Thursday, November 18, 2010

Grace, Power, Beauty, Strength

My son - aka "Squirrel" - is a senior in high school. As application deadlines will be here before you know it, we've visited five colleges in the last month and a half. Yesterday, we visited the school that is number one on his list.

He's thinking of majoring in performing arts and is looking for a school with a program that integrates drama and dance. While touring the school's dance conservatory yesterday, we ran into Ashley, a dancer in her last year at the school who invited us to watch a rehearsal for an upcoming performance of "The Nutcracker Suite." What she didn't tell us was that she was one of the principle dancers.

Once she slid into her pointe shoes and began her warmup on stage, Ashley transformed from a quiet, gangly college kid in sweats and a headband to an amazingly bold and very talented dancer. It's been a long time since my weekly grade-school tap and ballet lessons - so my reference for the names of specific techniques was way off - but as my son began whispering them in my ear, I started relating them to something a whole lot more current for me: karate techniques.

Sure there are differences, but it's amazing how similar dance and karate really are. Ashley's beautiful kicks were really high and done with pointed toes and arms that were far away from each other, but her shoulders were always over her hips and she always landed with balanced precision - even when both feet left the ground. Her movements were very graceful but extremely powerful at the same time, making her fluid transitions from one corner of the stage to another look effortless and almost simple - which told a lot about how much time she'd put into training and perfecting her movements. When the music stopped and the dance was complete, she and the other dancers either sat down immediately or leaned over with their hands on their knees, breathing hard and sweating as if they'd just gotten off the gym treadmill. You can tell they left everything on that stage each time they went through the dance. It so reminded me of watching the best karateka go through kihon drills, move around a ring during kumite or across the floor while presenting kata - because after they rested and talked over the parts that needed to be ironed out and improved, they got up and did the whole thing over again - with the same intensity and feeling. Of course the graceful and beautiful lines were there, too. Each time. Just like it should be in the martial arts training hall.

My senseis always tell us that how we practice/train in the dojo will be exactly how it will be done outside of the dojo, if ever needed. Although I hear them each time they say it, the Purchase College Conservatory of Dance students rehearsing yesterday really hammered that home for me.

Domo arigato goziamasu, Ashley :-)


  1. I love watching the grace and poise of a ballet dancer. Like you, I did the usual tap, ballet and modern dance as a child and have also noticed the similarities between dance and karate. The mindset of the dancer and the karateka is very similar, its just that the purpose is different. Sometimes I just think karate is ballet with attitude!LOL

  2. And we don't hafta smile when we're doing our thing, Sue :-)