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Learn how to Use Props to Improve Your Dancing, Not Hinder It


The primary season San Francisco Ballet corps dancer Ludmila Bizalion carried out the corporate’s French (or Mirliton) Nutcracker divertissement, which entails twirling an extended, handheld ribbon whereas doing pirouettes and can-can excessive kicks, she ended one efficiency wrapped up in her ribbon and unable to take her bow. “My mother, who was within the viewers, thought it was hilarious,” she remembers. “However that day actually modified the best way I noticed props.”

Dancing with a prop might be intimidating, and when the choreography is already advanced, including an object to the combo can really feel, frankly, overwhelming. However with the precise method, props might be an thrilling alternative for development in artistry, storytelling and efficiency method.

Follow, Follow, Follow

You most likely didn’t nail your first fouetté flip or really feel fully assured the primary time you tried contact improvisation. Dancing with a prop, even if you happen to’re including it to steps you’ve been perfecting for years, isn’t any completely different. Incorporating an object into a chunk of choreography is a talent all its personal—and one which requires a whole lot of observe.

male dancer performing with hoops in a park
Sampson Sixkiller Sinquah competes in Arizona’s Heard Museum’s World Championship Hoop Dance Contest. Picture by Christopher Lomaquahu (Hopi), Courtesy Heard Museum.

Sampson Sixkiller Sinquah is a embellished champion in hoop dance, a conventional and intertribal Native American dance kind that makes use of hoops to create intricate shapes and formations. “First, you simply need to get used to what you’re utilizing, and the extra you observe, the simpler it will get and the smoother will probably be,” says Sinquah, who has been hoop dancing since he was 4 years previous and nonetheless devotes himself to lively, targeted coaching. “Simply observe and observe till the prop appears like part of you, like an extension of your self.”

Bizalion suggests getting acquainted with your prop even earlier than rehearsals start; if you happen to can, get a video of the dance and a rehearsal prop to borrow. You possibly can ease into dancing with a prop, she says, by starting with an object that’s smaller or easier to regulate. You possibly can even strive an exercise that enhances your prop choreography. Sinquah finds that leaping rope helps him harness the actions required in hoop dancing.

Faucet Into Proprioception

While you dance with a prop, the best way your physique strikes will seemingly change. You might need to get used to extra weight in a single hand, or attune your self to an object that makes the scale of a selected a part of your physique appear bigger. These variations can complicate the way you execute choreography.

When Carolyn Zhang danced with the College of Pennsylvania’s Pan-Asian Dance Troupe, whose work combines Asian dance kinds and martial arts with different types, like modern and hip hop, she carried out with props starting from swords and followers to the lengthy, bamboo rods utilized in tinikling, a conventional Filipino dance. Zhang recommends treating your prop like part of your physique, feeling the best way it adjustments your weight, spatial orientation and motion.

“I at all times take into consideration how my physique strikes and the way my weight settles,” she explains. “The prop is simply an extension of that.” She provides that beginning with easy, primary actions is a useful method to find out how the item itself strikes, how heavy it’s and the way effectively you may manipulate it. Add choreography little by little in order that studying to work together with your prop feels much less overwhelming and turns into extra intuitive.

Cultivating Artistry

Working with a prop can really feel disturbing, and even like a burden that may make you anxious a couple of efficiency. However when approached with an open thoughts and a curious angle, dancing with an object can truly unlock a wealth of creativity.
“Props is usually a limitation, but in addition an enhancement, and it form of will depend on the choreographer and dancer to resolve which it’s,” says Lina Shi, one other Pan-Asian Dance Troupe alum. Zhang provides that props are a key ingredient in Pan-Asian Dance Troupe’s repertoire, even strengthening the choreography and its reference to the group’s cultural roots. “A variety of Chinese language dance could be very grounded and takes a whole lot of inspiration from nature, like bushes and rivers,” she explains. “The prop is simply one other approach for us to imitate these issues.”

Props can be a method to immerse the viewers into the story being advised onstage. Bizalion, for instance, says that props just like the followers in Don Quixote join her extra with the spirit of her character. Shi provides that via the usage of props, Pan-Asian Dance Troupe is ready to share the great thing about Asian dance another way than they might via motion alone. “Props can positively be used as a way of storytelling,” she says, “to create a message that our physique can’t essentially painting by itself.”

female dancer in colorful tutu with red ribbon
Ludmila Bizalion in SFB’s Nutcracker. Picture by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.

Pas de Prop

Dancing with a prop might be much like dancing with a brand new associate. “That prop is a part of life onstage,” says Ludmila
Bizalion, a member of the corps de ballet at San Francisco Ballet. “It’s alive by itself.” Bizalion recommends beginning by marking the choreography together with your prop to tune into the best way it impacts your spatial consciousness, stability and coordination. At the start of every Nutcracker season, she runs via the Mirliton variation with simply her higher physique, so she will get reoriented with the momentum of the ribbon and the way she wants to maneuver to basically carry out a duet with it.

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