How is ballet like art quilting?



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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.

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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.

Hurricane-Season1

 

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:

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Abundance, 2015

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?

Grace

 

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?

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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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Susan and I on set

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About RoxaneRoxane-Web-Images-007

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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6 thoughts on “How is ballet like art quilting?

  1. I too have a ballet background. I always think about how effortlessly dance must appear to the viewer. After all if it looked difficult, the viewer would be in pain and never return to the ballet. Art must be that way too, clean and flawlessly flowing, lifting the viewer to a place where anything and everything is possible. Thanks for the comparison. It brings back wonderful memories!
    Michelle Jackson

    1. Good points Michelle! Did you ever perform? Would love to know more about your dance background!

  2. Congratulations at your return to teaching ballet and indulging your twin passions. I don’t really have a dance background. As a kid, lessons in my hometown were restricted to a half hour of ballet followed by a half hour of tap … once a week … in the basement of the volunteer fire department … using a folding wooden chair as the barre. Yet, this very small exposure was enough appreciation that I later allowed my eight year old son to try ballet. He loved it. He’s now a principal dancer with Birmingham Royal Ballet (the old Sadler’s Wells). Thus, my twin passion isn’t in participation but as an audience member … one who does see the similarities as you do!
    Susan

  3. Susan, how cool! That is a very good company, you must be so proud of your son! Did you know I studied at the Royal Ballet School when I was 17-19? That was one of the best experiences and training of my life.

  4. I grew up in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and started dancing when I was 12; a little late to become professional. I taught ballet there too till I was about 18. I guess the closest claim to fame I can get is that Tina LaBlanc, prima ballerina for the San Fransisco Ballet for many years was also from Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, and in some of the classes I taught.
    I am so greatful for those days. No matter how old and feeble I get I will dance every day in my head. Life can’t be any better than that! Once a dancer always a dancer. Thanks again for bringing back all those memories!

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