Forum: Irish / Irish - Adult Dancers

Adding ballet?
By Bogart
On Fri Aug 22, 2014 01:33 PM

Hi everyone! I'm getting ready to pick up some ballet classes to help improve my technique; turn out, point, posture, lift...the list really goes on and on. Anyone have experience with using Ballet to help with Irish? Did you find it worth while? I don't really see a downside to adding it to my weekly routine, but perhaps someone else does.

I'm really interested to see what other types of dances/activities/exercise people do to supplement or help improve their skills. Or is the idea to just do a ton of Irish to improve those specific skills?

Side note; our school has a lovely dancer that does both Irish and Scottish. She has the most amazing calf muscles ever!

4 Replies to Adding ballet?

re: Adding ballet?
By seannettaPremium member
On Sat Aug 23, 2014 09:08 AM
There are many, many things about Irish that are very specific to Irish, so sometimes it's hard to pinpoint cross-training improvement -- i.e., if you want to get better at trebles, you have to just practice your trebles. Strength training can greatly increase the height of your jumps, as another example, but then you have to go and practice your jumps to fine-tune the technique.

But ballet is a great foundation for any kind of dance, including Irish. I've done a few years of ballet here and there, and am about to start up again. What I think ballet helps with most is body awareness, and using the correct muscles. In Irish, we're usually just told "do this" and we don't have a training system in place to ensure we're doing that movement in a way that's good for our bodies. Ballet emphasizes technique at a very basic level that's applicable in many different places.

You'll spend your first few classes likely just practicing pointing your feet. My biggest advice is not to get bored or discouraged, if you think you already know how to do some of the stuff the class is doing. You may know how to point your foot already, but are you using the best set of muscles to do it? Maybe not. Ballet is excellent for this kinda thing. It's especially excellent for learning how to turn out correctly, and also how to balance your weight correctly when working on one leg.

Now, there are of course some very fundamental differences you'll have to work with. Ballet dancers jump using a plie, i.e. a deep bend of the knees. We don't do that in Irish. But if you started with Irish, I wouldn't worry too much about ballet technique sneaking into your Irish classes where it shouldn't. Just be aware of the differences as you're learning, and you should be able to borrow what you need for Irish. I have found my experience in ballet to be really valuable. I often steal ballet technique exercises to teach my adult Irish dancers.
re: Adding ballet?
By highlanddncr
On Sun Aug 24, 2014 12:08 PM
First I have to say, if you are who I think you are- you are already a beautiful dancer who has nice posture, lift and all those things :)

I agree with Seanetta that it can help Irish but I think I would make sure your instructor knows that you do Irish and are doing ballet to help improve your Irish. She may be able to not focus on some things that would normally be something a ballet instructor would correct such as the landing in plie Seannetta mentioned and also basing combinations on fifth position vs. first position. So pretty much do ballet but do it in terms of improving Irish instead of learning classical ballet if that makes sense.

I come from the opposite end having grown up doing ballet, later Scottish and finally Irish. I feel like my ballet training gave me the ability to pick up steps pretty quickly and also basic turn out/stage presence. The Scottish gave me power and stamina as well as being extremely perfectionist when learning since everything in Scottish is to a specified position that is standard world wide (ie you can't make something up if you forget because they will know if you stepped to fourth intermediate not fourth position and will knock points off).

But the Scottish has also affected my Irish in a negative way in terms of making it really hard to remember to cross and tending to do things in a very open, ballet style position instead of a tighter, crossed Irish style. So be careful as you are learning ballet that it doesn't start to make you do wacky things in Irish. I think most ballet instructors who teach the adults classes are pretty understanding that people are coming into class for different reasons and different goals. They will probably be amazed if you show them some Irish :)
re: Adding ballet?
By StepdancerPremium member
On Sun Aug 24, 2014 05:54 PM
I've seen it go both ways. Some dancers say ballet really helps; others find it impossible to keep the differences straight, i.e. "always plie/never plie", "arms rounded/arms straight", "spot/don't spot", etc. It seems to be very specific to the individual, so if someone likes ballet and wants to do it, they should try it and see how it works out for them, but I don't believe anyone should be pressured to do it, and certainly not required. Some Irish schools in my area insist on ballet; that will help some and completely mess up others. Too bad there isn't a "ballet for Irish dancers" track.
re: Adding ballet?
By Bogart
On Mon Aug 25, 2014 06:32 AM
Thank you ladies for all of the feedback! I'm excited to be getting some very specific technique from ballet, as well as just drilling things like leg lifts, pointing, posture (I took a lot of dance in college).

I'm also aiming to help with my stamina. It seems like no matter how hard I work, I can get through my darn hornpipe without all of the energy coming out about halfway through my second step. I get so sloppy, my legs and feet look a mess, the sound is terrible. So I'm hoping hoping hoping that ballet will also help improve my stamina.

...or maybe it's still just a matter of drilling my steps over and over again until I can do them all the way through. Thoughts?

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