a sustainable training
Aktualisiert: 27. Juni 2022
It is normal to depend on the corrections of teachers. But it is also normal to get confused with these corrections, because ballet masters and teachers each have their own style, and from my own personal experience, it is really difficult bodywise to adapt to all of those styles. The corrections are not always the same, the musicality is not always the same, what the teachers say is not always the same and in fact in some cases we end up very confused with styles. Yes, ballet within itself has a diverse range of styles. But with Placement Method I can already in my own body identify what is style and what is technique, but mostely, what elements from some styles might be dangerous for my health. For example: heels in the Balanchine style. I will most definitely avoid to lift my heels in any kind of plié. Golden rule for me now. I have torn my calf muscles already too much to keep doing the same mistake only for the sake of aesthetics. About corrections you get as a freelancer: some of them work, some of them don't work at all, some of them I thought they worked but I injured myself with them, some of those corrections where pure imagery and worked at the beggining but lost their efficiency with time. Because emotions are momentary. The mechanics of the body on the contrary, has to be always reasonable. Emotion comes with the fun part: rehearsals, writing, choreographing, dancing. Nevertheless it is extremely important to have fun while dancing and we often underestimate the power of enjoyment and emotions. But structure should always come with logic.
I chose to use Eric Conrad's algorythm of turnout as the structure that will allow me to safely explore "new-old" vocabulary and diverse ballet styles . So this post is mostly about sharing a little bit of what that structure is about. Small warning: To fully understand the Placement Method one has to first invest in the 6 hour DVD, and take a lot of time to study it and try it. I did it already since 2 years so here I am just sharing what is has done and still doing with my technique and body. Just keep in mind that this is a very long process, but a process that can help your ballet career to last longer, specially being a freelancer. In case you are interested you can visit www.balletconrad.com
My advice is also: Be patient. Be patient with the way Mr. Conrad expresses himself because he has so much information to share that he keeps changing subjects constantly, but that is ok because he always comes back to the point. You will not be able to absorb everything in one day. This is why you should approach the 6 hour DVD as a book instead of a video. A book where you can go back in the pages to make sure you are remembering the important things. A book of study.
I am sure many dancers find themselves in the technical dilema of "pulling up" in the ballet class, or doing everything very deep and grounded on the floor, more earthly.
Well with Placement Method you use both synergies. Upwards and downwards but all of this maintaining a specific muscle chain activated. And it makes me quite happy to have gotten to this point of the writting and research. Because now I can introduce to you some concepts about the Cecchetti Method: Aplomb. Important to remember: my aim in this research is to rediscover lost ballet vocabulary with my already placed body in order to get better choreographic tools. So I am really excited to go further with the Cecchetti method.
Nowadays most teachers tell us that our bodies need to always be on our standing leg: so in the center of our feet. In my experience, this does not work because it makes the weight of my body heavier. But like I said. You can chose to believe what is convenient for you. In the end each of us is the owner of her/their/his bodies. Enrico Cecchetti saw the aplomb as the axe of the body aligned in a vertical line, and not placing the body weight only on the feet or "standing leg". Eric Conrad considers also that the weight of the upper body is disproportional to the muscle strength of the feet. Clearely speaking:
Feet have small bones and muscles, so it should be logical that the whole body weight should not rely only on those small muscles and bones.
Therefore we need to approach the weight of the body differently: not as DEAD, but active weight. This would be the real "pulling up" or the real "aplomb".
rethinking the ballet fundamentals: 300 hundred years of information filtered and refreshed
There is a generation of ballet masters that have seen icons like Ekaterina Maximova, or Vladimir Vassiliev that have kept their standards of what high level ballet is within that generation. Even Mikhail Baryshnikov is part of these soviet trained timeless dancers. Eric Conrad is not the only one who sees the generational differences. I have met ballet masters who learned from master icons like Asaf Messerer. Most of this generation have tendencies to see a fast decline in Ballet artistry and technique. It's not just Eric Conrad. And it is also not just nostalgia (although nostalgia is also a small part of it). As a millenial dancer myself, being bolivian has represented for me the advantage of neutrality and looking for the most efficient ballet "method". Because most of ballet techniques or styles (saddly nowadays we confuse technique with style more often that we should) come nowadays hand in hand with an IDEOLOGY associated to a Nation with its own vision of what good ballet is. As almost a political statement of their artistic superiority: "our style is the best." "NO! WE are the best!" etc. This implies political hostilites that I have experienced in a personal level: "oh you do this the russian way, so primitive". "Oh no, French is better, it is more actualized and modern". "No, Royal is better, because it looks better". I see an endless Cold War between styles/techniques that represent a certain ideology in Ballet. These ideologies of course have fed an industry that benefits them. Personnaly I have been trained with cuban/russian most of my life, but I have also experienced French and Balanchine. Somehow for my bodytype, Russian made more sense. So I thought the answer was in Russian ballet because it is the one that made me progress the most, and the one who gave me more freedom. But still it does not escape ideology and still I have injured myself with it and still I have never seen better ballet dancers than the soviet ones even if today there are many beautiful russian dancers. To be part of a ballet ideology will always bring you confusion, and sometimes even personal conflicts with your work colleagues or just with yourself. This is a fact, many of racial biases come from this confusion the ballet pedagogics make between style and technique. But that is a subject that I will not speak about here. Maybe later. So in the end no "style" should be greater than others if our fundamentals became the same and we would finally be able to make the differences between technique and style. And we would be able to have diversity in ballet, because aesthetics would become only the result of our technical work, and not the other way around. Since I train Placement Method I can actually adapt better to other styles without adopting these ideologies that only feed political hostilities. And since my country has no ballet style, I am free to appreciate what every different nation contributed to Ballet without taking position. And of course I will always have preferences because it is also a matter of taste and experience (for example, I will always have small preferences over russian ballet, because in my experience it is the one that helped me the most, and I am grateful for the russian trained dancers that pushed me and were generous with their corrections. This does not mean that I cannot appreciate what other styles have given to me, french style has really made me understand elegance, which I was lacking before I moved to Europe. Balanchine pushes my musicality etc. But stylisticly sepaking, because technically speaking their flaws are also elements that now I leave to the side). But the ideology part is something that was also getting in my way, now I am glad I can separate it from the technique.
Now to the fundamentals: I will only give one visual example of what placement looks like in this post in order to connect it with the Cecchetti method. I insist, Placement Method is a little bit more complicated than just aesthetics. And the most important thing to work on is pliés. So before I show you my degagés, keep in mind that the pliés here are omitted because if you don't have the information first it will all be only images or small videos, which they already exist at Mr. Conrad's website. You are all free to study it, here I show just 0,01% of what Placement Method really is with a small example: degagé à la seconde.
Turnout from natural hip rotation, the modern, mainstream approach of turnout. In this image I am doing a degagé à la seconde. Now this looks way better than what it was before I started Placement Method. This means that my body is already restructured. So the differences are more difficult to see. But they are still visible. Here my observations:
The vertical line that goes from my head to my standing leg shows that I am passively in my "center". but my legs do not match the verticality of the line.
My knees are not activated nor entirely at 180 degrees because I am using my "natural" turnout. For whatever that means. I look as if I was sitting on my own left buttcheek. Which actually has caused me a lot of hip problems.
As I already mentioned, there are people that see in this image a correct degagé (and probably see bad feet), so for me this clearely does not work. But for others it can work.
Turnout from Placement Method activated. This is what Enrico Cecchetti meant as Aplomb, but in a much more precise anatomical way.
Here I have activated my turnout with Eric Conrad's algorythm. Just so you know, in reality is a little bit more complicated than what I show here in this picture. This is just an example. So keep this in mind. This is already the result of two years of work. It takes patience to get here.
The Vertical line that goes from my head to my feet is now almost perfectly aligned with my legs. And you can see two sinergy lines: one that pushes DOWN the floor, and the other one pulling UPWARDS. So I don't look like I am sitting on my buttcheeks, but I also don't look like my whole weight is up in my back (which is sometimes the tendency when there is no activation from the core and a big reason why we get so often injured)
The muscles of my legs are activated only because my core/buttcheeks are, therefore they look a little bit bigger. But also, they look longer. On the opposite side, my waist looks longer and narrow.
My knees are at 180° and stretched/activated. To me this is an incredible accomplishment because I was not born with natural 180° hip rotation.
The line of my working leg looks a lot better than in the first image. Because my turnout comes from my core and not from my natural dead weight.
My feet look fully stretched. This is also something I deeply appreciate, as someone who was born without arched feet.
I am sure some of you will say that in this image I am not in my center. This is part of the mindset that has been put in our heads of what ballet is. And I understand why you aesthetically see that I am "not" in my center. But remember what Aplomb is in the Cecchetti method, and even Pointe Magazine is starting to write articles about this problematic.
How I organize my training now:
Placement Method : alone studying: 4 or 5 times a week, 1 hour or less each.
Professional open class: once a week or once every two weeks. Sometimes when I feel like I am getting pain which is the sign of bad training, I do ONLY placement for 3 weeks and come back stronger for the class. When I feel extremely placed I take 2 open professional classes a week. Like I said, Lockdown is perfect for this.
Sometimes we organize a group of study of Placement with other freelancers in a studio for 1 hour and a half: this provides not only good corrections and feedback. But it also strengthens our friendship and mutual support (which is extremely important during these times and during your whole career) by increasing clear communication. Each body is different and each person will experience different feelings with this method, and it is important to talk about it because only that way we find solutions. This is why I deeply encourage you to not doing this 100% alone.
I will most definitely take more private classes with Mr. Conrad. But private classes are something that I can only do once every two months. And you have to organize your budget according to your priorities, and your priorities will be changing the further you go with the Placement Method.
How I approach Ballet class now:
At the beggining I tried to apply placement to the ballet class and it can get very tricky. I need sometimes to focus only on my placement for like a month. Some mainstream corrections are really harmful not only to the body but also to the brain. So I chose very carefully where I go to train according to my physical and mental state. Usually I like to go to my ballet master's class, who has danced with Rudolf Nureyev, and has a lot of knowledge and experience with Vaganova and Cecchetti. He also met Assaf Messerer. So Placement kind of fits to his training (not 100% though). For me, sometimes the class is the place where I test my placement, and sometimes I just let everything go and trust my already placed body in order to put enphasis on my enjoyment. Which like I said in the last post, is extremely important to me. When I focus obsessively on my placement during the class, sometimes I get stuck and I cannot really dance becauseI am too much in my mind. Now I do it like Mr. Conrad adviced me to: I do some 15 min placement before class, and during class I enjoy and trust my body more. It will always be tricky though, only now after two years I am trusting my body more, it is a long process, sometimesyou think too much,sometimes you're not thinking enough, that's the definition of studying and training your technique. For the dancing part on stage, that is a whole different thing. You are basically preparing yourself for stage when you study your technique. Only that way on stage you can be free.
How I approach corrections now:
It will always be tricky because some corrections are valid and you have to be able to translate them in Placement vocabulary, because we all need to consider that not everybody has the time and patience to study Placement but some teachers have really GOOD eye for corrections, and when these teachers correct you for example your shoulders, you need to go to the root of your Placement to understand how to fix it. It means that something in your Placement is wrong. so instead of focusing on your one shoulder, you go back to your fundamentals. This is an example of how I approach the corrections from this ballet masters whom I deeply respect and love. You have to be able to respect the ballet master and his corrections, because every person's experience is valid. And specially when this ballet master met Assaf Messerer and is giving you good feedback. And at the same time don't forget your own individuality, and don't forget to connect the information as much as you can. This made me appreciate every ballet master in a personal way, instead of focusing only on how much you improve with this person. Don't be dependent only on other people's criteria, you can become your own master. But it is never easy to be your own boss. The best thing about Placement is that the more you do it, the easier you find it to filter harmful corrections in your brain. As if you become more the owner of your body. An example of remarks/corrections that I don't pay attention to anymore: One time in the open class the ballet master said: "can you please dance more like her?", while pointing at a dancer. To me this kind of words are unpedagogic, unprofessional, and mostly a waste of air, time and voice. But I understand that most of the ballet world works like that. I just don't play that game anymore because my mental health/technique is more important. Whenever I get pointlessly compared to others I pretend I am deaf and move on with what really matters to me. I am not up for toxic competition anymore. Fair game, fair competition, I wish that was possible in the Ballet field but I can only deal with the world as it is.
How I approach competition
Competing only with myself has become easier, usually in open class with other professionals there are tendencies of competition and tension, as if everybody is self conscious, or criticizing each other. This is something quite hard in the professional world, specially for me, it has always been a struggle to train and focus only on me, next to these beautiful dancers who were actually born with the perfect bodies and faces to dance (for whatever that means because to me it does not mean anything anymore)
I still get anxious about competing with others. I avoid eye contact with other professionals, I have deep problems with competition. Thankfully my anxiety is reducing with all of this Placement information. I can accept my body better with it and I am noticing that I am not getting as anxious about auditions anymore as I used to. Because even the word Audition was already enough to bring me anxiety. I remember crying when reading about upcoming auditions because I started to think like a ballet director and realizing I was not what they want. This happens when I go back to the toxic ballet mentality. And now I go back there less and less.
How I approach pain
To me, pain is now a sign that I am doing something wrong in my technical work. Usually when pain comes to my right hip, I know it is because I am not symetric enough in my plies and degages, the body is one complicated thing for sure, so whenever I have the slightest sign of pain I try to remember what I did to get it. Usually I find the answer and fix it. Some other discomforts I take longer to solve. Some pain I relieve with the good eye of my ballet master, this is why I said that as a freelancer you must take really good care about who you chose as your teachers. I advice to you to have this approach of pain as a freelancer, because we don't have personal physios that take care of our muscles so we better detect the problem before it gets big.
Also important: DON'T FORGET TO MASSAGE. Sometimes I make the mistake of doing placement and forgetting about massaging my muscles. PLEASE DON'T DO IT LIKE THAT. Lol yes in that way I am a bad example. please massage yourself constantly, Mr. Conrad also speaks about this in one of his videos. And also, what helps me to relax is to have a normal life, to have normal friends who are not necessarily dancers. I go to parties, I dance folk dances from my country, I do some graphic design to the side, I love to cook. Don't get obsessed with ballet in a oppressive way. Ballet should liberate you, not make you feel like a working machine. So enjoy life and don't forget to massage.
Here I leave you a small video of a rehearsal session that we did with my friend who also studies the Placement Method. We always discuss a lot our placement during the sessions, For these Diana and Acteon rehearsals all we did as a warm up with pliés and degagés. Take a look of how light the Porté looks. I accidentaly did 3 pirouettes in that piqué and was not expecting it. It is really satisfying to rehearse with actual corrections and actual results. I may share more videos of this rehearsal later. Fun fact: before this rehearsal it had been like 4 months that I did not take regular ballet training, I only did placement at home in my kitchen with the table. This was shot on March 2020, more than a year ago. We had no ballet master helping us. Only each other with our Placement knowledge, looking for answers and improvement.
I have to add, it also feels great to be this light. I feel like I help my partner to not be so heavy in the PDD. And he tells me he feels me lighter the more placed I am. This is also something important when it comes to pas de deux. I am actually also taking care of my partner's health. Men should not lift dead weight, this can break their backs. Maybe I will make a post about my Pas de Deux experience further. Let me know if you are interested in the comments. See you in the next article where I will finally start introducing the Cecchetti vocabulary into my technique.
Gefördert durch die Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien im Programm NEUSTART KULTUR, Hilfsprogramm DIS-TANZEN des Dachverbands Tanz Deutschlands.