The BLOG: Culture

World Ballet Day: Experience the art of the rehearsal

Every ballet class, whether you’re a prima ballerina or a 4-year-old in your first pink tutu, beings with pliés. A simple bend of the knee stretches the legs, demands proper posture and begins to regulate breathing. It is the key to launching and landing leaps with grace, ease and power. For the four-year-old, it won’t get much more challenging than a plié, whereas the prima ballerina will use a plié later as one of many components of her choreography.

As a young ballet student, I desperately wanted to rush past the barre exercises and hurry into the center of the room for some “real dancing.” Endless pliés, tendus and rond de jambes were a snooze when my pointe shoes were calling my name to do pirouettes and tour jetés across the floor. But barre routines are a sacred ritual of every ballet class. At the barre, dancers practice and perfect the foundational steps that contribute to their performances. Without meticulously focusing on the details of each toe, the shape of the foot, the position of the knee, location of the hips and posture of the shoulders, a dancer lacks the key ingredients of their craft.

Today is World Ballet Day, which means that leading ballet companies around the globe are opening the door into their world for us to watch their classes and rehearsals via livestream. It is a unique opportunity to witness the work that goes into the performance that we see onstage. The finished product is a result of the time that ballet dancers have dedicated to perfecting ballet, from the basics to the complicated choreography.

As thrilling as it is to sit in a dark theater, watching dancers give their big show in costumes and makeup, I might even prefer watching classes and rehearsals. Ballet class is, in a way, its own art. It gives us access to learn about what it takes to truly be a ballet dancer. Those pirouettes and tour jetés look wonderful onstage under the spotlight, but it is even more gratifying when you have seen some of the hundreds of times that a ballerina has practiced those turns—Maybe she couldn’t quite land the turns, then figured out what she was doing wrong, tried again, and got it just right. It also teaches us what choreographers want out of their choreography, what an artistic director wants to see in his company and what ballet masters want their dancers to correct.

There is so much more to ballet than the final performance. I encourage everyone to attend the theater and enjoy the spectacular product, but I also highly recommend tuning in to some companies’ coverage of their dancers’ work. I believe that it will be an educational and inspiring experience. Maybe you’ll even try a plié or two, yourself.

Those of us in the Boston area will especially enjoy Boston Ballet’s livestreams of company class (10:15 a.m. via their Facebook livestream) and their rehearsals, including Le Corsaire, Donizetti Variations (10:38 a.m. via The National Ballet of Canada’s Facebook livestream). From 10:30-11 a.m., Principal Dancer Misa Kuranaga will take over Boston Ballet’s Twitter account, to answer questions with the hashtag #AskMisa.

Happy World Ballet Day!