Find out 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 could be intimidating, and when the choreography is already advanced, including an object to the combination can really feel, frankly, overwhelming. However with the proper strategy, props could be an thrilling alternative for progress in artistry, storytelling and efficiency approach.

Apply, Apply, Apply

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 in the event you’re including it to steps you’ve been perfecting for years, isn’t any totally different. Incorporating an object into a chunk of choreography is a talent all its personal—and one which requires loads of apply.

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

Sampson Sixkiller Sinquah is a embellished champion in hoop dance, a standard and intertribal Native American dance type that makes use of hoops to create intricate shapes and formations. “First, you simply should get used to what you’re utilizing, and the extra you apply, 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 energetic, targeted coaching. “Simply apply and apply till the prop looks like part of you, like an extension of your self.”

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

Faucet Into Proprioception

Once you dance with a prop, the best way your physique strikes will possible change. You may need to get used to further weight in a single hand, or attune your self to an object that makes the dimensions of a particular a part of your physique appear larger. 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 types and martial arts with different kinds, like modern and hip hop, she carried out with props starting from swords and followers to the lengthy, bamboo rods utilized in tinikling, a standard Filipino dance. Zhang recommends treating your prop like part of your physique, feeling the best way it modifications 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 solution to find out how the thing itself strikes, how heavy it’s and the way effectively you’ll be able to 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 worrying, and even like a burden that may make you anxious a couple of efficiency. However when approached with an open thoughts and a curious perspective, dancing with an object can truly unlock a wealth of creativity.
“Props generally is a limitation, but additionally an enhancement, and it type of will depend on the choreographer and dancer to determine which it’s,” says Lina Shi, one other Pan-Asian Dance Troupe alum. Zhang provides that props are a key factor in Pan-Asian Dance Troupe’s repertoire, even strengthening the choreography and its reference to the group’s cultural roots. “Lots of Chinese language dance could be very grounded and takes loads of inspiration from nature, like bushes and rivers,” she explains. “The prop is simply one other method for us to imitate these issues.”

Props may also be a solution to immerse the viewers into the story being instructed 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 may 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. Photograph by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.

Pas de Prop

Dancing with a prop could 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 primarily carry out a duet with it.

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