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Adding depth and meaning to movement by speaking with the body

By Peter Brandenhoff
Photograph by Peter Brandenhoff
Dance Studio Life

October 1, 2011When you go to the ballet today, you probably pay most attention to the choreography and the way it is danced. But ballets that tell stories often need some help in explaining all the twists and turns to the audience, and that’s where mime comes in.

Though what dancers do in terms of movement is amazing, it is still very difficult to tell very detailed stories only through choreography. It is a bit strange to imagine The Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, or La Sylphide without mime. In fact, some of the most important characters in the classical story ballets are mime roles with little or no dancing at all. But even the roles that dance (Odette/Odile, the Sylph, Swanhilda) have to use mime, and when the mime is as good as the dancing, the performance becomes truly magical. One of my favorites is the Sylph in Bournonville’s La Sylphide. Throughout that ballet, all of the characters have to act and mime a lot—but they also have to dance very difficult variations and group dances. 

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