Exploring The Art And Benefits Of Ballet - Eastern Mirror
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Exploring the art and benefits of ballet

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By Moakala T Aier Updated: Apr 17, 2024 11:39 am

DIMAPUR — Ballet as an art form is still emerging in Nagaland. Though leotards, tutus, and pointe shoes are commonly seen at school events, birthday parties and photoshoots, it is important to recognize their professional significance beyond aesthetics. 

Exploring the art and benefits of ballet
Virieno on pointe shoes

For Virieno Zakiesato Bhowmick, the inspiration to take up ballet as a career path came during her formative years of training. While training in other types of dance like jazz, contemporary, kathak and tap as well, ballet stood out for her as it gave her structure and a sense of accomplishment. In 2022, she started ‘Virieno’s Ballet’ with the vision to bring standardised ballet training in Dimapur. Her dancing career began with performances and tours in India and abroad as a contemporary artiste, spanning a decade. 

In an interview with Eastern Mirror, the ballet teacher and educator shares her perspective on ballet.

How does learning ballet benefit young children?

First of all ballet helps develop strength, flexibility, coordination and balance, which in turn helps with improving physical health. Ballet requires students to be focused and stay disciplined, which helps them maintain mental strength and build resilience. Since ballet requires mental focus, it helps them with the development of cognitive abilities to concentrate, coordinate and course correct. It also encourages creative thinking through movement and enhances their self-expression. Ballet also creates cultural awareness since the vocabulary is in French and learning ballet terminologies even helps children develop an appreciation of other cultures. Above all, ballet is a beautiful and elegant art form that cultivates the love and appreciation for the arts in children.

Exploring the art and benefits of ballet
Top- Students performing during the winter annual performance, 2022
Exploring the art and benefits of ballet
Students appearing their graded exams at Virieno’s Ballet

What are the essential skills needed for someone considering ballet?

Anyone considering ballet will need to have the aptitude for commitment and dedication towards the art form. The mental fortitude to persevere through the training whilst keeping the love and the passion for the form.

What role does formal education play in a ballet dancer’s career?

Any good mentor would see to it that you complete your education, even if you are confronted with great adversity while both studying academically and training in ballet. Having said that, this is not an either/or situation, hence having children start their training young, while they are in school is the perfect opportunity a parent can give their children. Similar to the ballet classes in the west, the children are put for ballet classes even before the age of five and when they reach their teens they are in a position to decide if they want to pursue further ballet, some even professionally.

Exploring the art and benefits of ballet
Virieno Zakiesato Bhowmick
Exploring the art and benefits of ballet
During the review of teacher training and standards for student exam with representative from UK
Exploring the art and benefits of ballet
Correcting the stance of one of her ballet students

What are the financial factors associated with learning ballet, particularly regarding its reputation for being expensive?

Like all arts such as music, fine arts or theatre there is a price to pay for learning a skill. In India, it is only in the last 20-30 years that ballet companies, academies and competitions have emerged. With the emergence of these different platforms, Indian students of the dance form are already excelling in this field and are competing internationally and being sponsored by reputed international schools and academies. One of the main costs for ballet is the costumes and the ballet attire, since they are made by popular ballet brands in Russia, Europe etc. Once Indian ballet brands are able to manufacture their own quality attire and costumes, it will further reduce the cost of entry for Indian students.

‘Virieno’s Ballet’ studio is aware of the cost of ballet and hence we suggest to parents that it is not compulsory to have their ballet shoes, leotards until the time of their examinations, as it is standard to have them in order to appear for exams.

Could you suggest institutes or studios that provide comprehensive training in ballet?

For a ballet student, some of the top schools are The Bolshoi Ballet Academy, The Royal Academy of Dance, The Alvin Ailey School, The Paris Opera Ballet School, Julliards or Harvard and many more. These are the top tier schools for ballet. However, it is a very interesting time for India and there are different styles of ballet academies that have emerged. At our studio, we follow the Russian ballet method which is a strong foundation for ballet and for an aspiring professional dancer.

How does ballet assessment aid students in advancing their careers?

Ballet assessments and examinations are important for a student to advance to the next level of ballet proficiency. We start with pre-primary all the way up to grade 7/8. As the children advance with their physical coordination, balance, strength and poise they are expanding their knowledge and technical proficiency. As mentioned, ballet terminology is in French and the students are equipped with that knowledge as they go higher up the grade system.

How does ballet manage to embody both pain and grace simultaneously, and what steps can one take to achieve this balance?

When you train in ballet, you train like an athlete. Just like with any athlete, there are hours of training, sweat and tears. You must make sacrifices at higher levels. Like when other students go out for recreational or social activities, a committed student of ballet or any serious dancer will devote their time to training and practice. This is where discipline plays a role during the formative years of training. For a ballet dancer and a performing artist, the artistry of their performance comes from their expression, musicality and their connection with the audience or partner, all at the same time. To be able to do all that indicates a highly skilled dancer or artist.

What opportunities exist for pursuing ballet as a profession or career, both within Nagaland and beyond? 

Ballet is a niche activity and there are indeed career opportunities that exist. If we keep up with Indian top tier cities, there are high chances that young Naga children, who are serious about ballet, may win accolades for the state and the country at competitions. These students can move on to dance professionally with ballet companies and tour the world.

Just like any other art forms, there is a process where after their years of training, students who want to pursue ballet professionally, will have to go to auditions, either locally, nationally or internationally and compete with others for a spot as part of the ballet company. Also, this depends on the reputation of the ballet company. The more famous it is, obviously the more competitive the audition process is, but the more lucrative and prestigious the career. Currently I am also looking to train young dancers to come on board for the expansion of our team. 

Are there any misconceptions about pursuing ballet as a career that you would like to share?

In my years of teaching I find that some parents are concerned whether their daughters will become a ballerina while enrolling them for ballet. As an educator and a ballet teacher, I find that ballet adds so much value to their lives, well into their adulthood. One of the parents mentioned to me that she sends her two daughters, ages 5 and 9, for them to become disciplined while training in ballet. To master a skill like ballet and for it to look effortless requires years of training and dedication to the art form.  There is no shortcut to hard work, but as a parent if you support your child and give them the option to pursue ballet, they will undoubtedly reach levels never seen before in Nagaland and those dedicated enough will be ready for competitions across the country and even the continent. Our studio aims at bringing quality ballet training to Nagaland that is at par nationally and internationally. Children from Nagaland can experience a classical ballet education through the Russian Vaganova method. There is another misconception that ballet is for girls only. If you look at some of the best ballet dancers in the world, many are men who are known for their high jumps and fast turns such as Rudolf Nureyev, George Balanchine etc. Watch the movie Billy Elliot, if you haven’t.

RAPID INSIGHTS: 

What brings you the most joy?

There are simple things that bring me joy but currently it is my baby that gives me the utmost joy in my life. Nothing warms my heart like my toothless baby smiling at the sight of seeing me.

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Eggs, dark chocolate preferably and my greens!

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Currently enjoying my jazz phase. I have eclectic musical tastes, ranging from classical and Indian classical to rock, minimal electronic, and world folk music. I am drawn to music that inspires movement and choreography.

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89899000
By Moakala T Aier Updated: Apr 17, 2024 11:39:27 am
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