The 4 Most Common Acting Mistakes Dancers Make
When conveying a story onstage, portraying a character convincingly is just as important as nailing the steps. But that's often easier said than done. We talked to Anita Paciotti, ballet master at San Francisco Ballet, about the biggest acting mistakes she sees dancers making:
1. Being shy about eye contact.
These National Ballet of Canada dancers have no problem with eye contact. PC Cylla von Tiedemann
"You have to connect with peoples' eyes to be able to react in real time onstage."
2. "Talking" on top of others.
In big scenes, the audience needs to know where to look. PC Erik Tomasson
Dancers often react too fast, says Paciotti. "Give your dancing some breathing room. If you're in a scene with another dancer, know where the focus is supposed to be at all times. It takes the audience a long time to move from one character to another."
3. Ignoring your hands.
Yuan Yuan Tan acts through her hands in Giselle. PC Erik Tomasson
"Give yourself a stock list of things to do with your hands, especially if you tend to always hold them in ballet positions. Gesture is completely different from port de bras."
4. Not dressing the part.
SFB dancers wear long skirts in rehearsal with Liam Scarlett. PC Erik Tomasson
"Wear the appropriate thing to rehearsal, whether that's a practice tutu or a long skirt. It determines the way you walk. And the way you walk determines everything else."
Yvonne Rainer's Parts of Some Sextets (AKA "the mattress dance") hasn't been revived since it premiered in 1965. Nor has Rainer had any wish to do it again, to ask performers to heave 10 mattresses around while carrying out 31 tasks that changed every 30 seconds. It was an unwieldy, difficult dance. (Even the title is unwieldy.) But Emily Coates, who has danced in Rainer's work for 20 years, became curious about this piece and was determined to see it again—and to dance in it. She will get her wish November 15–17, when the mattress dance will be performed as part of the Performa 19 Biennial.
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.