Style shift: From Classical Ballet to learning Modern at 20 years old

Claudia Suárez, photo by Gene Schiavone

Ballet dancer Claudia Suarez shares her experience of moving from pure classical ballet training to approach modern and contemporary dance.

In the course of my dance education – which included four different ballet schools – I had a glimpse of ‘modern dance’ training in summer intensives and year-round classes during my last year of training, before getting my first professional experience with Arts Ballet Theater of Florida.

I thought that a 21st century dancer was good-to-go with his/her classical ballet training only. However, with companies’ repertoire being so extensive nowadays, my thought towards focusing on ‘ballet only’ are definitely changing.

Wayne McGregor, Paul Taylor, Maurice Bejart, Benjamin Millepied, Alonzo King… I can keep going on naming choreographers that have changed the repertoire of dance companies with their spectacular pieces.

When I first watched a clip of McGregor’s Chroma with Laura Morera and Eric Underwood, I thought, “How are they doing this?”.

One of my dance friends and former colleague graduated from Butler University (Indiana, USA), having studied different modern styles and techniques. She is an exceptional mover. What I know about the basics of using the core and the body while dancing, I know it from her.

Claudia Suárez, photo by Gene Schiavone
Claudia Suárez, photo by Gene Schiavone

But, as I said before, I just had a bit of modern training every summer. I didn’t know much.

My new director here in Tampa, FL is fascinated with Netherlands Dans Theater. She wants all her dancers in the school and future company to be versatile.

I find myself surrounded by 15, 16 and 17 year old dancers that have received excellent modern training and move freely in our weekly modern/contemporary class.

It is interesting the fact that, now that I am practicing this style more often, I am finding parts of my body I did not know could move. I am allowing myself to explore how far I can go.

Claudia Suárez, photo by Gene Schiavone
Claudia Suárez, photo by Gene Schiavone

I am allowed to go beyond the “rules” of Classical Ballet. When I try to do modern movements, I am so used to following the rules that a very classical and elegant movement comes out. When really, I need to lose my body much more. This is what is most challenging for me.

With more than 15 years of following ballet by the book, I definitely find myself doubting  the movements I approach in modern class. And of course it is definitely a learning experience. Every class is an opportunity to explore other movements that I can create or approach.

I am looking forward to expanding my repertoire, even more, every day. Especially this month when we will start preparing for both a contemporary program and one the most classical ballets ever: The Sleeping Beauty.