly, ballet technique is not the best one in my opinion.
Lots of the things that you could learn in a ballet class could also be taught to you in a bellydance lesson if you teacher is ready and willing to share.
To sum up: ballet is not a must to be able to bellydance.
But everything helps
Lastly, I’d like to add that ballet is neither the one and only dance form of humanity. I’d like to invite you to try and dance everything you have the chance to try, because, yes, I’ll repeat myself, everything adds.
In the following video I speak about this topic a bit:
As everything else in live, everything is relative.
In my opinion, all dance forms are a beautiful and a much needed cultural manifestation. All dance forms give something to our body, our spirit and to others. Classical ballet is only one more technique in this big dancing world.
And now is your turn, I’d like to know: Did you ever hear that ballet is basic and fundamental? Or do yourself think on that way? Have you ever practised ballet? Do you practise any other dance forms? Tell me your story in the comments bellow, I want to know!
A dancing hug and a big thank you for being here,
ps. If you would like to start bellydancing from scratch have a look at Bellydance With the Moon: 29 Days To Start Belly Dancing. We start with the next Moon Cycle!