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The Secret Language of Ballet Judges
Adena Schutzberg
Did you ever wonder what Ballet Judges talk about when they huddle after you've flown? Mostly they talk about you - well, about your performance. What did you do? What didn't you do? Did they like it?
Did they understand it? Did they enjoy it? One thing that's interesting is the language some of us use during these discussions. Explanations of some of these terms illustrates what judges are thinking about and may just help make better ballets.

"What did you see?" a more experienced judged asked a somewhat newer one. That's a good question to ask yourself as you watch yourself fly. What do you see? Do you see a lot of the same things? Do you see "easy" things only? Are there some harder maneuvers?

Could you explain in words what happened during the performance? If you as flier can't describe what went on, it's likely going to be hard for the judges, too.

"Missed opportunity" is something that the judges didn't see where they hoped to see something. Was there a long held note in the music, but no comparable long held maneuver? Was there a loud "boom" where nothing happened? Did the music suddenly get slow, but the kite continued to move fast? Listen to your music and pick out the key points (contrasts in speed/loudness, complete stops, etc) and be sure you find something to do for the major ones.

"Hit me over the head," is something I like to say. Remember that judges are standing out there in the heat or cold or rain, trying very hard to concentrate on what you are doing. Make your choreography easy to follow; make it obvious. Make it big! Choreography should not be a big secret. Instead, you want to do everything possible for the judges (and audience) to "get it."

"Washing the car" is a phrase I first heard from Joel Brown, but someone mentioned that original credit is due Terry Murray. The idea here is that you are outside on a Saturday morning washing the car with the radio on. The car washing and the radio playing have nothing to do with one another. In ballet this means that your flying is not keyed into the music; the two have nothing to do with each other. Another way to identify washing the car is to ask the question: If other music were playing, would it matter? Save washing the car for your driveway, not the ballet field.

"Poor choice" can refer to poor music choice (a piece that doesn't allow the flier to show off his or her skills) or poor kite choice (too heavy or light a kite). Music choice is a kiteflier's homework. You as flier know best what you can do, and what you like. Spend the time to find music that works for you. Poor kite choice is tougher. Some of us just don't have that many kites to choose from! One hint: have several line options, and some tamers to change the way the kite flies. This is a not-so-expensive way to make your kite work in many different circumstances. However, even if you pick the right kite as your ballet starts, there is no telling if the wind will pick up or die during the routine. This is part luck and part experience.

Judging is about seeing and understanding. While you choreograph and practice your routine you are a judge, too. The next time you go out to practice, consider if you are indeed "washing the car." Or made a "poor choice." Or "missed an opportunity." Then, fix it so the judges won't need to use those terms in discussing your performance!

Adena is a true "rising star" in AKA sport kite competitions. She is playing a major role in developing programs to introduce new fliers to the sport. We welcome Adena to the ranks of Kitelife contributors.

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