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How is ballet like art quilting?
In the past year, I have returned to my roots in dance and am teaching ballet again. Since I now teach both art forms, I recently wondered, how are they similar? And how are they different? First, here’s a bit of my history to explain how these twin addictions happened. I can say with conviction that my twin art loves began very early in childhood and have continued ever since. I knew I wanted to be a ballerina at 6 when I saw the Nutcracker on TV, and learned to knit so long ago, I can’t remember who taught me (most likely my mom).
Here’s an ancient picture of me and my friend Brenda in costume for Act 1 Nutcracker with Boston Ballet, wearing a wig, because I had short hair then too.
What followed was years of training, performing, and traveling to feed my dance addiction. During that time, I still knitted, embroidered and did needlepoint. At some point in my 40’s, I discovered Kaffe Fassett’s needlepoint designs, fell deeply in love with his color sense, and then it was a short hop and a skip into making some of his quilt designs. By then, I was hooked on quilting and fabric collecting. I got my first BERNINA 1530, gently used. I learned to free motion quilt, and brushed off my rusty design skills. And dove headlong into making my own art quilts. Here’s one I made and sold in the early 2000’s called Hurricane Season.
So let’s go back to the subject at hand.
First, let’s look at the similarities. Both ballet and art quilting, use line as a design element. In classical ballet, the lines your body makes are very important. The body must adjust to the high standard of strict positions and movements. In making an art quilt, line is equally important, but much more variety and freedom are allowed. Like the curvy line movement in this piece:
Check out the movement and curvy lines in this pose, but to achieve that, knees must be straight, toes pointed and back fully arched. Quite demanding, no?
How about rhythm? Dancers move in time to music in many different rhythms. Less obviously, elements in art, also have rhythm. See how the up, down, up, down, up of the lighter values in this piece create a rhythm?
Dolphins Rising, collection of Duke Nursing School, Durham, NC
I guess I could go on to find examples of color, texture, and shape similarities too, but I think you get the idea! I’m not sure why I have to dance or have to make art quilts. I just know I do. How about you? Do you have twin talents/passions? Please comment below!!
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Roxane is a full time studio textile artist, teacher, and author, with two girls, who are both growing up too fast! She recently appeared on Quilting Arts TV, and has taught at the Houston quilt show. She is also a BERNINA ambassador. Her work is in several private collections and she loves doing custom commissions. For more info go to http://roxanelessa.com.
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