Ballet dancers, used to open rehearsal spaces, must find alternative ways to practice their craft during the lockdown.
Tamar Moross, 18, is a Johannesburg-based ballet dancer. Amid the coronavirus lockdown she has been forced to practice her art in an unconventional environment, using alternative tools and online platforms.
Ballet is a type of artistic dance but it is also a form of high-intensity and intermittent exercise which emphasises a balance between physical strength and flexibility. It involves very specific steps and when done correctly, these movements are graceful and light. In order to achieve this though, a regular, physically-intense training regimen is required. Ordinarily, ballet dancers train in a studio. This is the space they spend most of their time training, rehearsing and performing. These studios consist of special flooring, a barre or handrail, a wide open space and mirrors to check movements and positioning of the body.
Part of Moross’s daily routine is to stretch. As a ballet dancer, it is important to stretch as this ensures you stay flexible and aids in your seamless movements. It also protects the dancer from injury which is critical as the body is the dancer’s main asset. Ordinarily, Moross would either have a stretch session in the studio where she can be assisted in her stretching by her teacher or equipment found in the studio. During lockdown, she makes use of a chair to make use of full range of motion.
Barre work is done in the beginning of a ballet class. It is a combination of slow and fast movements ensuring the body it warmed up and stretched it out. It thus allows the dancer to focus on their form with the help of the barre for stability. The barre is a horizontal wooden or metal bar that is either fitted into the wall or free-standing with supports on either side. This equipment is often only found within a ballet studio, yet Moross has found an alternative way to perform her barre work.
Moross said that the use of the bar is imperative as it gives you additional support needed to perform these exercises. “A lot of people also use a chair which also allows for the support required”, she said.
The floor on which a ballet dancer dances on is as important as the performance surface. Ballet studios are especially fitted with wooden or vinyl sprung floors. Moross trains in her dining room as she finds this floor the easiest to dance on. This floor is parquet wooden flooring and Moross said, “ It is the best option for me because it is not too slippery and allows me to do exercises such as turns with ease”.
A pointe shoe is a type of shoe worn by ballet dancers, allowing them to dance on the tips of their toes. Moross was fitted with her first pair of pointe shoes at the age of 13 years. When this happens, you are given strict instructions explaining how to put them on.
Fitting your pointe shoes becomes a natural habit for a dancer as they slowly become accustomed to them. Moross does online training with her ballet teachers through platforms such as Zoom. Before each online training session, Moross runs through these steps to make sure they are fitted correctly. This helps her with the proper alignment of her body when she stands on her pointe shoe.“As a ballet dancer, you are always striving to be the best performer you can possibly be,” said Moross, who is currently dancing with the Joburg Ballet. This is done by improving ballet techniques and in order to achieve this, dancers need to spend as much time as they can practicing. Without the support from her teachers and the engagement with her peers, Moross has realised the role they play in her ballet career. She added, “You need to give it your all, every single time.”
FEATURE IMAGE: Tamar Moross is a ballet dancer who has found ways to practice her craft outside of the studio during lockdown. Photo: Anna Moross.
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- Wits Vuvuzela, Review: A Night at the Ballet, September 2015.