How is Classical Ballet Like Learning Taiko?

Can I write about classical ballet today? My daughter had her first ever ballet recital on Monday. The whole event was a pretty impressive production. And it should be, considering the cost. In the end, after paying our share of renting the hall, renting costumes, printing up programs, making a professionally produced DVD and so on, we probably payed between 8 and 900 dollars! *A warning to anyone who is thinking of having their children take ballet lessons in Japan: The teachers are wonderful, the lessons are reasonably priced, but the recitals, which happen anywhere from annually to every 5 years, are incredibly expensive.*

The last two or three months have been pretty busy with extra practices and rehearsals gearing up for the recital. I was able to attend some of these practices and I was impressed with one particular aspect of how my daughter's teacher, Kawamura sensei ran the rehearsals. When she first started taking ballet lessons, about 14 months ago, when the recital was still a long ways away, the one hour lessons would begin with 30 minutes of basic, fundamental stretches and exercises. Then there was a short break, one to two minutes, when the children (between 4 and 6 years old) could have a quick drink, and the remaining 30 minutes was spent working on pieces for the recital.

What impressed me was that as the recital drew closer, and the pressure to perfect and polish the performance numbers grew, Kawamura sensei never once changed the lesson format. No matter how much work needed to be done on the recital, the first 30 minutes of the lesson were strictly basic exercises and stretches. I think this type of teaching will produce some excellent ballet dancers in the future.

Such dedication to basic skills is also important for taiko playing and performing, I believe. Practicing fundamental exercises with a metronome is not necessarily the most exciting part of playing taiko. Playing the songs is much more fun. Furthermore, when there is a performance approaching, there is always the temptation and the pressure to skip over the basic warm ups and jump right into the song, to make sure that all the wrinkles are ironed out before the show. In my opinion, however, remaining dedicated to fundamental metronome practice, will likely improve your taiko playing, and perhaps, smooth out some of those rough areas all by itself. I am willing to bet that the more you practice fundamentals and basics, the less time the group will need for polishing the song.


Marlene said...

This can also be compared to learning a language (in my opinion).

Raion Taiko said...

...or any type of skill, for that matter. :)