Becoming a great dancer: Keys to mastery

inspirational quote dancing
«The higher up you go, the more mistakes you are allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them, it’s considered to be your style»

Fred Astaire


inspirational quote dancing
«The mirror is not you. The mirror is you looking at yourself»

George Balanchine


«I often say that in making dances I can make a world where I think things are done morally, done democratically, done honestly»

Twyla Tharp


inspirational quote dancing
«Someone once said that dancers work just as hard as policemen, always alert, always tense, but see policemen don’t have to be beautiful at the same time»

George Balanchine


«Ballet is not technique but a way of expression that comes more closely to the inner language of man than any other»

George Borodin


«Music begins to atrophy when it departs too far from the dance»

Ezra Pound


«I do not try to dance better than anyone else. I only try to dance better than myself»

Mikhail Baryshnikov


«Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion»

Martha Graham


«You do an electic celebration of a dance! First you do Fosse, Fosse Fosse! You do Martha Graham, Martha Graham, Martha Graham! Or Twyla, Twyla, Twyla! Or Michael Kidd, Michael Kidd, Michael Kidd! Or Madonna, Madonna, Madonna! But you keep it all inside»

Robin Williams


«You don’t enter a dance studio and say “I can’t do that.” If you do, then why are you in the studio in the first place? »

Judith Jamison


«I am a cloud – in trousers»

George Balanchine


«Dance is a physical and mental workout. Once you get your body moving, you’ll see a difference»

Kathryn McCormick

«I learned to act by watching Martha Graham dance, and I learned to dance by watching Charlie Chaplin act»

Louise Brooks


«Plié is the first thing you learn and the last thing you master»

Suzanne Farrell


«Ballet technique is arbitrary and very difficult. It never becomes easy… it becomes possible»

Agnes de Mille


«The effort involved in making a dancer’s body is so long and relentless, in many instances painful, the effort to maintain the technique so grueling that unless a certain satisfaction is derived from the disciplining and the punishing, the pace could not be maintained»

Agnes de Mille


«When you perform you are out of your self, larger and more potent, more beautiful. You are for minutes heroic. This is power. This is is glory on earth. And it is yours for the taking»

Agnes de Mille


«It is a temptation to exploit one’s technique because an audience is easily reached this way, but they cannot be moved by technique alone and to move an audience is the role of dance as an art»

Alla Ossipenko


«Choreography is mentally draining, but there’s a pleasure in getting in the studio with dancers and the music»

Alvin Ailey


inspirational quote dancing
«God gives talent. Work transforms talent into genius»

Anna Pavlova


«Master technique and then forget about it and be natural»

Anna Pavlova


inspirational quote dancing
«Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add but when there is no longer anything to take away»

Antoine de Saint Exupéry


«Ballet is only good when it is great»

Arlene Croce


inspirational quote dancing
«Good choreography fuses eye, ear and mind»

Arlene Croce


«Hold your hands out gently. Ask others to do the same. See how different each person looks. Each person has their own unique and natural beauty. Use this natural beauty when you dance. Respect your individuality»

Artemis Mourat


«Striving for a connection with the audience is essential because you are in the moment it is a give and take relationship. Catching someone’s eye during a performance makes it more special»

Aubrey Lynch

inspirational quote dancing
«To touch, to move, to inspire. This is the true gift of dance»

Aubrey Lynch


«The journey between who you once were, and who you are now becoming, is where the dance of life really takes place»

Barbara De Angelis


«So many dancers rely on some sort of magic happening on the stage. They never, for various reasons, work full out in rehearsal. That’s very uncreative. They don’t discover the kinds of things that add up to a remarkable performance»

Benjamin Harkarvy


«The body is the source of amazing energy. This thing wants to live. It is a powerful engine. The brain (is) a reservoir of images, dreams, fears, associations, language. And its potential we can’t even begin to understand. Movement begins to negotiate the distance between the brain and the body and it can be surprising what we learn about each other»

Bill T. Jones


«Nothing happens in the body without happening in the brain first… dancing is 95% mental»

Bobby Boling


«The trained dancer must not only have grace and elegance, but also the leap of an Olympic hurdler, the balance of a tight-rope walker and panther-like strength and agility»

Camilla Jessel


«Glorious bouquets and storms of applause are the trimmings which every artist naturally enjoys. But to move an audience in such a role, to hear in the applause that unmistakable note which breaks through good theatre manners and comes from the heart, is to feel that you have won through to life itself. Such pleasure does not vanish with the fall of the curtain, but becomes part of one’s own life»

Dame Alice Markova


«The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one’s work seriously and taking oneself seriously. The first is imperative and the second disastrous»

Dame Margot Fonteyn


«When you fall, try it again… everyone falls the first time!»

Dave Dodson

«Technique is what you need to do to dance well, principally to make it feel good to your partner. Style is everything else you do when you dance, hopefully to make it look good to your partner, and your audience»

David Barker


«It’s not magic! It’s physics. The speed of the turn is what keeps you upright»

Deborah Bull


«Nothing so clearly and inevitably reveals the inner man than movement and gesture. It is quite possible, if one chooses, to conceal and dissimulate behind words or paintings or statues or other forms of human expression, but the moment you move you stand revealed, for good or ill, for what you are»

Doris Humphrey


«The dancer believes that his art has something to say which cannot be expressed in words or in any other way than by dancing… there are times when the simple dignity of movement can fulfill the function of a volume of words. There are movements which impinge upon the nerves with a strength that is incomparable, for movement has power to stir the senses and emotions, unique in itself. This is the dancer’s justification for being, and his reason for searching further for deeper aspects of his art»

Doris Humphrey


«I had to learn that slower is faster. If you practice every day with patience and correctness, you will get there. It’s like preparing for a jump. You can’t rush. You must summon the appropriate energy with split-second timing and have an understanding of purpose to get up in the air. It requires training, confidence and mental effort. You can’t have a vocabulary without the alphabet»

Edward Villella


«Dance every performance as if it were your last»

Erik Bruhn


inspirational quote dancing
«Do it big, do it right, and do it with style»

Fred Astaire


«I have no desire to prove anything by dancing. I have never used it as an outlet or a means of expressing myself»

Fred Astaire


«If the dance is right, there shouldn’t be a single superfluous movement»

Fred Astaire


«Some people seem to think that good dancers are born, but all the good dancers I have known are taught or trained»

Fred Astaire


«This search for what you want is like tracking something that doesn’t want to be tracked. It takes time to get a dance right, to create something memorable»

Fred Astaire


«Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire»

Fred Sero


«I danced with passion to spite the music»

Gelsey Kirkland


«Choreography is simpler than you think. Just go and do, and don’t think so much about it. Just make something interesting»

George Balanchine


«Do you want to be a poet of gesture or do you want to be a physical entity? »

George Balanchine


inspirational quote dancing
«Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance»

Dave Barry


«First comes the sweat. Then comes the beauty if you’re very lucky and have said your prayers»

George Balanchine


«God creates, I do not create. I assemble and I steal everywhere to do it – from what I see, from what the dancers can do, from what others do..»

George Balanchine


«I could never make a ballet by wrinkling my brow and concentrating. If you set out deliberately to make a masterpiece, how will you ever get it finished?»

George Balanchine


«I don’t want dancers who want to dance. I want dancers who have to dance»

George Balanchine


«One is born to be a dancer. No teacher can work miracles, nor will years of training make a good dancer of an untalented pupil. One may be able to acquire a certain technical facility, but no one can ever ‘acquire an exceptional talent.’ I have never prided myself on having an unusually gifted pupil. A Pavlova is no one’s pupil but God’s»

George Balanchine

«The choreographer and the dancer must remember that they reach the audience through the eye. It’s the illusion created which convinces the audience, much as it is with the work of a magician»

George Balanchine


«I’m dancing to the music of the madness inside me»

George C. Wolfe


«The choreographer cannot deliberately make a ballet to appeal to an audience, he has to start from personal inspirations. He has to trust the ballet, to let it stand on its own strengths or fall on its weaknesses. If it reaches the audience, then he is lucky that round!»

Gerald Arpino


«It always takes two. There’s the speaker and the listener, you and the audience. You’ve worked long hours and it comes down to that moment, that performance. The goal isn’t just to improve yourself, but to transport people»

Gillian Murphy


«Some dancers dream about successful careers…and some dancers wake up and do the hard work that’s necessary to achieve them»

Grover Dale


inspirational quote dancing
«Dances without purpose have false starts and stops»

Hanya Holm


«Long experience has taught me that the crux of my fortunes is whether I can radiate good will toward my audience. There is only one way to do it and that is to feel it. You can fool the eyes and minds of the audience, but you cannot fool their hearts»

Howard Thurston


«There are two basic elements to classical ballet. They are quality and quantity. Quantity is how much a dancer can physically do… the element that gives an artist the freedom to concentrate on quality, while quality is how he or she does it…quality of movement… the most difficult phase… requires long and arduous training»

Igor Schwezoff


«A dancer, if she is great, can give to the people something that they can carry with them forever. They can never forget it, and it has changed them, though they may never know it»

Isadora Duncan


«Every movement that can be danced on the seashore without being in harmony with the rhythm of the waves, every movement that can be danced in the forest without being in harmony with the swaying of the branches, every movement that one can dance… in the sunshine, in the open country, without being in harmony with the life and the solitude of the landscape – every such movement is false, in that it is out of tune in the midst of nature’s harmonious lines. That is why the dancer should above all else choose movements that express the strength, health, nobility, ease and serenity of living things»

Isadora Duncan


«I am seeking that dance which might be the divine expression of the human spirit through the medium of the body’s movement»

Isadora Duncan


«If we seek the real source of the dance, if we go to nature, we find that the dance of the future is the dance of the past, the dance of eternity, and has been and always will be the same… The movement of waves, of winds, of the earth is ever the same lasting harmony»

Isadora Duncan

«It has taken me years of struggle, hard work and research to learn to make one simple gesture, and I know enough about the art of writing to realize that it would take as many years of concentrated effort to write one simple, beautiful sentence»

Isadora Duncan


inspirational quote dancing
«Let us first teach little children to breathe, to vibrate, to feel, and to become one with the general harmony and movement of nature. Let us first produce a beautiful human being, a dancing child»

Isadora Duncan


«My art is just an effort to express the truth of my being in gesture and movement. It has taken me long years to find even one absolutely true movement»

Isadora Duncan


«Perhaps he was a bit different from other people, but what really sympathetic person is not a little mad?»

Isadora Duncan


«The dancer of the future will be one whose body and soul have grown so harmoniously together that the natural language of the soul will have become the movement of the body»

Isadora Duncan


«The only dance masters I could have were Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Walt Whitman and Nietzsche»

Isadora Duncan


«The real American type can never be a ballet dancer. The legs are too long, the body too supple and the spirit too free for this school of affected grace and toe walking»

Isadora Duncan


«To express what is the most moral, healthful and beautiful in art this is the mission of the dancer, and to this I dedicate my life»

Isadora Duncan


«Do the steps that you’ve been shown, by everyone you’ve ever known, until the dance becomes your very own»

Jackson Brown


«Enjoy the process of learning to dance. The process of our profession, and not its final achievement, is the heart and soul of dance»

Jacques d’Amboise


«The better dancers get, the crazier they are. Or free, if you don’t like crazy»

James Waring


«Every teacher will tell you that you cannot dance classical technique with perfection, there is no such thing, there is no way. So you have to adapt the technique to your abilities or to your deficiencies. Learn to cheat!»

Jirí Kylián


«Correction does much, but encouragement does more. Encouragement after censure is as the sun after a shower»

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


«If you look at a dancer in silence, his or her body will be the music. If you turn the music on, that body will become an extension of what you’re hearing»

Judith Jamison


«You don’t enter a dance studio and say “I can’t do that.” If you do, then why are you in the studio in the first place?»

Judith Jamison


«The really great dancer is perhaps a rarer phenomenon than great musicians, painters or sculptors. This is because dance is a consummation of all these arts. The dancer, in addition to the qualities that pure dance demands, must be sensitive to and have an uncanny ear for music, must have a painter’s sensibility to the significant line, a sculptor’s approach to form, an architect’s vision of space and a trained actor’s responses to dramatic situations»

K. Subhas Chandran


«Bravura has nothing to do with technique. It’s all about timing and oozing life»

Kevin McKenzie

«I think most dancers would agree that the art of ballet chooses the dancer, not the other way around»

Kevin McKenzie


«It is not the movements that make a dance beautiful, it is the emotions that inspired the movement that make it beautiful»

Kristy Nilsson


«Technique – bodily control – must be mastered only because the body must not stand in the way of the soul’s expression»

La Meri


«After I perform, I hope the audience is excited, inspired, and taken away from their everyday grind or work. Perhaps even inspired enough to get up and dance themselves»

Lenore Pavlakos


«The dance, more than any other art, lives through the genius of its interpreters»

Lillian Moore


inspirational quote dancing
«Dance for yourself. If someone understands, good. If not, no matter»

Louis Horst


«All dance has expression. If there is no expression, I prefer the circus. The performers do more dangerous, more difficult technical things than we do. But we are dancers. We have to express and we have to project»

Luis Fuente


«Discipline is the mother of the art. Discipline is not militaristic, the dancer must be relaxed»

Maestro Hector Zaraspe


«A choreographic idea flows only as fast as the initiator can communicate it to bodies and see them realize it»

Marcia B. Siegal


«It is more important who they are as people and only then is it important who they are as dancers»

Marcia Haydee


inspirational quote dancing
«Movement without meaning is just exercise»

Marie Brooks


«Dance from your heart and love your music and the audience will love you in return»

Marie Tallchief


«The vocabulary and manner of classical ballet express a high order of discipline and restraint, a sense of harmony with forces larger and more lasting than the individual»

Marcia B. Siegal


«A dancer must listen to his body and pay homage to it. Behind the movement lies this terrible, driving passion, this necessity. I won’t settle for anything less»

Martha Graham


«Dancers today can do anything, the technique is phenomenal. The passion and the meaning to their movement can be another thing»

Martha Graham


«Dancing appears glamorous, easy, delightful. But the path to paradise of the achievement is not easier than any other. There is fatigue so great that the body cries, even in its sleep. There are times of complete frustration, there are daily small deaths»

Martha Graham


«First we have to believe, and then we believe»

Martha Graham


Inspirational quote dancing
«Freedom to a dancer means discipline. That is what technique is for – liberation»

Martha Graham


«I am a dancer. I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living…. In each it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one’s being, a satisfaction of spirit. One becomes in some area an athlete of God»

Martha Graham


«I did not want to be a tree, a flower or a wave. In a dancer’s body, we as audience must see ourselves, not the imitated behavior of everyday actions, not the phenomenon of nature, not exotic creatures from another planet, but something of the miracle that is a human being»

Martha Graham


«In a dancer, there is a reverence for such forgotten things as the miracle of the small beautiful bones and their delicate strength»

Martha Graham

«It is difficult to see the great dance effects as they happen, to see them accurately, catch them fast in memory. It is even more difficult to verbalize them for critical discussion. The particular essence of a performance, its human sweep of articulate rhythm in space and in time has no specific terminology to describe it by»

Martha Graham


«It takes ten years, usually, to make a dancer. It takes ten years of handling the instrument, handling the material with which you are dealing, for you to know it completely»

Martha Graham


«It’s what I always wanted to do: to show the laughter, the fun – the joy of dance»

Martha Graham


«Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired»

Martha Graham


«Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired»

Martha Graham


«The spine is the tree of life. Respect it»

Martha Graham


«Theater is a verb before it is a noun..»

Martha Graham


«There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all of time this expression is unique. And if you block it it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it»

Martha Graham


«Think of the magic of that foot… upon which your whole weight rests. It’s a miracle and the dance…is a celebration of that miracle»

Martha Graham


«To learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same»

Martha Graham


«To me, this acquirement of nervous, physical, and emotional concentration is the one element possessed to the highest degree by the truly great dancers of the world. Its acquirement is the result of discipline, of energy in the deep sense. That is why there are so few great dancers»

Martha Graham


«We look at the dance to impart the sensation of living in an affirmation of life, to energize the spectator into keener awareness of the vigor, the mystery, the humor, the variety, and the wonder of life. This is the function of the American dance»

Martha Graham


«You will only get out of a dance class what you bring to it. Learn by practice»

Martha Graham


«I came to see that movement is one of the great laws of life. It is the primary medium of our aliveness, the flow of energy going on in us like a river all the time, awake or asleep, twenty-four hours a day. Our movement is our behavior, there is a direct connection between what we are like and how we move..»

Mary Whitehouse


«Be responsible, a good communicator, a good team player, while pursuing individual dreams, and understanding the pitfalls of being a perfectionist – a common characteristic among ballet staff and students around the world»

Mavis Staines


«The only weapon I had was my dancing. With that I fought like a general without an army. If I could have saved all the energy I wasted on my struggle, it would have sufficed me to cover a dozen ballets»

Maya Plisetskaya


«The only way to do it is to do it»

Merce Cunningham


«If you dance with your heart your body will follow»

Mia Michaels


«To live is to be musical, starting with the blood dancing in your veins. Everything living has a rhythm. Do you feel your music?»

Michael Jackson

«My goal in life is to give to the world what I was lucky to receive: the ecstasy of divine union through my music and my dance»

Michael Jackson


«The dance can be re-born with each song and in a different way by each couple»

Mike Corbett


«Dancers are made, not born»

Mikhail Baryshnikov


«I do not try to dance better than anyone else. I only try to dance better than myself»

Mikhail Baryshnikov


«The problem is not making up the steps but deciding which ones to keep»

Mikhail Baryshnikov


«There comes a moment in a young artist’s life when he knows he has to bring something to the stage from within himself. He has to put in something in order to be able to take something»

Mikhail Baryshnikov


«Even today when I rehearse, I give it everything that I’ve got. If I’m in a performance and the lights go out, I glow in the dark. When you’re working before an audience, you have to make them feel like they can touch you. That’s the dancer within, reaching out»

Mitzi Gaynor


«Everyday there must be something I can’t do, otherwise it’s boring»

Monet Robier


«Dancers work and live from the inside. They drive themselves constantly producing a glow that lights not only themselves but audience after audience»

Murray Louis


«Most people think of ballet as children in little tutus. They don’t know it is sweat, blood and tears as well!»

Nan Keating


inspirational quote dancing
«A real ballerina must fill her space with her own personality»

Natalia Makarova


«The more you understand the music, the easier you can dance»

Orlando Gutinez


«Dance has to unfold with the grace of a tree giving out leaves, flowers and then tiny fruit. Nothing so beautiful can be done in haste»

Pandit Birju Maharaj


«Good dancers awaken the joy in our hearts, we have seen them ablaze on stage, videos, on our streets, in the theaters, in our homes, schools and they have successfully ignited the love of dancing in our soul. At least, this is the major reason why dancers are born and made»

Paul Bamikole


«People in the audience, when they’ve watched the dance, should feel like they’ve accomplished something, that they’ve gone on a journey»

Paul Mercurio


«For a dancer, to be able to perform well, most of his waking hours must be devoted to preparing for the holy white instant of performance»

Paul Taylor


«So many dancers leave me untouched, unmoved. A dancer should be able to raise an arm and make someone cry, in the way Isadora Duncan did. It is a necessity for any art to move you»

Pauline Koner


«Awesome dancers have discovered the inner passion that transforms their movement into art»

Rhee Gold


«Poise is the finest point of balance it is possible to attain, both mentally and physically. The various parts of the physique having been adjusted truly to the centre of gravity, poise lifts the whole being to a point so delicate that it almost defies definition… Poise, the great law of equilibrium, is that second in infinity when action ceases and there is rest»

Ruby Ginner


inspirational quote dancing
«Technique is what you fall back on when you run out of inspiration»

Rudolf Nureyev


«I have performed for thousands when they found me exotic, the vogue, daring, but I have danced, at any given time, for about ten people… They were the ones that left the theater forever different from the way they were when they came in. All of my long, long life, I have danced for those ten»

Ruth St. Denis


«I see dance being used as communication between body and soul, to express what it too deep, too fine for words»

Ruth St. Denis

«Our bodies are at once the receiving and transmitting stations for life itself. It is the highest wisdom to recognize this fact and train our bodies to render them sensitive and responsive to nature, art and religion»

Ruth St. Denis


«The real message of the dance opens up the vistas of life to all who have the urge to express beauty with no other instrument than their own bodies, with no apparatus and no dependence on anything other than space»

Ruth St. Denis


«We should realize in a vivid and revolutionary sense that we are not in our bodies but our bodies are in us»

Ruth St. Denis


inspirational quote dancing
«What we hope ever to do with ease, we must first learn to do with diligence»

Samuel Johnson


«Even if you weren’t born with a genetically perfect body, you can take something like a hand, where everyone has the same capabilities, and you can make it speak. You can make it speak in many different ways»

Sarah Lamb


«Dancing’s not work. You can’t call it work. A day I don’t dance is a day I don’t live»

Serpent of the Nile


«It takes an athlete to dance, but an artist to be a dancer»

Shanna LaFleur


«Then come the lights shining on you from above. You are a performer. You forget all you learned, the process of technique, the fear, the pain, you even forget who you are you become one with the music, the lights, indeed one with the dance»

Shirley Maclaine


«People tend to look at dancers like we are these little jewels, little cardboard cut-outs, and yet we have blood and guts and go through Hell»

Susan Jaffe


«The dancer, or dancers, must transform the stage for the audience as well as for themselves into an autonomous, complete, virtual realm, and all motions into a play of visible forces in unbroken, virtual time… Both space and time, as perceptible factors, disappear almost entirely in the dance illusion»

Susanne K. Langer


«Although we do come from a silent profession, it is important for us to verbalize what we want to say. (As I tell my students): you could love someone all your life, but if you never say it how are they going to know? There comes a point when you have to say what you mean, which makes you scream louder when you dance. »

Suzanne Farrel


«Dancers are a great breed of people. And they really want to do is dance so you don’t have to beg them to work. However, dancers sometimes build walls around themselves because they are presenting themselves all the time: dancing is very much a confession»

Suzanne Farrell


«The only way you can be different is to be yourself. If you don’t find your spirit and reveal it, you just look like every other dancer»

Suzanne Farrell


«When you are on stage you don’t see faces. The lights are in your eyes and you see just this black void out in front of you. And yet you know there is life out there, and you have to get your message across»

Suzanne Farrell


«I just know that when I go on stage, I give everything I have, not only my legs, not only my feet, not only my body. I try to tell a story. Sometimes I’m able to cry because I feel like it. Sometimes I’m able to love because I feel like it»

Sylvie Guillem


«Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard»

Tim Notke


«Persevere, don’t let someone tell you’re not good. This business is very subjective»

Tomas Schramek


«You have to believe there’s something at the other side. And you have to have faith in yourself. You have to think that you have the tools to accomplish it»

Twyla Tharp


«Our profession creates illusions. It is not a matter of having a perfect body, but of dancing in such a way as to look perfect»

Wilheim Burmann


«Practicing is not forced labor, it is a refined art that partakes of intuition, of inspiration, patience, elegance, clarity, balance, and above all, the search for ever greater joy in movement and expression»

Yehudi Menuhin

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