No more tutus
Modern ballet at its finest
Article: Laura Billet – Contributor
I was recently in Toronto at Unearth, a ballet that Robert Binet choreographed as part of Innovation, a mixed program at the National Ballet of Canada. While sitting in the audience, I couldn’t help but be disappointed by the seriously imbalanced age ratio. I have been to many ballets before and have always laughed at the fact that the audience is dominated by an older generation, but this time it really got me thinking: what is going to happen when these people get too old to support the ballet? This frightened me, and reinforced my suspicions that the world of ballet is grossly misunderstood and ignored by many of our generation.
If you’ve seen Black Swan, you know that the world of dance can be merciless, full of messy politics, bad body image, and bad habits. But what that film doesn’t portray is how it can also be inspiring and exciting.
What better way to express something than through movement? Words can be cumbersome and frustrating. In a moment of raw emotion, it is often impossible to find the right words to express yourself. When words aren’t enough, movement steps in and expresses what cannot be, or what is not easily said.
Just think of the last time you were really angry, you had a growing ball of energy inside you that needed to be released, right? Maybe you threw something, or went for a run, or cried, but whatever it is that you do, the way we release intense emotions is often physical. In this way, dance is not something that is so different from the everyday; essentially, it is a release of this raw emotion, structured and put to music.
It is different from plays and musicals. We can easily become a part of a music concert by singing and dancing along. Ballet in this sense can seem to cut ties with an audience; you have to sit still and observe it. This can create a thick fourth wall between audience and performers, emphasizing our respective roles as performer and watcher.
What’s more, most people have never worn pointe shoes and don’t understand what it is that the dancers are doing on stage. But what every person needs to know is that ballet and dance are not about the steps that the dancers are doing. Yes, technique is fundamental to the art form; however, that’s not its purpose. Ballet provides the audience with an emotion and gives them the freedom to fill in the story, unlike the theatre where you are told. Dance reaches out, attacking your senses to make you think and feel.
It is not all about tutus; these days there is actually a good chance you won’t see many on stage. Choreographers, like Binet, are bored (yes, even they are bored) of the classical, pretty ballets like Swan Lake. There is a movement toward a more physical and intuitive performance that expresses real issues, like disappointment, grief, and love.
In his new work Unearth, Binet explored inertia and how we work for stillness, creating something never seen before. Owen Pallett, a musician who had his own band Final Fantasy and is now touring with Arcade Fire, created the score for the ballet. Many of the dancers in Binet’s piece are in their twenties. It is a really exciting performance, made by and for young people. It isn’t the only one of its kind, either. Ballet is changing to be something that I think people would enjoy and relate to more than they think.