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Yat Sen Chang & Daria Klimentová in Prague
Yat Sen Chang & Daria Klimentová in Prague

I think you probably have to have a mental imprint of Julia Farron’s voice and demeanour to appreciate this. It was about 20 years ago, at an induction course for a new syllabus at the RAD (when Julia was artistic director). I can’t remember the exact context, but in that assured and re-assuring,  husky  voice which seemed to have a permanent tinge of irony, she said

‘If in doubt, plié. Like bus conductors on double-deckers. Whenever the bus goes round a corner, they plié to steady themselves.’

It still makes me smile all these years later, because not only was it a canny observation about the function of a plié, it’s a perfect illustration of the wonderful way that dancers view the world through ballet-spectacles.

‘If in doubt’ ought to be followed by something mundane like  ‘…check the instruction manual’ or ‘…go to our website’ or ‘…go back to where you started and try again’. What bus-conductor would ever be conscious that he or she had plié-d going round a corner? But it’s the pathologic tendency to see everyday movements as potential steps, or every ballet step as a stylized cognate of everyday movements that I find most admirable in choreographers and teachers.

Since the day she said it (until they did away with conductors) I can’t help checking every time I’m on a bus, and she was absolutely right, that is what bus-conductors do.  By contrast, I think the idea of plié-ing as a response to doubt deserves to make a comeback.

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Jonathan Still, ballet pianist