Character dancing

Character dancing

Character dancing is performing a dance of ethnic origin generally used in the context of ballet training.

All classical ballets contain slow graceful difficult steps, but often there are interludes in the story where some peasants will enter to perform an exuberant dance. In Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker" the toys perform a waltz and a polka. In "Sleeping Beauty" there is a mazurka and a polonaise. Ballet students therefore need to master these dances. In competitions and exams, especially at the junior level, points will be given for capuring the essential character of these folk dances, and for being able to move gracefully in contrasting time-signatures. Modern ballets almost always have jazz dances instead of character dances.

To a lesser extent the term 'character dance' can describe movements which indicate psychological states - fear, excitement, drunkenness and so on. While classical ballet shoes are soft, flesh-coloured and tight-fitting, so-called "character shoes" have a hard sole, possibly with a buckle and are often black. Female ballet students will also own a "character skirt". These do not indicate any specific ethnic original, but are somewhat generic. For example the official Royal Academy of Dance character skirt is black with three horizontal pastel stripes at the bottom.


Table of ballets with ethnic dances in them:

Royal Academy of Dance dress code

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