Now that we have covered alignments in a standing position, and know our direction, it’s time to discuss momentum. After all, dance is movement – and we need to know in which way we are going!
Momentum on the stage is indicated through stage directions, which are given not based on where the dancer is standing, but on what the audience sees. As such, stage left is actually to the right, and stage right – it’s the left! This can be very confusing, but once memorized, makes for simple instruction to dancers (or actors, or anyone performing on a standard proscenium stage).
Ballet uses up the whole of the stage – this is one of the reasons that ballets are usually performed in the biggest and deepest theatres possible, such as the main theatre of the Wharton Center. In class, we use the whole of the studio floor – our stage – to perform en centre. Commonly, centre exercises are performed moving from one corner of the floor to the other, in a diagonal direction. In theatre parlance, you would begin the exercise upstage right, and dance through to downstage left (or vice versa). Many classical ballets also use circular choreography (especially in pieces that emphasize turns), which make full use of the floor. When dancing on a stage, it is also very common to use the wings – the sides of the stage hidden by curtains, and make a number of entrances and exits throughout a single piece of choreography. Of course, our studio spaces at MSU do not have wings, so we instead use the space along the wall to give our centre exercises a similar feel.
I understand that all of these terms and movements can be extremely confusing, especially to those who are new to ballet. I will always demonstrate momentum for a piece when giving instructions for any particular exercise, so if you can’t remember the terminology, just follow along with the demonstration – and feel free to ask me lots of questions!