The Magic of Oposition

4:52 PM

They say opposites attract. But being opposite of something is more powerful than attraction. Opposition is resistance, and resistance is power.

Think about a magnet. You have two strong magnets sitting on top of each other. If the polarities are lined up going the same way they’re going to stick together. But if they’re opposite, one is going to hold the other up in mid-air. Hypothetically.

Think about a well. you have this heavy bucket full of water and you’re pulling the rope down and the bucket goes up.

Think about two people playing tug of war. If the two people are the same in strength and weight, and they’re pulling the same amount, the rope is just going to sit there and be pulled. Nobody is going anywhere.

Opposition is one of the most powerful tools in your ballet tool-belt. How many times have you gone from 1st position up to releve and wobbled, even though you’re plenty strong and balanced? Every wobble is proof that there is not enough opposition. In order to go up, you must go down.

Jumps only work because of opposition. You can’t just pull yourself into the air or levitate (despite what we think when we see a natural jumper). You must push down to go up in the air.

And when you demi plie or grand plie, how do you keep your back or torso from sinking? When you developpe to the side en pointe and balance, how do you keep from collapsing in on your ribs? You pull up through the spine while you go down.

It’s all about opposition.

  • Turn-out? It’s opposition of the hips.
  • Spotting? Opposition of the head.
  • Releves? Opposition of the feet.
  • Balance? It’s just the right amount of oposition in the right places.
  • Port de bras? Opposition of the shoulders, wrists, and ribs. Are you tired of floppy dead chicken wing port de bras, watching your students (or you!) throw dead flailing arms all over the place? It’s not about the movement, it’s about resisting the movement. Opposition.

  I teach my kids opposition by doing an exercise called “Flying or Falling.” They pump the arms hard and fast and strong (I give them a break to cambre every few seconds, because your arms get really sore really fast. Try it!) Then I make them float in the air like a genie while I pull them up. They have to push down on me in order to get up off the ground. I’m not really lifting them so much as I’m letting them push on me.

Once they tap into the idea of opposition and of “pushing the arms,” we push the arms when we tendu, we push the arms when we releve, we push the arms when we curtsey. They don’t wobble or fall down. Have you ever seen a six-year-old releve in the middle of the floor, without a barre and not wobble? Mine don’t wobble.

This is all part of a special ballet curriculum I use that is based off of Eileen Juric’s Ballet Barre None, and Zena Rommett’s Floor Barre (Eileen’s curriculum is based off what she learned from working with Rommett, and what she learned dancing at Joffrey). It’s devolution of ballet, “breaking it down without having a break-down”, going back to the concept behind the movements. Ballet from the inside out. Specific intentional movement. Teach the concepts first, then applying those concepts to the dance step. Like teaching the number line before drilling addition. Concept then content, and the first concept is opposition.

I’m hoping to write more posts about this in the future, and show you some of the exercises I do with the kids to teach opposition of the hips and ankles. Meanwhile try your flying or falling (do it to Minute Waltz or Flight of the Bumblebee). See what happens to your Pectoralis and your Latimus muscles, and how it affects your balance, strength, and control!

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